Spanish Continuous Tense

Before we go into detail on the Spanish Continuous Tense, let’s discuss what it is.

What is the Spanish Continuous tense?

People use the Present Continuous Tense in Spanish to say what they are doing at that very moment, for example:

  • Estoy hablando = I am talking (= emphasising right now)
  • Estoy comiendo = I am eating (= emphasising right now)

As per the example above, there is a real emphasis on the person doing the action there and then.

Do not use the Spanish continuous tense when talking about doing things generally. Instead you should use the present tense, for example:

  • Present Tense: Aprendo español = I learn Spanish/I am learning Spanish (= The person is saying that they are learning Spanish over a period of time)
  • Continous Present Tense: Estoy aprendiendo español = I am learning Spanish (= The person is emphasising that they are learning Spanish right at that moment).

You need to be able to recognise this tense and be able to use it (especially where a question is given to you in this format).

1. First part – Use the appropriate part of “Estar” (to be)

  • Estoy = I am
  • Estás = You are (informal & singular)
  • Está = He/She is/You are (formal & singular)
  • Estamos = We are
  • Estáis = You are (plural & informal)
  • Están = They are/You are (plural & formal)

2. Second part – Use the appropriate “present participle”

You form the present participle (i.e. the –ing) word. You do this as follows:

  • For ‘ar’ verbs change the ‘ar’ to ‘ando’ (e.g. hablar (to talk) becomes hablando (talking)).
  • For ‘er’ verbs change the ‘er’ to ‘iendo’ (e.g. comer (to eat) becomes comiendo (eating))
  • For ‘ir’ verbs change the ‘ir’ to ‘iendo’ (e.g. vivir (to live) becomes viviendo (living))

3. Third part – Put them together to make your sentence

Examples:

  • Estoy hablando = I am talking
  • Estás comiendo = You are eating

Although we have used the present tense of “estar” above, it is equally possible to use other tenses plus the past participle. By way of example ‘Estaba comiendo’ means ‘I was eating’ (estaba = I was, comiendo = eating).

Irregular present participles

Unfortunately there are some irregular present participles, some of which are follows:

  • leyendo = reading (leer = to read)
  • cayendo = falling (caer = to fall)
  • pidiendo = asking for (pedir = to ask for)
  • muriendo = dying (morir = to die)
  • durmiendo = sleeping (dormir = to sleep)
  • siguiendo = following (seguir = to follow)
  • diciendo = saying/telling (decir = to say/to tell)
  • oyendo = hearing (oír = to hear)
  • incluyendo = including (incluir = to include)
  • creyendo = believing (creer = to believe)
  • sintiendo = feeling (sentir = to feel)

Remember that the structure used above is only used to talk about what is being done there and then. Do not use it to talk about things you are doing generally. Instead in this situation you should use the normal Present Tense. Any questions? Feel free to get in contact.


I hope that the above has helped you to understand how to use the Spanish Continuous Tense.

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