We always use these two expresions as follows:

Hacer la compra is used for expressing the action of shopping some important things that are needed in life, for example, food, cleaning products, ...etc.

Ir de comprar is used for expressing the action of shopping some luxury things that are -let's say- "not necesarily" important in life on daily basis, for example, perfumes, clothes, music discs, ...etc.

What is the explanation and logic in Spanish of this (distinguishing between Hacer la .. and Ir de ...)?

Any thaughts?

  • Posted Jan 18, 2012
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  • Hi, Mndeen! Ir de comprar--> Ir de compraS. - cogumela Jan 18, 2012

3 Answers



My understanding is that ir de compras is/means/= to go shopping

Context; The man is at home and looks in the fridge as says in desperation:

''íTengo que ir de compras!'' = I have to go shopping!

Whereas hacer las compras is/means to do the shopping

Context; The children arrive home after playing football and ask their father; ''Where is mum?'' Their father replies: ''Your mother is shopping/ doing the shopping'' =Tu madre fue a hacer la compra''

Application: I am not aware of any great nauances attached to the use of either expression in England with regard to any particular kinds of food purchased except that going shopping usually refers to the act of travelling to the shops whereas doing the shopping refers to the action of selecting and paying for the foods you have chosen. From reading Jeremias's post there is an obvious regional (ie national) difference between expressions used in New England and England, UK where I live.There may also be smaller (ie local) differences between different states in the USA eg New England and Georgia, Florida or Texas. At least, you now have a perspective from America and England.

I hope this helps grin

Corrijan mi español, por favor grin

  • Your mother is shopping means = Tu madre fue a hacer la compra. - cogumela Jan 18, 2012
  • Thank you Cogu I am really surprisedthat the Spanish use the preterite to express a current situation :) Of course it is not wrong No wonder I did not translate it correctly :( - FELIZ77 Jan 18, 2012
  • We do the same here in the US Feliz "Your mother went shopping" I think because even though it is current, she went (from the house [it is done]) to go shopping. - Yeser007 Jan 24, 2012
  • Good point, Gary Yes, you are right about that, of course. I guess it just depends if the focus is on the going/travelling (past) or the shopping (present) - FELIZ77 Jan 24, 2012
  • I have tended to put the focus on the activity: shopping rather than the journey to and from the shops - FELIZ77 Jan 24, 2012


I think it's similar to English. At least here in New England, if you are going to buy groceries you can say "I have to do the shopping." And you are referring to the purchase of groceries.

Similarly, if you want to go to the mall to buy anything but groceries, you say "I am going shopping."

I do think that the sense is as follows, for my region:

To do the shopping = to buy groceries.

To go shopping = to out to buy anything else.

These are not strict rules, only guidelines.

Creo que en ingles es parecido. Al menos aquí in New England, si vas a comprar los comestibles puedes decir, “Tengo que hacer las compras.” Refieres a la compra de los comestibles.

De modo parecido, si quieres ir al centro comercial para comprar cualquiera cosa que no sea los comestibles, dirías “Voy a ir las compras”.

No son reglas estrechas (¿), nomás directrices.


  • Jan 18, 2012
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Of course being a New Englander I agree with Jeremias. Groceries are a weekly necessity so it is something you "do" on a regular basis whereas going shopping is like a treat (for women anyway).

  • Jan 24, 2012
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