While it also refers to actions in the present, the Spanish present progressive tense expresses an action that is occurring or happening in the present moment. As a result, this tense is very useful to describe activities or actions that are taking place right now – as it is being discussed.
Due to its characteristics, the present progressive is a common tense that you want to start including in your Spanish conversations. For that reason, in this guide, I’ll explain to you what this tense means, when you need to use it and what the conjugations rules are.
- What is present progressive in Spanish?
- How to form the present progressive tense in Spanish
- Conjugate Present Progressive in Spanish
- Wrapping Up
Given that the Spanish present progressive tense works with different elements, I’ll also provide you with phrase structures and real life examples. By the end of this, you’ll not only understand this tense, but you’ll also be able to start creating your own sentences.
What is present progressive in Spanish?
The Spanish present progressive or present continuous is a tense that allows speakers to express that a certain action or activity is taking place at the moment of speaking. The present progressive talks about actions that occur in the present, but emphasizes the fact that those actions are happening right now.
As mentioned above, in Spanish, we use the present progressive any time that we want to express that a person is doing something at the moment of speaking. To put it simply, this tense answers the question: what are you doing right now? Check these examples below:
Yo estoy explicándote el presente continuo en Español
I’m explaining to you the present progressive in Spanish
Tú estás leyendo mis ejemplos con presente continuo
You’re reading my present progressive examples
Notice that both of these examples emphasize the actions that you and I are doing at the moment of speaking (or reading in this case). I’m explaining and you’re reading my examples. So to sum up, we use the present progressive in Spanish to express that an action is happening right now.
Yo estoy tomando café
I’m drinking coffee
Mi vecina está durmiendo
My neighbor is sleeping
Ustedes están aprendiendo español
You guys are learning Spanish
Take Note: Notice how with all of the translation examples, the corresponding English verb always ends with ‘ing’. Keep in mind that unlike English, in Spanish, we don’t use -ing verbs to talk about future actions.
Te llamo más tarde
I’m calling you latter
Caroline is going to see her grandparents
Caroline va a ver a sus abuelos
Difference between present and present progressive in Spanish
In Spanish, both simple present and present progressive refer to actions that happen in the present. However, the present tense is used to provide information or talk about routines in the present. The present progressive tense on the other hand, emphasizes that an action is happening at the current moment.
When learning the present progressive in Spanish (also known as present continuous), many people assume that this tense and the simple present are interchangeable. However, both tenses have different meanings and purposes. Check the differences between these tenses with the examples below:
Spanish present progressive
Esta semana estoy leyendo un libro de terror
This week I’m reading a horror book
Mi novio está estudiando español
My boyfriend is studying Spanish
Yo leo todos los días
I read every day
Mi novio estudia español por las tardes
My boyfriend studies Spanish in the afternoons
How to form the present progressive tense in Spanish
In Spanish, the present progressive is formed by using the verb estar and second verb in gerund form. Notice that in this case, the second verb (in gerund form) is the one that expresses the action that is being performed.
Here is the formula that you need to follow to form the present progressive in Spanish:
[Estar conjugated] + [verb in gerund] + [complement]
Betty está lavando los trastes
Betty is washing the dishes
¿Qué están bebiendo?
What are you guys drinking?
Caroline está abriendo su regalo de cumpleaños
Caroline is opening her birthday present
Given that the gerund is a crucial part of the present progressive, you need to be comfortable creating this verb form. As a quick reminder, keep in mind that in order to use the gerund form with regular verbs, you need to use the verb stem and add the proper gerund ending:
- -AR verbs = –ando
- -ER/ -IR verbs = –iendo
Take Note: Just like with any other tense, there are some Spanish irregular gerunds that you might need to learn by heart. If you’re still struggling with these verb forms, I wrote this article where you can find more information about Spanish gerunds.
Conjugate present progressive in Spanish
As mentioned above, the Spanish present continuous (progressive) tense is formed by using the verb estar and a verb in gerund form. This means that when conjugating, you just need to follow these 2 steps:
- Conjugate the verb estar in the present tense
- Transform the second verb into its gerund form
Below there are some examples of how to conjugate the present progressive in Spanish. Remember that the second verb describes the action that you’re performing.
[Estar conjugated in the present tense] + [gerund] + [complement]
¿Qué necesitas? Estoy viendo la tele
What do you need? I’m watching TV
Tyler está hablando por teléfono con Luke
Tyler is talking on the phone with Luke
Nosotros estamos estudiando el presente continuo
We’re studying the present continuous tense
Alicia y Paul están comprando más comida
Alicia and Paul are buying more food
Take Note: The conjugation of estar indicates who is performing the action. As a result, it needs to be conjugated to match the person doing the action. Notice that the present progressive talks about present, but you could also conjugate estar in the past tense if needed.
¿Qué pasó? Me estaba bañando
What happened? I was showering
Reflexive present progressive
To conjugate Spanish reflexive verbs in the present continuous, you need to follow some rules.
Rules to conjugate reflexive present progressive
- Conjugate estar in present (the conjugation matches the person doing the action).
- Transform the reflexive verb into gerund form.
- Place the reflexive pronoun either before estar or attached to the gerund.
To put it simply, when conjugating reflexive verbs in the present progressive there are two structures that you can use and whose only difference is where the reflexive pronoun is being placed.
[Reflexive pronoun] + [estar conjugated] + [gerund] + [complement]
Lucy se está lavando las manos
Lucy is washing her hands
¡Dame un minuto! Me estoy vistiendo
Give me a minute! I’m getting dressed
Tú no te estás levantando temprano
You’re not waking up early
Notice that in this previous structure, the reflexive pronoun goes before the conjugated verb (estar). However, you could also attach it to the gerund. In this case, both words (the gerund and the pronoun) will form one word.
[Estar conjugated] + [gerund] + [reflexive pronoun] + [complement]
Lucy está lavándose las manos
Lucy is washing her hands
¡Dame un minuto! Estoy vistiéndome
Give me a minute! I’m getting dressed
Tú no estás levantándote temprano
You’re not waking up early
When the pronoun is attached to the gerund verb, one of the vowels of the gerund ending needs to have an accent.
- For -AR verbs, you’ll put an accent mark on the ‘a’, so it becomes ‘á’
- For -ER/-IR verbs, you will accentuate the ‘e’, so it becomes ‘é’
Take Note: With direct object pronouns you follow the same structures that you’ll use to conjugate reflexive verbs in present progressive. Here you can learn more about placing direct object pronouns.
Present progressive irregular forms in Spanish
Estar is an irregular verb in Spanish. This means that its conjugations will always have some irregularities. In addition to this, there are some Spanish gerunds that are also irregular. Some examples of common gerunds that make the present progressive irregular include:
|Spanish Gerund||English Gerund|
The Spanish present progressive is a very useful tense that allows you to express that an action is happening right now (as you’re speaking). Because of this purpose, the present progressive (also known as present continuous) is very common in Spanish conversations.
For that reason, in this guide, I’ve provided you with all the information that you need to know about this tense. Here are some key points that you need to keep in mind.
Present Progressive in Spanish Key Points:
- Present progressive emphasizes that an action is occurring at the moment of speaking.
- To form the present progressive, you need two verbs: estar conjugated in the present tense and verb in gerund form.
- Estar is conjugated according to the person or subject that is performing the action.
- The verb in gerund describes the action that is being performed.
- A Spanish regular gerund is formed by adding to the verb stem the endings -ando or -iendo for AR verbs and ER/IR verbs, respectively.
- In the present progressive, reflexive or object pronouns can be placed either in front of ‘estar’ or attached to the gerund.
- When attached, the pronoun and gerund form one word and you’ll need to add an accent mark.
Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of what the present progressive in Spanish means, its purposes, how you can form it and when you need to use it.