"To leave" in Spanish

"To leave" in Spanish (salir, dejar, irse?)

I've realised this can be a very confusing topic for students, so today we're going to see the differences between salir, irse and dejar:


This is easily the most overused one, wrongly, almost people learning Spanish. In reality, it's a bit more limited than it seems.
Its meaning would be:

To get out of (a place) / to go out (with friends, at night) / to go outside

No podemos salir del ascensor - We can't leave/get out of the lift.

Me gusta salir con mis amigos el sábado por la noche - I like to go out with my friends on Saturday night.

Durante el confinamiento no podemos salir - During lockdown we can't go outside/go out.


This is, on the other hand, maybe the most common one amongst natives but the one people tend to struggle the most to understand when learning the language.

It would translate as:

To go away, distance yourself, go someplace else, to leave a place or situation - no need for an "enclosed" space, which is the main difference with salir.

¿Te vas ya? - do you leave already? / are you leaving already?

Este bar está super lleno, quiero irme - This bar is super full, I want to leave/go away.

María se fue y no volvió - María left/went away and didn't come back.

Esta reunión es importante, nadie puede irse - this meeting is important, nobody can leave/go away.

¡Vete! - Go away! Leave!

Also, you can translate it in English as "to go" many times, like here:

Tengo que irme - I have to go / I have to leave.

Confusion between irse and salir

Let's see an example of when these two are almost identical. It's fine that this happens, really, sometimes two words' meaning gets so similar in a certain context it almost collides:

Me voy - I go away, I leave (here)
Me voy de casa - I leave the house (I can add a place with "de + place")

So, if I say me voy de casa, that means "I leave the house" which is in practice the same as salgo de casa, I get out of the house or I leave the house. One focuses on leaving whatever place you're in, the other one means to get out of it or to go outside.


This is the one that needs a "someone" or "something" you leave, since it means to leave something or someone (behind, there).

If we use dejar (no reflexive pronoun), that means we do that on purpose, if we use dejarse (with a reflexive pronoun) it's not on purpose. For example:

On purpose:

Dejé a mis hijos en la escuela - I left my kids at school.

Voy a dejar mi chaqueta porque no hace frío - I'm going to leave my jacket because it's not cold.

Pablo dejó a Paula - Pablo left Paula (it includes this meaning of breaking up with someone)

Not on purpose:

Me he dejado mi móvil en casa - I've left my phone at home.
(we all know this can't possibly happen voluntarily, so we need a reflexive pronoun to make that change of "intention" known)

More examples

I've put the Spanish version second, try to cover it and guess which verb I'm going to use in each situation:

  1. Can you leave me at the station? - ¿Puedes dejarme en la estación?

  2. I'm going to leave my wife - Voy a dejar a mi mujer.

  3. I have to leave in 5 min - Tengo que irme en cinco minutos or me tengo que ir en cinco minutos.

  4. Do you go out often? - ¿Sales a menudo?

  5. You can leave the package at the door - Puedes dejar el paquete en la puerta.

  6. We can't leave the office / get out of the office- No podemos salir de la oficina or no podemos irnos de la oficina.

  7. They can leave their jackets at the entrance - Pueden dejar sus chaquetas en la entrada.

  8. We are going to leave soon - Vamos a irnos pronto / Nos vamos a ir pronto.

  9. Did you leave your dog alone in the car? - ¿Dejaste tu perro solo en el coche?

  10. You guys go out with your family all the time - Vosotros salís con vuestra familia todo el tiempo

I would suggest to read about the other meanings of dejar as well.

Gracias por leer y hasta pronto! :)