Acting in the Now with the Present Progressive in Spanish

What are you doing right now? You are reading about Spanish verbs. The verb phrase “are reading” uses the present progressive tense. The present progressive tense expresses an action that’s taking place right now. Contrast this with the present tense that describes a current action or an action that you perform on a regular basis, such as “I wash dishes.”

You form the present progressive by taking the present tense of the verb estar (to be) and the present participle, or -ing form, of the action verb. When you put these two together, you have to be + doing. Whoever or whatever is performing the action determines the form of estar — which happens to be irregular in the present tense — that you use. First of all, here are the forms of estar:

estar = to be
estoy estamos
estás estáis
está están
Yo estoy. = I am.

The second part of this structure consists of the present participle, or -ing form, of the action verb, which you form by dropping the -ar off the infinitive form of the verb and then adding -ando. For -er and -ir verbs, you drop the -er or -ir ending and add -iendo. Use the following examples as your guide:

  • hablar (to speak) becomes hablando (speaking)

  • comer (to eat) becomes comiendo (eating)

  • escribir (to write) becomes escribiendo (writing)

When you put it all together, you get the present progressive:

  • Yo estoy hablando. = I am talking.

  • Él está comiendo. = He is eating.

  • Ellos están escribiendo. = They are writing.

Of course, every crowd has its exceptions. The following table lays out many of the most common irregular present participles.

Common Irregular Present Participles
Infinitive Translation Present Participle Translation
Caer to fall cayendo falling
Construer to construct construyendo constructing
Corregir to correct corrigiendo correcting
Creer to believe creyendo believing
Decir to say, to tell diciendo saying, telling
Destruir to destroy destruyendo destroying
Dormer to sleep durmiendo sleeping
Ir to go yendo going
Leer to read leyendo reading
Mentir to lie, to tell a falsehood mintiendo lying
morir to die muriendo dying
oír to hear oyendo hearing
pedir to ask for, to request pidiendo asking for, requesting
poder to be able pudiendo being able
reír to laugh riendo laughing
repetir to repeat repitiendo repeating
seguir to follow siguiendo following
sentir to feel sintiendo feeling
servir to serve sirviendo serving
traer to bring trayendo bringing
venir to come viniendo coming
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