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I understand that these three expressions are an invitation to do something or go somewhere. I would use “давай” as in “come on” or “come with me”. “поехали” and ”пойдём” would be more like “let’s go”, but I think it’s a bit too simplistic.

In which case either of these expressions would be preferred over the other, and why?

What words must we use with each expression (e.g. must be followed by a verb or must be followed by a location)?

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  • "Пойдём" means simply go somewhere. For example " Пойдём в кино?" If you accept the invitation, next you will discuss, how to get where. It could be public transportation, taxi or someones' car. Or you would simply walk to a nearby movie theater. "Поехали" implies using a vehicle to get where. "Поехали в кино?" The movie theater in question is either too far away for a walk or the person who asks that does not feel like walking. – Nadia Solovyeva Feb 25 '19 at 4:44
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Поехали could be used colloquially in the sense of пойдём, regardless of means of movement to be undertaken, like in поехали в кино, а slangier version is погнали...

Давай normally requires a verb, in some cases it could be used with adverbials of destination only, like in давай на футбол, давай в магаз, давай ко мне. This construction along with айда + adverbial of destination can be heard in informal conversations of youth in Soviet era movies, but in my lifetime and in my region it has been vanishingly rare, so it could sound somewhat artificial.

It is though a standard colloquial phrasing for guiding a movement towards certain direction - давай сюда / туда / на|влево/левее / на|вправо/правее / назад / прямо / на север/юг/восток/запад / вниз/ниже/ на|вверх/выше / ближе/дальше

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  • In which situations поехали would be preferred over пойдём? Same question with пойдём over поехали. – velas Feb 26 '19 at 23:17
  • @velas their straightforward use depends on the means of arrival to the destination when you wish to emphasize it with the imperative, but figuratively пойдём/идём/пошли is a sort of a catch-all imperative for invitation to go some place within a locality (mostly some often visited popular public places) but not outside of it, still there could be specific cases when поехали would indeed be preferred, for instance when inviting to go to a restaurant in general пошли would be used, if it's about a specific restaurant which one needs to take a ride to, it'll rather be поехали – Баян Купи-ка Feb 27 '19 at 8:08
  • поехали used to literally mean пойдём/идём/пошли is a colloquialism... here's an answer to an earlier asked similar question – Баян Купи-ка Feb 27 '19 at 8:09
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«Давай» is more like "let's", it's not used today without another verb: «давай пойдём» — "let's go", «давай поговорим» — "let's talk" etc. It can be also used as a phrase itself, roughly like "sure": «Поужинаем вместе? — Давай», "Let's have dinner together? — Sure"

«Поехали» is more like "go!" (not necessarily about moving) and is usually used as a phrase: «Нужен мозговой штурм. Поехали!» — "We need to brainstorm this. Go!"

«Пойдём» is always about moving, and it's somewhat like "let's go", like «Пойдём покурим» — "let's go have a smoke", or «Пойдём в кино» — "let's go to the movies".

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