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The Progressive / continuous tenses and the Gerund

First of all, the Spanish gerund is like the -ing words in English, but not always used in the same way. The gerund is where you (usually) take off the last two letters of the verb and replace it with -ando for -AR verbs, and -iendo for the others (sometimes -yendo when the i is between vowels). There are exceptions - check the verbs that have irregular preterites.
The normal present can mean something that you are doingor is a habit e.g. Nado = I swim / I am swimming but 'estoy nadando' clearly means I'm swimming (right now).
As for any language, always be aware of what you mean in your first language. A good example is with the verb sentarse - 'He is sitting down' means that he has sat down so use está sentado = he is seated. If you you the progressing tense, you would be saying something like "he is in the middle of seating himself" which is not what you mean.

The progressive / continuous tenses emphasize:

Emphasizing time
Name Reminder Emphasis Example
Present estoy, está etc. Stressing what's happening at this moment.
Shows that it's temporary
Estoy viajando = I'm (in the process of) travelling (right at this moment)
Espera hasta que él esté dormido = She waits until he's asleep
Imperfect estaba + personal endings Shows that the event was in progress at the time spoken of Yo estaba durmiendo cuando llegó mi amigo = I was sleeping (at that time) when my friend arrived
Note: this is used more often than the normal imperfect in this type of sentence when the event is happening at that time
Future estar + future endings Shows that the event will be in progress at the time spoken of
Also this is used for guessing (like the normal future tense)
No puedo ir a las dos porque estaré trabajando = I can't go at 2 o'clock because I will be working (at that time)

Estará trabajando a estas horas = (I guess) he'll be working at this time

Stressing a drawn out time (that finished) - the normal tenses wouldn't emphasize the length of time
Name Reminder Emphasizing Example
Preterite estuv+compromise endings A drawn out length of time Anoche estuve trabajando = Last night (all night) I was working
Perfect (have/has been doing) he / hemos / habeís etc. + estado A drawn out length of time that finished at some point in the present Hoy me he estado sacando más fotos con... = Today I have been taking more photos with...
Past perfect / pluperfect (had been doing) había+personal endings + estado A drawn out length of time that finished in the past Lo había estado buscando por mucho tiempo = I had been looking for it for a long time
La casa había estado vacía por los últimos diez años = The house had been empty for the past ten years
Ella había estado haciendo ejercicio durante horas = She had been exercising for hours

Other examples of stressing a length of time:
¿Qué estará haciendo? = What will you be doing? - adding a feeling of a length of time
¿Qué estuvo haciendo? = What did you do (all that time)?
Estuve pensando = I thought for a while

Subjunctive use - this follows the normal sequence of tenses, which I outlined in another article
Example of the first verb that triggers the subjunctive Example of the following verb The progressive emphasizes
Dudo que... - I doubt that...
(The first verb is in the present or future tense)
...él esté viajando = he is travelling
(This verb is in the present subjunctive progressive)
Right now - for a long time
...él haya estado trabajando toda la mañana = he has been travelling all the morning
(This verb is in the present perfect subjunctive progressive)
Something happened before you was doubting (it occured first) and the event lasted for a long time
Fue bueno que... - it was good that...
(The first verb is in any past tense or conditional)
...él estuviera ayudándolo anoche = he was helping him all night
(This verb is in the imperfect subjunctive progressive)

A drawn out length of time

...él hubiera estado ayudándolo durante cinco horas = he had helped him for 5 hours
(This verb is in the past perfect subjunctive progressive)
This happened further back in time to 'fue bueno que' and lasted a long time

Conditional use
Name Reminder Emphasizing Example
Conditional estaría + endings

Can anyone help me with these?

The conditional: estaría + gerund - when would I use this?
The future perfect continuous: Habré estado + gerund - I will have been...
Are they used in the same way as the non-continuous forms?

Other uses of the Gerund

This can be used to show two simultaneous actions (the action in the main clause needs to be complemented by another event):
Ella entró cantando = She came in singing
Disfruto patinando = I enjoy (myself) skating
¡No pierda tiempo discutiendo! = Don't waste time arguing!
Yo estaba en la cocina fregando = I was in the kitchen washing the dishes
Pasé el día trabajando en el gimnasio = I spent the day working in the gymnasium
I have also seen in this use 'iban cojeando' = they were limping. There are other uses with the verb ir shown below.

To show how something was done (think of 'by exercising / by running' etc.):
Me cansé patinando = I tired myself out skating
Verás la foto haciendo clic en ese icono = You will see the photo by clicking on that icon

With these verbs (to me, it's still two simultaneous actions for many verbs):
Verb Note
coger Lo cogí comiendo el pastel = I caught him eating the cake
continuarcontinuarán subiendo los precios = Prices will continue to rise
dibujar Lo dibujé durmiendo en el jardín = I drew him sleeping in the garden
irWith the gerund, this can mean something that happens gradually
el agua iba escapándose poco a poco = the water was gradually escaping

Use the gerund with ir and venir to highlight a drawn out event:
Iba dibujando todo lo que veía = I was sketching everything I was seeing
pintar Lo pinté durmiendo en el jardín = I painted him sleeping in the garden
sacar Le saqué una foto bailando = I took a photo of her dancing
seguirsiguen viniendo todos los días = they are still coming every day
ver Use the infinitive with a completed action:
Los vi saltar la cerca / valla = I saw them jumping over the fence
Use the gerund when you're reporting two simultaneous actions (think 'while he / she / they were...':
La vi durmiendo en el jardín = I saw her (while she was) sleeping in the garden

With IR and VENIR use the infinitive:
La vi ir hacia la ventana = I saw her go towards the window
Los veía venir = I could see them coming

You can highlight an ongoing action with the verb 'ir' then que + imperfect (colloquial usage)
Te vi que iba en coche = I saw you driving (going by car)

Use the infinitive with oír:
Te oí cantar = I heard you singing

You can highlight an ongoing action with que + imperfect (this is a colloquial usage)
Te oí que cantabas = I heard you singing

Use the gerund with llevar to show something has been happening for n days, weeks etc. which is explained here

Sometimes it's used as an alternative to: a pesar de que, aunque, como si, porque and ya que which is listed on my article on conjunctions.

English frequently uses the -ing form like this: A man calling for order, a woman preparing her notes etc. In Spanish, you can't use the gerund like this. You have to use a relative pronoun (like 'that' or 'who' etc.)
un hombre que patina sobre hielo = a man skating on ice (literally: a man that skates on ice)
although an exception here is:
una foto de un hombre patinando sobre hielo = a photo of a man skating on ice

[ENGLISH] Are there any errors or do you want to add more information to these pages?
You can contact me at the bottom of the home page.

ESPAÑOL ¿Hay errores o tiene información adicional?
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