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Progressive in Spanish

In this lesson, we cover how present participles are formed. Also, the different types of progressive tenses are discussed. Some versions of progressive tenses are discussed in other lessons. When required, links are provided.

Present Progressive

The progressive tense is built by using “estar” and the present participle of the second verb.

Let us first remember how to conjugate estar in present tense, because you will use this form of estar to build the present progressive.

(yo) estoy

(tú) estás

(él/ella) está

(usted) está

(nosotros/-as) estamos

(vosotros/-as) estáis

(ellos/-as) están

(ustedes) están 

Let us see next how to form a present participle in Spanish.

Present  Participle

A present participle, also known as gerund, is formed by dropping the infinitive ending and adding the endings –ando for “ar” verbs and “-iendo” for “er” and “ir” verbs. You may think a present participle as the equivalent of the English gerund “-ing”.

For example; the present participle of hablar is hablando, that of comer is comiendo and that of vivir is viviendo.

As usual, there are some verbs which have irregular endings.

For example the present participle of leer is leyendo. More examples of irregular present participles are given in the vocabulary section below.

When to use present participle

Present participle is used much less than it is used in English. Its primary use is to form the progressive tenses. Also note that it is always used with verbs, not as a stand-alone noun or adjective.

  • It is used to form progressive tenses as stated above.
  • It is not used as adjectives, contrary to past participles.
  • It cannot be used as a noun either, contrary to English.
  • It is not used in future tense, contrary to English.

As stated above, one uses the present conjugation of estar together with the present participle. Present progressive tense is used only to refer to actions in progress, not for actions that will occur in the future which is contrary to English.


  • Ella está estudiando igles (she is studying English)

It is worth emphasizing that from the sentence above, we should conclude that “she’s studying English at the moment”. It is not a general thing that she is doing these days.

Imperfect progressive

There are two past progressive tenses in Spanish corresponding to the two simple past tenses, you learnt before: imperfect progressive and preterite progressive.

Again, the imperfect progressive is formed by using estar and the present participle. But, this time you need to use the imperfect conjugation of estar:

yo) estaba

(tú) estabas

(él/ella) estaba

(usted) estaba

(nosotros/-as) estábamos

(vosotros/-as) estabais

(ellos/-as) estaban

(ustedes) estaban 

As you can guess this form of progressive tense corresponds to (was/were +ing) in English.

For example

(yo) estaba comiendo (I was eating)

Preterite progressive

The second progressive tense is the preterite progressive. The use of this tense is very uncommon. Also, note that the general principles and differences that we covered in preterite and imperfect lessons are valid here. For example, preterite progressive refers to the past actions with clear end. Please refer to the corresponding lessons for further information.

As you might guess, the preterite progressive is formed by the preterite of estar and the present participle.

(yo) estuve

(tú) estuviste

(él/ella) estuvo

(usted) estuvo

(nosotros/-as) estuvimos

(vosotros/-as) estuvisteis

(ellos/-as) estuvieron

(ustedes) estuvieron

Estuve trabajando hasta las nueve (I was working until nine o’clock)

Future progressive and conditional progressive are mentioned in the related sections.


Learn some common verbs which have irregular present participles

decir (to say) /diciendo

mentir (to lie) /mintiendo

morir (to die) / muriendo

venir (to come) /viniendo

caer (to fall) /cayendo

creer (to think) /creyendo

huir (to run away) /huyendo

construir (to build) /construyendo

ir (to go) /yendo

corregir (to correct) /corrigiendo

influir (to influence) / influyendo

oír (to hear) /oyendo

traer (to bring) /trayendo

seguir (to follow) /siguiendo

despedirse (to say goodbye) / despidiéndose

conseguir (to achieve) /consiguiendo

destruir (to destroy) / destruyendo

divertirse (to have fun) /divertiéndose

pedir (to ask for) /pidiendo

reír (to laugh) / riendo

repetir (to repeat) / repitiendo

server (to serve) /sirviendo

traer (to bring) / trayendo

vestirse( to get dressed ) /vistiéndose

Let's Practice

Memorize and write down the present participles of the following verbs

All Exercises