From what I've seen, ir + a + an infinitive verb indicates the infinitive verb is the main verb, and "ir a" is a helping verb (is going to/will). Thus, the phrase won't mean "is headed toward" unless "ir a" is followed by a noun (trabajo, for instance, or Paris--an "a + noun" forms a prepositional phrase). Thus, when you see an infinitive verb afterward, translate "ir a" as a phrase together: "Ellas [van a] trabajar"--"They will work." / "They [are going to] work." [future action] VS "Ellas van [a trabajo]"--"They go to work." / "They [are going] [to work.]" [headed to a location]
The tricky part to translating "ir a" as "will" is remembering that it's not "will go [to do something]" but "will [do something]." To keep that straight, you could keep using the literal translation "is going to," but since it sounds ambiguous in English, I personally prefer to translate it as "will" so I don't forget what it means in Spanish.
No they're not. "They are going to work" is ambiguous. Depending on whether "work" is a verb, where it means "They wiil work" or a noun, where is means "They are on their way to a workplace.
I don't think so. This sentence needs some 'background information' to clarify the meaning.
This means "They are going to (do) work" not "They are going to (the) work(place)", correct?
I think "they're going to work(place)" would be "Van al trabajo", although I could be wrong. I'm still a little confused on the use of infinitives.
No worries, you're exactly right. :)
Infinitives are simply used whenever you happen to have multiple verbs in one clause. That often happens with modal verbs (poder - can, deber - must, ...) or these funny verb-verb constructions like "tener que" (to have to) or this here "ir a" (to be going to).
Only the first verb in a clause gets conjugated. The others are infinitive forms (or participles in case of progressive or perfect tenses).
- Tengo que leer el libro. - I have to read the book.
- ¿No puedes nadar? - Can you not swim?
- Quiero casarme contigo. - I want to marry you. (lit. "I want to house myself with you.")
"They'll go to work" is a contraction for "They will go to work." The future tense for the English verb "to go" is "will go." The Spanish verb that means the same as the English verb "to go" is "ir", and the 3rd person plural future form of "ir" is "irán." So, grammatically speaking, "They'll go to work" should be "Ellas irán a trabajo." The future tense of Spanish verbs is covered in a later lesson. Here we are learning to communicate the future using the appropriate form of "ir" plus the preposition "a" plus the infinitive form of another verb. We do exactly the same in English. We can say "I will work tomorrow" or "I am going to work tomorrow." Both mean the same.
In actual usage, if there is a difference between "they will go to work" and "they are going to work" it is a very subtle difference not easily explained. Both can indicate the future; however, "they will go to work" is more consistent grammatically with the Spanish sentence "Ellas van a trabajar."
"Ellas irán al trabajo." The noun trabajo often uses an article.
And "Ellas van a trabajar" does not mean "They go to work". In the "ir a hacer" construction there is most often no actual movement involved, but it's just an expression to more or less denote the immediate future. Just like "to be going to" is in English.
Why can't this sentence be "The girls are going to work." Ellas is plural for girls.
Ellas means They, as in a group of people that are all female (so girls, or women, or colleagues who are all female, a car full of females, the crowd over there that is all female etc.). It still means "They" though, and only implies that they're female.
I would say that getting more specific about it in English, calling the group "The girls" would mean you want to get more specific about it in Spanish too, so you say "Las niñas".
My question was similar to Gen97881, except that I thought of saying "the women are going to work." After reading the explanation provided by theonlymark, I realized that "the women" would not be a good translation for the same reason that "the girls...." is not the best translation. Thank you for pointing this out. Even though we know that "they" refers to females in this sentence, the use of anything other than "they" would require speculation about the other characteristics of the group.
The lesson is about future tense, but I read this sentence as present progressive. In my mind, future tense would use "will" work. Can someone help me sort this out?
In English we use the phrase "is going" (are going, or am going). to indicate the future tense. I am going to sleep, He is going to talk, They are going to shout .... Thus the present progressive of "to go" plus an infinitive actually creates the future for the infinitive. In Spanish, the future tense can be formed using the present tense of "ir" (voy, va, vas, vamos, vais, van) plus "a" plus the infinitive to make the future.
Thank you for raising the question, as it highlights the grammatical difference between the languages. This is useful for people (like me) who find that understanding the grammar of a language helps to learn the language. For most learners it will be enough to know that you can use some form of "ir" with an infinitive to communicate the future tense.
English doesn't make a difference between a group of females and a group of males. They all are "they". Ellas should not be translated as "the girls". It could as well be women, aunts, a herd of ewes or a group of tables. Though the latter two might not have a lot of work to do.