Present Participle in Spanish: How to Use & Form Gerunds

The present participle in Spanish is key to talking about ongoing actions. In other words, we use the present participle, also called gerund, to form progressive tenses and communicate that an action is occurring at the moment of speaking or it is still happening. 

Since Spanish gerunds can help you improve your command of the language, in this guide, you’ll learn how to use and form these words. Here is a quick overview of the things we’ll cover: 

Let’s get to it! 

How to Form the Present Participle in Spanish

Spanish present participles have two regular endings

In other words, to form present participles in Spanish, you must drop the infinitive ending of the verb (-ar, -er, -ir) and add the corresponding gerund ending. 

Check these present participles examples:

Type of VerbInfinitive VerbSpanish Present ParticipleEnglish

Take a second look at the previous examples. When removing their infinitive ending, the stems of these verbs end with a consonant.

However, certain verbs have a stem that ends in a vowel. With these verbs, you must use the present participle ending -yendo to keep the pronunciation consistent. Here are some examples of verbs that use this ending: 

  • Leer: leyendo
  • Construir: construyendo
  • Oír: oyendo
  • Caer: cayendo
  • Traer: trayendo
chart showing how to form the gerund in spanish

Take Note: Spanish gerunds are the equivalent of English verbs ending in -ing. In some cases, English -ing verbs might be translated as a Spanish infinitive. To learn more about this, check the section on when not to use gerunds.

Irregular gerunds and stem-changes

In Spanish, irregular present participles are verbs which have significant changes, such as: 

  • Poder – pudiendo
  • Ir – yendo 

When it comes to gerunds, it’s more common to see stem-changing verbs than irregular verbs. With these verb forms, there are two types of stem changes and they only affect certain -IR verbs.

Type #1: O to U

  • Morir: Muriendo
  • Dormir: Durmiendo

Type #2: E to I

Infinitive VerbSpanish Present Participle

Gerunds with reflexive and direct object pronouns

In Spanish, gerunds often work with a reflexive or direct object pronoun. When this happens, you need to make sure that you place the pronoun in the correct position. Reflexive and object pronouns can be placed in two different positions when working with present participles. Both options are equally correct: 

  • Before the conjugated verb

Me estoy peinando.
I’m doing my hair.

¿Le estás marcando?
Are you calling her?

  • Attached to the gerund

Estoy peinándome.
I’m doing my hair.

¿Está marcándole?
Are you calling her?

When attaching the pronoun, we’re changing the stress of the syllable. As a result, we must add an accent mark. In this case, your endings will look like -ándo or -iéndo. For example: ‘hablándole’, ‘mintiéndole’, ‘diciéndole’, etc. 

How & When to Use Spanish Present Participle Verbs

Now that you’ve learned how to form the present participle in Spanish, it’s time to learn how and when to use it. 

graphic explaining how to use the present participle in spanish

Form present progressive tenses

Gerunds in Spanish are commonly used in the structure estar + gerund. This is the formula for progressive tenses, which refer to actions that happen at the time of speaking. 

[Estar conjugated] + [present participle]

Estoy comiendo chocolate.
I’m eating chocolate.

Laura estuvo limpiando toda la noche.
Laura was cleaning all night.

Take Note: Do not mix present and past participles. Present participles are used to build progressive tenses and do not have gender. On the other hand, past participles work as adjectives or to form perfect tenses. 

Express time or consequences

When working alone, gerunds can express consequences or convey the time an action takes place. Since these are advanced uses, the translation may vary. Here are some examples: 

Llegando te digo.
I’ll tell you when I arrive.

Juan vendió todos sus productos, superando sus objetivos de venta.
Juan sold all of his products, exceeding his sales target.

Forming verbal phrases with present participles

Estar + gerund is probably the verb phrase most Spanish learners know. However, there are other popular structures with present participles that you should know: 

  • Seguir + gerund: conveys that an action which started in the past is still happening.
  • Llevar + gerund: expresses the amount of time someone has been doing something. 
  • Ir + gerund: communicates that an action is gradually developing. 

Yo sigo trabajando aquí.
I’m still working here.

Letty lleva dos años viviendo aquí.
Letty has been living here for two years.

Espérame, ya voy llegando.
Just wait, I’m getting there.

Take Note: Spanish gerunds are impersonal verbal forms. This means that gerunds only focus on delivering information about the action rather than who performed it (subject) or when it occurred (tense). 

When Not to Use Gerunds in Spanish

For the most part, present participles work similarly to English gerunds (-ing verbs). However, there are some situations where you cannot use Spanish present participles, and instead, you must use a verb in its infinitive form

When working as nouns

Correr es bueno para la salud.
Running is good for your health.

After a preposition

Me interesa aprender español.
I’m interested in learning Spanish.

To talk about the immediate future

Voy a volver mañana.
I’m coming back tomorrow.

graphic explaining the differences between infinitives and gerunds in spanish

Key Points

Present participles in Spanish are a crucial part of your communication. So, here are some key points you should never forget: 

  • Regular Spanish present participles are formed with the endings:
    • ando (for -ar verbs)
    • iendo (for -er and -ir verbs)
    • yendo (for regular -er and -ir verbs whose stem ends with vowel, such as leyendo)
  • For the most part, Spanish gerunds are the equivalent of -ing verbs in English. However, gerunds in Spanish are never used: 
  • Reflexive and direct object pronouns (DOPs) can be placed before the conjugated verb or attached to the gerund. 
  • Gerunds in Spanish are used to:
    • Form progressive tenses
    • Express consequences or provide temporary context
    • Form verb phrases

Practice Quiz: Spanish Gerunds

If you’re ready to practice Spanish gerunds, take a quiz with these present participle exercises

Download the Spanish Present Participle cheat sheets PDF

You can download a PDF copy of the cheat sheets for this guide to refresh your knowledge of the Spanish gerund form when you need it.

Daniela Sanchez

¡Hola! Soy Daniela Sanchez, I've been studying Spanish professionally as well as teaching it in Mexico and online for over 10 years. I’ve taught Spanish to a wide array of foreigners from many backgrounds. Over the years, I've made it my mission to work hard on refining many challenging to understand grammar topics to make my students' learning experiences easier, faster and more enjoyable. Read More About Me

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