The Time is Now: Spanish Present Progressive Tense
One of the most frequently used tenses in any language is the Present Progressive, if the language has a grammatical present progressive, of course. Let’s find out if the Spanish present progressive rules are very different from those of the English language!
Present Progressive in Spanish
In English, the Present Progressive tense is built when the verb to be is accompanied by the present participle of the meaningful verb, I.e., its –ing form.
I am explaining the present progressive rule.
In Spanish, the formula is identical: an equivalent of the verb to be is supplemented with the present participle of the meaningful verb. The trick here is that there are two “to be” verbs in Spanish: SER and ESTAR. You can read about the different meaning and uses of both here.
Spanish present progressive tense uses the verb ESTAR because it is the one that denotes temporary actions and states. Now, let’s elaborate on that matter.
Uses of the Spanish Present Progressive
In English, the present progressive is used:
- for actions taking place right now, at the moment (I can’t answer the phone, I’m washing my hair),
- for actions taking place within an extended period of time in the present (I am reading a very good book now),
- for actions that will happen in the nearest future (I’m going out with Mary tonight).
In Spanish, the present progressive is only used to describe actions that are going on right now!
With this in mind, pick the English sentence you CAN translate into Spanish with the use of the present progressive:
- I’m only listening to seasonal songs now because Christmas is just around the corner.
- Are you listening to what I am trying to tell you?
- I can’t join you – I’m listening to a live stream of the Philadelphia Orchestra on the radio tonight.
If you’ve picked option 2, congratulations!
How to Form Spanish Present Progressive
First of all, let’s remember the present tense forms of the verb ESTAR:
Now, let’s find out what it takes to form the present participle in Spanish.
Regular verbs ending with -AR (cantar, comprar, trabajar, descansar, etc.) will lose the final R and replace it with –NDO:
- cantar – cantando
- comprar – comprando
- trabajar – trabajando
- descansar – descansando
Regular verbs ending with –ER or –IR (comer, beber, vivir, describir) will lose the final two letters and replace them with the suffix –IENDO:
- comer – comiendo
- beber- bebiendo
- vivir – viviendo
- describir – describiendo
Irregular E -> I stem-changing verbs (learn more about them here) will change the vowel in their stem, just like they usually do, lose the final two letters and replace them with –IENDO:
- decir – diciendo
- repetir - repitiendo
Irregular O -> UE stem-changing verbs that end with -ER or –AR (learn more about them here) will not change the vowel in their stem; they will lose the final two letters and replace them with –IENDO or –ANDO, depending on the final letters they have in the infinitive:
- llover – lloviendo
- costar – costando
Irregular O -> UE stem-changing verbs that end with –IR still change the stem vowel, but in a bit different way: O -> U. Just like their regular –IR cousins, they lose the final two letters of the infinitive form and replace them with -IENDO:
- dormir – durmiendo
- morir - muriendo
Some regular verbs also undergo a change, but this change is purely orthographic, or spelling, one. These are the verbs that get the –IENDO present participle suffix, but the letter i looks unnatural in them. Here are some examples:
- creer – creyendo
- traer – trayendo
Spanish Present Progressive Practice
Now that we have learned everything we need to use the present progressive, let’s start doing it! Choose the necessary person and number form of ESTAR and add the present participle form of the meaningful verb.
What are you drinking? – I am drinking tea.
- ¿Qué estás bebiendo? – Estoy bebiendo té.
We are discussing the lesson with Michael and Juliana.
- Estamos hablando sobre la lección con Miguel and Juliana.
Why is she crying? – She is listening to a sad song.
- ¿Por qué está llorando? – Está escuchando una canción triste.
Final note: don’t let English phrase “to be going to do something” confuse you. From the grammatical standpoint, it is in the present progressive, but it describes an action that will happen in the future, so, you can’t use Spanish present progressive to translate it!