Present Progressive Tense in Spanish

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  • 0:06 The Present Progressive
  • 2:14 Irregulars
  • 2:49 -Ir Stem Changers
  • 4:40 Stems that End in a Vowel
  • 5:36 When to Use This Tense
  • 8:24 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Danielle Geary

Danielle teaches at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She holds a Doctor of Education with research concentration in Study Abroad and Foreign Language Acquisition.

The -ing. Walking. Running. Doing. Going. Learn a new formula and how to talk about what you're doing right now in this lesson on the present progressive verb tense.

The Present Progressive

The present progressive is also known as the '-ing.' Walking. Running. Doing. Going. We use it a lot, don't we?

Here's the formula: estar + present participle (-ando/-iendo)

First, we conjugate estar to agree with the subject (Yo estoy, tú estás, ella está, etc.). Then, we add the present participle of our main verb, which is the meat of what we want to say. The present participle of regular verbs is formed by removing the -ar, -er, or -ir and adding -ando or -iendo:

Hablar becomes habl- then we add our -ando. We get hablando, which is talking.

'I'm talking.' What's 'I am'? Estoy. 'Talking'? Hablando. Put it all together... Estoy hablando.

Comer. Take off the -er, we have com-. We add -iendo. We get comiendo - eating.

'We're eating.' What's 'we are'? Estamos. 'Eating'? Comiendo. Put it all together... Estamos comiendo.

Abrir becomes abr-. Add the -iendo. Abriendo, which is opening.

'They are opening.' 'They are'? Están. 'Opening'? Abriendo. Put it all together... Están abriendo.

Again, what we just went over works for regular verbs and therefore most verbs, thank goodness. However, there are irregular participles, or weirdos, as always!


The following three verbs form their own irregular group. The good news is that they're not used very much.

  • Ir becomes yendo for 'going.'
  • Poder becomes pudiendo for 'being able to.'
  • Venir becomes viniendo for 'coming.'

How would we say, 'Louis is going home'? Luís está yendo a casa.

-Ir Stem Changers

-Ir stem-changing verbs take a stem change in the present participle of E to I or O to U, and there are three groups of these.

E to IE present tense stem changers like preferir (prefiero, prefieres, prefiere, etc.), have an E to I stem change in the present participle. So, preferir does not become preferiendo. It's prefiriendo, with an I.

Onto the next one. E to I present tense stem changers like pedir (pido, pides, pide, etc.), also have an E to I stem change in the present participle. Pedir does not become pediendo. It's pidiendo.

How would we say, 'That woman is ordering chicken'? Esa mujer está pidiendo pollo.

Onto the next one. O to UE present tense stem changers like dormir (duermo, duermes, duerme, etc.) take an O to U stem change in the present participle. So, dormir does not become dormiendo. It's durmiendo, with a U. Sounds very much alike, doesn't it?

And, how would we say that 'Pepe is sleeping'? Pepe está durmiendo.

Stems that End in a Vowel

Stems of -er and -ir verbs that end in a vowel have a -yendo '-ing' instead of the -iendo '-ing':

  • Leer becomes le-, then you add the yendo for leyendo, which means reading.
  • Oír becomes o- when you take the -ir off. You add the yendo, and we have oyendo, which is hearing or listening, according to context.

So, how would we say, 'Marta is reading and Catalina is listening'? Marta está leyendo y Catalina está oyendo.

When to Use It?

So, all this is great, but when do we use it? This is important, because even though it seems like it would be the exact same as in English, it's not. Spanish uses this tense much less often than we do, because Spanish speakers use the present progressive mostly for describing something that they're currently doing, as in, literally, actively doing at the moment. In English, we use it all the time, even when the action is not in progress. What do I mean? Well, let's look at some examples:

First example: I'm Marta, and I'm walking down the street to the joyería right now. You call my cell and ask where I am and what I'm doing. Would I use the present progressive to tell you that I'm walking to the joyería?

! Yes, I would. I might say, Hola! Qué tal? Estoy caminando a la joyería. (Translation: Hey! What's up? I'm walking to the jewelry store.)

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