Present Progressive Tense In Spanish: Beginner's Guide

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    Written byJada Lòpez
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Present Progressive Tense In Spanish: Beginner's Guide

The Spanish present progressive verb tense is practically the same as its English equivalent, you’ll probably have little trouble learning this one. 😊

But if you want to boost your knowledge or you’re looking for a clear definition of what Spanish progressive verbs are, how it differs from the present tense and some examples of how they’re used, you’ll find all of that here.

Stick around until the end of the article for examples of how to use the Spanish present progressive.

You’ll also learn the best way to start understanding irregular Spanish gerunds which, spoiler alert, are required to form the Spanish present progressive tense.

What is the English equivalent of the Spanish present progressive?

An example of an English equivalent of the Spanish present progressive would be “I am swimming”.

As you can see, it is made up of two separate verbs, (the conjugated verb “to be” which is “I am” and the verb “swimming” in its gerund form), which is also the case for the Spanish present progressive.

What are the Spanish present progressive verbs?

Spanish progressive verbs are verbs that indicate that an action is continuing or happening in the present tense for a short time but can stop at a certain point.

In English, we use a particular verb form or structure to create the present progressive—this includes an auxiliary verb “to be” and a verb in the present participle.

This is the same in Spanish.

Take a look at the example below:

Listen to audio

Estoy comiendo uvas, arándanos y moras. ¿Quieres probar una mora?

I am eating grapes, blueberries and blackberries. Do you want to taste a blackberry?

In this example, the Spanish verbs estoy comiendo combine to create the Spanish present progressive.

How is the present progressive different from the present tense?

The main difference between the present tense and the Spanish present progressive tense is the duration of the action or event they describe.

Whereas the present progressive tense is used to describe impermanent events, the present tense is used for events that are permanent or can be considered a habit or fact.

Consider the difference between the two sentences below:

Listen to audio

Bebo vino todos los días después de cenar.

I drink wine every day after dinner.
Listen to audio

Estoy bebiendo una botella de vino.

I am drinking a bottle of wine.

The first example uses the simple present, which we can identify as there is only one verb conjugated in the first person singular—bebo.

This sentence describes a habitual action that occurs all the time.

The speaker in this case always drinks wine

The second example uses the present continuous, which we can identify as there are two verbs in the sentence—estoy and bebiendo.

This sentence describes a temporary action that’s in progress and can stop at a certain point.

Unlike the first sentence, the action here is not a habit or regular occurrence.

Why do some native speakers use the present tense and not the present progressive?

You might have noticed that some native Spanish speakers use the present tense and not the present progressive when describing certain actions.

The main reason for this is that some sentences in English that use the present progressive do not translate directly to Spanish.

Some of the following sentences are examples of this:

Listen to audio

A mí me gusta comer manzanas, kiwis, melones, pomelos y fresas.

I like eating apples, kiwis, melons, grapefruits and strawberries.
Listen to audio

Me siento ansioso y estresado / Me siento ansiosa y estresada.

I am feeling anxious and stressed.
Listen to audio

Voy a comer una pera porque son deliciosas.

I am going to eat a pear because they’re delicious.

Note that in the English versions, the present progressive tense is used.

We have the main verb “I am”, and a verb in the gerund form follows (i.e. “eating”, “feeling” or “going to”).

Now, in the Spanish versions of the first two sentences, we have reflexive verbs that replace the English verb construction.

We have the reflexive pronoun me in each of these sentences, and this translation sort of replaces the gerund.

Another way to look at this is that in the first example, the sentence structure is inverted compared with the English counterpart.

So, instead of saying “I like eating”, a literal translation to English would give us: “to me, it appeals to eat fruit”.

For the second example instead of saying “I am feeling”, Spanish native speakers say “I myself feel”.

And in our final example, the construction voy a is another Spanish verb form that can replace the English construction “I am going to”.

It means the same thing, but this verb construction combines with a second verb in the infinitive, which in this case is comer.

So, with these examples, you can see that Spanish speakers don’t always use the present progressive for all situations in which an English speaker would.

How do we form the Spanish present progressive tense?

To form the Spanish present progressive tense, follow these two steps:

1. Use the verb estar (conjugated to include the main subject of the sentence). For instance, if you’re talking about “he” or “she”, use está.

If you’re talking about “them”, use ellos or ellas.

When the subject of the sentence is the second person “you”, use estás.

Or if you’re speaking about yourself, use estoy.

Use the table below to help you conjugate estar for any subject pronoun you’d like to use:

English subject pronounSpanish subject pronounConjugated verb estar
IYoEstoy
YouEstás
He/She/It/YouEl/Ella/Usted (formal, singular)Está
WeNosotrosEstamos
YouVosotrosEstaís
They/YouEllos/Ellas/Ustedes (formal, plural)Están

2. Use the gerund form of a second verb and combine it with your conjugated estar verb.

To do this, you should be aware that there are two key groups of Spanish verbs—ones that end in AR, like hablar, and ones that end in ER or IR, like beber or vivir.

To create the gerund form for Spanish infinitive verbs whose last two letters are AR, replace the AR with -ando.

If you want to create the gerund form for Spanish infinitive verbs whose last two letters are ER or IR, replace this with -iendo.

For instance, hablar would become hablando (which means “speaking”) the verb beber would become bebiendo (which means “drinking”) and the verb vivir would become viviendo (which means “living”).

You also have to be aware that different rules apply to some irregular verbs.

For instance, the verb dormir is classed as a stem-changing verb, meaning that when you create the gerund, other letters need to be changed in the infinitive version too.

In this case, the o in dormir must be replaced with the letter u, giving us durmiendo.

Other irregular verbs can be difficult to remember, so some of them require a bit more practice and regular use to commit them to memory.

For instance, watch out for the verbs ir and ver, which become yendo and viendo in their gerund forms.

What formula should you use to form the Spanish present progressive tense?

So, bearing in mind the two steps above, the formula you can use to form the Spanish present progressive tense is:

Conjugated verb estar + second verb in its gerund form.

What are some examples of the Spanish present progressive?

Now let’s have a look at a few more examples of the Spanish present progressive being used.

Listen to audio

Estoy tomando un café con mis amigos Laeticia y Álvaro. Estamos hablando de fútbol.

I’m having coffee with my Friends Laeticia and Álvaro. We’re talking about football.
Listen to audio

Está cocinando un pastel para sus amigas Julia y Sara. De momento está ocupado.

He’s cooking a cake for his friends Julia and Sara. At the moment he’s busy.
Listen to audio

Están andando por la Calle Real para llegar al puerto.

They are walking through Royal Street to get to the port.
Listen to audio

Estás hablando por teléfono. ¿Con quién estás hablando?

You’re speaking on the phone. Who are you talking to?
Listen to audio

Estáis jugando al fútbol más tarde. Que guay, querría ir con vosotros.

You’re all playing football later. How cool, I’d like to go with you all.
Listen to audio

¿Está usted esperando en la fila? ¿Está el último en la cola?

Are you waiting in line? Are you the last in the queue?
Listen to audio

¿Están ustedes practicando para la actuación?

Are you all practising for the performance?

Learn the irregular verbs to become a present progressive pro

Since the main things you’ll find challenging are the irregular Spanish verbs when forming and using the present progressive, you’ll need to practice these frequently.

Learn the irregular verbs by:

  • Use verb tables to familiarize yourself with irregular Spanish verbs.
  • Use flashcards with each irregular verb’s conjugated forms on the back and recite the verbs conjugated forms.
  • Complete fill-in-the-blank grammar and conjugation exercises with the verbs you’re least confident with.
  • Study a Spanish course or get support from a tutor.
  • Speak with native Spanish speakers (see SpanishVIP or italki) to practice what you know.
  • Listen to Spanish audio, podcasts and YouTube channels.

And once you’ve mastered the irregular verbs, you’ll have no trouble with the Spanish present progressive tense.


Do you have any other tips on the Spanish present progressive?

Leave a comment below.

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Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Greek
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