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Published on: Grammar

Mastering the Present Participle in Spanish

Today we’re going over one of the absolute easiest constructions in the Spanish language – the present participle. 

The present participle has a few different names – the present progressive, the gerund, and the perífrasis verbal. But no matter what you like to call it – the present participles in Spanish are actually pretty simple! 

So if you were looking for an easier conjugation to tackle – then today’s your lucky day. So get out your notebook and let’s get studying a bit of Spanish grammar!

The Present Participle

A present participle is actually a verb form that is made up of two different verbs placed together. For that reason, it’s referred to as a perífrasis verbal

For today’s purpose, you can think of the present participles in Spanish as the -ing ending in English. It’s not always 100% the same, but in a general sense – it’s an easy way to think of it. 

Let’s move on to look at all the different ways you can form the present participle in Spanish. 

Conjugating the Present Participle

As we mentioned, you’ll need two verbs to use the present participle.  

Let’s start with the first Spanish verb, Estar. You just have to conjugate the verb Estar in the present tense. 

In case you need a review of the Estar present tense, here’s a quick rundown.

Spanish Personal Pronouns English Personal Pronouns
Yo (singular) Estoy
Tú / vos (singular – informal) Estás 
Usted (singular – formal) Está
Él / Ella (singular) Está
Nosotros (plural) Estamos
Ustedes (plural – Latin America) Están
Vosotros (plural – Spain) Estáis
Ellos / Ellas Están


So for the present progressive in Spanish, Estar functions as an auxiliary verb. There are lots of other examples of these types of verbs that you might be familiar with. For example, the auxiliary verb haber is used in many other verb tenses, as well.

So with the verb estar in the present simple, we need to change the second verb to the present participle form. The present participle is also known as the gerund (gerundio). 

By adding these two Spanish verbs together, you form the present participle tense. Now, let’s look at how you can form the Spanish present participles

AR Verbs

-Ar verbs are certainly the easiest of the whole list to do. To make their present participle, all you need to do is remove the Ar, then add –Ando to the ending. Here are some examples:

  • Caminar – caminando
  • Hablar – hablando
  • Andar – andando 
  • Estudiar – estudiando 


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ER and IR Verbs

For er or –ir verbs, it’s a similar process. To form the present participles, you just need to remove the -er ending, then add –iendo. Let’s check out some more examples:

  • Correr – corriendo
  • Aprender – aprendiendo 
  • Vender – vendiendo 
  • Barrer – barriendo 


  • Vivir – viviendo
  • Decidir – decidiendo 
  • Cumplir – cumpliendo 
  • Sufrir – sufriendo

Irregular verbs

Now comes the part that is a little more difficult. Unfortunately, just like the regular present tense, the present participles have several irregular forms. In fact, there are 3 main categories of changes:

e – i

The most common of the irregular present participles in Spanish. These verbs have a stem change where the “e” in the main part of the verb changes to an “i”. Let’s look at some examples of these irregular gerunds and you can try to figure out the pattern:

  • Servir – Sirviendo
  • Pedir – Pidiendo 
  • Decir – Diciendo 


Notice anything in particular? All of these verbs are IR verbs.

Within this group of stem-changing verbs, we have a similar pattern that happens sometimes. These are verbs that lose the “e” altogether, just to not have two “i”s next to each other.

  • Freír – Friendo
  • Reír – Riendo 
  • Sonreír – Sonriendo  

o – u

This next group of present participle Spanish verbs will have a stem change from “o” to “u”. Luckily, there are only two of these stem-changing verbs that you really need to worry about:

  • Dormir – Durmiendo
  • Morir – Muriendo


There might only be two of these verbs – but you’ll be surprised how often you need to use them! So make sure you don’t forget and work on your pronunciation of this vowel change.


The final group of stem changers for the present participle includes using a Y instead of an I. This usually happens in verbs that end in a vowel before the -er or -ir ending. 

  • Ir – Yendo
  • Construir – Construyendo
  • Traer – Trayendo 
  • Oír – Oyendo 

Luckily, these changes for the present participle can be useful. Since they’re changed to make pronunciation easier – it shouldn’t be any problem for you!

Using the Present Participle

Now you know how to form the Spanish present participle! So let’s move on to a quick guide on how to use the Spanish present participles. 

There are actually many ways you can use the present participle in Spanish, but today we’ll keep it simple and just look at the most important way:

Actions currently ongoing

The easiest way to use a present participle in Spanish is to talk about an action that is currently happening. 

In fact, you can sometimes use the regular present tense in Spanish to talk about current actions – but using the participle implies that you are focusing on the progression of this action. 

Let’s look at a few examples of this category of Spanish participles. 

  • ¿Qué estás haciendo ahora? – What are you doing now?
  • Estoy escribiendo un libro – I’m writing a book 

Están jugando al fútbol – They’re playing football/soccer

In all three of these examples, we’re emphasizing the fact that the action is currently ongoing. But remember, even though you can use the present simple for these, the participle form implies an ongoing event

For example, you could say:

  • ¿Qué haces? – What are you doing? 
  • Juegan al fútbol – They play football/soccer

When you use the ando and iendo forms, you’re highlighting the fact that something is ongoing at the moment of speaking. This difference is the easiest to see with “están jugando al fútbol” vs “juegan al fútbol”. 

The present participle indicates something currently happening; the present simple indicates a general idea. 

Though this is just one of the many uses of the present participle! So make sure you keep on the lookout for some other ways to use this verb construction! 

Great job!

Even though the term Perífrasis Verbal sounds very scary – as you can see, it’s super simple! The present participle in Spanish is one of the easiest constructions to form, so it shouldn’t take you too long to master this Spanish verb tense. 

Just make sure not to overuse it! The -ing form is way more common in English than in Spanish – so use it sparingly. 

But the best way to make sure you’re doing it correctly is by practicing. So go ahead and sign up for a free private class or a 7-day free trial of our group classes so you can practice what you learned!

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