A Quick Guide to the Spanish Gerund - My Daily Spanish
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A Quick Guide to the Spanish Gerund

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Welcome to this guide to the Spanish gerund!

The gerund is also known as the ‘continuous present,’ but don’t be put off by the weird names, all it means is verbs in the ‘-ing’ form, e.g., ‘You are learning.’

How to form the Spanish Gerund

For the vast majority of verbs, the gerund is super easy to form!

  • For -ar verbs, remove the -ar and replace it with -ando.
  • For -er  verbs, remove the -er and replace it with -iendo.
  • For -ir verbs, remove the -ir and replace it with -iendo.

As you can see, all you have to remember is:

  • -ar -ando
  • -er or -ir-iendo

So, let’s look at some examples.

  • Nadar (to swim) → estoy nadando (I’m swimming)
  • Coser (to sew) → estoy cosiendo (I’m sewing)
  • Escribir (to write) → estoy escribiendo (I’m writing)

When to use the Spanish Gerund

We use the gerund in Spanish when we want to say that something is happening. We usually need to use the verb estar (to be) with it. It’s like in English: you wouldn’t say, ‘He swimming.’ You’d say, ‘He is swimming.’

So here’s how to conjugate estar in the present tense, to say that something is happening—it’s in progress right now:


Yo

estoy

I

am

estás

You (informal singular)

are

Él/ella/usted

está

He/she/it

You (formal singular)

is

are

Nosotros/as

estamos

We

are

Vosotros/as

estáis

You (informal plural)

are

Ellos/ellas/ustedes

están

TheyYou (formal plural)

are

are

Examples:

Shut up, I’m talking!

Cállate, que estoy hablando.

He says he’s vegan but he’s eating a hamburger.

Dice que es vegano pero está comiendo una hamburguesa.

They are dancing.

Están bailando*.

* Speaking of ‘bailando,’ there are a few gerunds to listen out for in the chorus of the famous Enrique Iglesias song. Try and listen out for them!

Here’s how to conjugate estar in the imperfect tense (a version of the past tense), to say that something was happening.


Yo

estaba

I

was

estabas

You (informal singular)

were

Él/ella/usted

estaba

He/she/it

You (formal singular)

was were

Nosotros/as

estábamos

We

were

Vosotros/as

estabais

You (informal plural)

were

Ellos/ellas/ustedes

estaban

They

You (formal plural)

were

were


You were singing my favorite song.

Estabas cantando mi canción preferida.

Juan and I were dating.

Juan y yo estábamos saliendo.

You were all studying a lot.

Estabais estudiando mucho.

You won’t use this one as much, but learning how to conjugate estar in the future tense will also allow you to say that something will be happening at some point in the future.

Yo

estaré

I

shall be

estarás

You (informal singular)

will be

Él/ella/usted

estará

He/she/it

You (formal singular)

will be

will be

Nosotros/as

estaremos

We

shall be

Vosotros/as

estaréis

You (informal plural)

will be

Ellos/ellas/ustedes

estarán

TheyYou (formal plural)

will be will be


This time tomorrow, I’ll be flying to Lanzarote.

A estas horas mañana, estaré volando a Lanzarote.

They’re probably* smoking.

Estarán fumando.

*See here for how to use the future tense to make suppositions!

So, using these three conjugation tables and the verb endings described above, we can form a whole load of phrases with the gerund.

Examples:

I’m waiting.

Estoy esperando.

You are sweating.

Estás sudando.

Gabriel is selling his books to that lady.

Gabriel está vendiendo sus libros a esa señora.

We were cooking.

Estábamos cocinando.

You guys were painting.

Estabais pintando.

The athletes will be running soon.

Los atletas estarán corriendo prontito.

There are another few cool ways the gerund can be used, when you DON’T need estar.

Firstly, when you’re using it with a verb of motion:

I left running. (I ran away.)

Salí corriendo.

He came in complaining.

Entró quejándose.

He goes around singing all day.

Anda cantando todo el día.


Secondly, to mean ‘by -ing':

I made a lot of money (by) busking.

Gané mucho dinero tocando música en la calle.

She got the job (by) calling the boss every day.

Consiguió el trabajo llamando al jefe cada día.


Thirdly, it can be used in a ‘by the way’ sense:

Speaking of Juan, did you know...?

Hablando de Juan, ¿sabías que...?

When NOT to use the Spanish Gerund

As mentioned above, -ando and -iendo roughly translate to ‘-ing.’ But watch out for some common traps!
  • In English, we’d use the present continuous (‘-ing’) to say we like doing something. In Spanish you don’t need to do this. Just leave the verb in the infinitive.

I like eating.

Me gusta comiendo.

Me gusta comer.

  • In English, we’d use ‘-ing’ to say that an activity is important, easy, hard, etc. In Spanish, use the infinitive.

Being kind is important.

Siendo amable es importante.

Ser amable es importante.

  • In English, we’d use ‘-ing’ to describe states (not just actions). Again, in Spanish, this isn’t necessary.

The flowers are smelling good today!

¡Las flores están oliendo bien hoy!

¡Las flores huelen bien hoy!

Irregular verbs

Yes, you guessed it, there are some exceptions to the rules that we went through above.

  1. There are some -ir and -er verbs whose stems end in a vowel. If this is the case, the -iendo becomes -yendo. These examples should help demonstrate:

  2. Caer (to fall) → caerca + iendoca + yendocayendo (falling)

    Leer (to read) → leerle + iendole + yendoleyendo (reading)

  1. There’s a type of verb called stem-changing verbs, because their stems sometimes change. They’re also referred to as radical-changing verbs, which, frankly, I think is a better name for them.

Sometimes radical-changing verbs also change in the gerund. Here’s a handy table of some of the common ones:

to warn

advertir

advirtiendo

to transform

convertir

convirtiendo

to have fun

divertirse

divirtiéndose

to lie

mentir

mintiendo

to refer

referir

refiriendo

to feel

sentir

sintiendo

to ask for

pedir

pidiendo

to compete

competir

compitiendo

to follow

seguir

siguiendo

to choose

elegir

eligiendo

to repeat

repetir

repitiendo

to dress

vestir

vistiendo

3. Here are some other common ones that we haven’t covered in rules 1 and 2.

to go

ir

yendo

to come

venir

viniendo

to be able to

poder

pudiendo

to say

decir

diciendo

to hear

oír

oyendo

to laugh

reír

riendo

to smile

sonreír

sonriendo

to sleep

dormir

durmiendo

to die

morir

muriendo

Let’s get quizzical!

There’s been a lot here to take in, so, if you fancy it, have a go at these multiple-choice questions and see how well you can do!

Well done!

I hope you’ve learnt something from this lesson on the gerund, and definitely don’t worry if you haven’t taken in every single thing! Keep practicing a little every day, and you’ll soon be using the gerund in Spanish.


Want some help in conjugating Spanish verbs? Try these audio drills! 

About the Author Annabel Beilby

Annabel is a language-enthusiast from the UK. She studied Spanish and French at the University of Southampton (with an Erasmus study year in Madrid!) and recently graduated. She has interests across the Spanish-speaking world, and is a fan of language in general.

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