The present progressive tense is used to talk about actions that are occurring while they’re being talked about. In other words, by using the present progressive, Spanish allows us to express an action that is happening right now.
In English you’re familiar with the present progressive tense with its -ing words: “we are talking,” “you are thinking,” “she is dancing,” and so on. The Spanish present progressive tense has a very similar construction to talk about the now: “nosotros estamos hablando”, “tú estás pensando”, “ella está bailando.”
In this post, we’re going to cover when and how to use present progressive Spanish. We’ll learn the essentials of Spanish present progressive structure, namely the use of the auxiliary verb estar with gerunds. We’ll start with the estar conjugation chart, and we’ll include several Spanish verb lists for the different gerund structures. Finally, we’ll make sure to highlight the main differences between present progressive Spanish vs English.
Let’s get started!
Spanish Present Progressive: The Basics
The present progressive tense expresses actions that happen at the exact moment of speaking. Also called present continuous in English, it’s known as “presente progresivo” or “presente continuo” in Spanish. It’s not technically even a verb tense, but rather a verbal periphrasis: a series of words that operate as a single verb. Let’s see how this works.
Present progressive Spanish is made of two main elements: the auxiliary verb estar, and a gerund. A gerund, or “gerundio” in Spanish, is an impersonal verb form which indicates the action is taking place right now. With English verbs, gerunds are the words that end in -ing.
We can ask a simple question using the present progressive tense in order to get an answer in that tense: What are you doing? – ¿Qué estás haciendo? The verbal periphrasis composing the present progressive is formed of two elements:
estar present tense + gerund
Let’s see this with a few examples:
- The teacher is explaining the present progressive. – El profesor está explicando el presente progresivo.
- Luis is having lunch in an Italian restaurant. – Luis está almorzando en un restaurante italiano.
- Carmen and her sister are drinking mate. – Carmen y su hermana están bebiendo mate.
- We are repeating the math exercise. – Estamos repitiendo el ejercicio de matemáticas.
How is Present Progressive Spanish Formed?
To understand the workings of present progressive tense Spanish, you just need to know its two components: the present tense conjugation of the verb estar, and the gerund form for the verb whose action is happening.
Estar conjugation chart
The verb estar, conjugated in the simple present tense, is used as an auxiliary verb to form the present progressive periphrasis. Let’s review these forms of estar in the simple present:
|Spanish personal pronoun||Estar present tense||To be in English|
|Él, Ella, Usted||está||He is, She is, You are|
|Nosotros, Nosotras||estamos||We are|
|Ustedes||están||You [all] are|
|Ellos, Ellas||están||They are|
Following the estar present tense conjugation, we need the gerund. Gerunds are an impersonal verb form, similar to infinitives or past participles. Gerunds indicate that the action is taking place at this very moment.
In Spanish gerunds end with -ando or -iendo, just as English gerunds end in -ing. And as with any other verb form in Spanish, there are regular and irregular gerunds. In the rest of this section we’ll learn the rules for forming gerunds in Spanish, including some Spanish verb lists for each group of irregular rules.
The gerund of regular verbs in Spanish is formed by adding the endings -ando (-ar verbs) and -iendo (-er and -ir verbs) to the verb stem.
|Spanish regular verb group||Gerund ending||Spanish gerund||English gerund|
|-AR verbs: Caminar||-ando||Caminando||Walking|
|-ER verbs: Beber||-iendo||Bebiendo||Drinking|
|-IR verbs: Vivir||-iendo||Viviendo||Living|
Forming gerunds with regular Spanish verbs is straightforward enough, though of course there are plenty of irregular Spanish verbs with their own rules. You may recognize some of these forms if you’re already familiar with the different groups of irregular verbs, since many of the rules for gerunds are similar: vowel changes in the verb stem and some variations in their endings. We’ll cover the main groups of irregular verbs.
Vowel change: e to i
These irregular Spanish verbs change their stem from “e” to “i” in the present indicative. This same change occurs in their gerund form.
|Spanish irregular verb||Spanish gerund||English gerund|
Vowel change: o to u
This change happens within the group of Spanish irregular -ir and -er verbs which, in the present indicative, take a vowel change from “o” to “ue.” The gerund form has a slightly different change, with the vowel switching from “o” to “u.”
|Spanish irregular verb||Spanish gerund||English gerund|
|Poder||Pudiendo||Being able to|
Not all irregular verbs in the “o to ue” group necessarily take the “o to u” change to form the gerund, however. Sometimes they just follow the regular rules for the gerunds. Here are a few examples:
|Spanish irregular verb||Regular Spanish gerund||English gerund|
Ending change: Stem ends with a vowel
When the stem of a verb ends with a vowel, the gerund is formed by adding -yendo rather than -iendo.
|Huir||Huyendo||Running away, Fleeing|
Present Progressive Spanish: Common Uses
Now that you know how to construct present progressive Spanish, let’s cover the most common scenarios when it’s used.
To express actions at the time of speech
This is really the primary use of the present progressive, to talk about actions which are currently ongoing at the moment of speech.
- I can’t talk right now, we’re having dinner. – No puedo hablar en este momento, estamos cenando.
- You are improving your Spanish right now. – Estás mejorando tu español ahora mismo.
Note that this timing is a different than with the Spanish simple present tense, or present indicative, which can describe habits or routines but which aren’t necessarily happening at the moment of speech:
- Simple present: My family eats dinner every day at 7pm. – Mi familia cena cada día a las 7 p.m.
- Simple present: I always sing while I take a bath. – Yo siempre canto mientras me baño.
- Present progressive: Those men are singing in the square. – Esos hombres están cantando en la plaza.
To express repetitive actions
Although we generally use the simple present for talking about habits, in some cases we can nonetheless use present progressive Spanish if we really want to emphasize the repetitiveness. These actions are not necessarily happening at the moment of speech, but they happen frequently enough that the speaker chooses to use present progressive:
You are always singing the same song, over and over again. – Siempre estás cantando la misma canción una y otra vez.
- The dog is barking every time someone walks past the window. – El perro está ladrando cada vez que alguien pasa por delante de la ventana.
To express actions in a temporary situation
With some actions, the action might not be actually happening simultaneously when it’s being mentioned, but since it’s a temporary situation happening over the same time period we can still use the Spanish present progressive.
- My legs are so sore these days since I’m training for a marathon. – Mis piernas están tan adoloridas estos días ya que estoy entrenando para un maratón.
- I need to go home, because I’m getting ready for my trip. – Necesito volver a casa, porque estoy preparando mi viaje.
- I am living with some friends, but soon I will be moving into my own apartment. – Estoy viviendo con unos amigos, pero pronto me mudaré a mi propio apartamento.
Not for describing the future
A common mistake among English speakers is to make a direct translation of English -ing words into Spanish, even when they’re being used to talk about the future. This use of present progressive does not exist in Spanish.
Let’s see some examples where present progressive may work in English, but where the Spanish conjugation must use different forms to express the future:
- I’m buying a pirate hat when we go to Disneyland next month. – Compraré un sombrero de pirata cuando vayamos a Disneyland el próximo mes. (simple future) – Voy a comprar un sombrero de pirata cuando vayamos a Disneyland el próximo mes. (future with ir a + infinitive)
- It’s so hot! I’m turning on the AC and drinking a whole bottle of water as soon as we get home! – ¡Hace tanto calor! ¡Encenderé el aire acondicionado y beberé una botella entera de agua tan pronto como lleguemos a casa! (simple future) – ¡Hace tanto calor! ¡Voy a encender el aire acondicionado y beber una botella entera de agua tan pronto como lleguemos a casa! (future with ir a + infinitive)
Well that covers everything you need to know about forming and using present progressive tense Spanish. Fortunately, it’s pretty similar to English with its verbs ending in -ing. We saw that in Spanish we always use the right forms of estar as the auxiliary verb, followed by the gerund, which is the Spanish equivalent of the -ing words. We covered how to form the gerunds, usually using -ando or -iendo but sometimes with some specific changes for irregular verbs. And finally we covered the proper contexts for using present progressive Spanish.
Now you’re ready to use the Spanish present progressive!