Use the present progressive to talk about actions ongoing in the present moment

Gramática: “Estar” con el presente progresivo

The present progressive (or continuous) is a compound construction of two verbal forms that cannot be separated by any other word. The progressive may be used in different tenses by changing the conjugation of the verb estar (past, present or future) and leaving the gerund in its intact form. For now let’s focus on the present:

Subject Pronoun + estar (conjugated) + gerund

sign pointing down stairs reads: "bajando"

bajar = to go down

What’s a gerund? In English, gerunds all end in -ing: reading, dancing, singing, etc. (For more on gerunds in English, see the entry on gerunds in the Guide to Writing.)

In Spanish, the ending of the gerund depends on the kind of verb:

  • for -ar verbs: drop the “r” and add -ndo –> -ando
  • for -er and -ir verbs: drop the “-er” or “-ir” and add -iendo
  • Stem-changing -ir verbs (not -ar or -er verbs!) change their stem vowels as follows: o>u, e>i. Note: verbs that change from e>ie and e>i in the present tense both change e>i in the gerund form.
  • The gerund of the verb ir is irregular: yendo.

Sign reads "sigan subiendo"

sigan = keep, continue (imperative of seguir); subir = go up


  • -ar verb:
    • Tomar — tomando (taking)
    • Cantar — cantando (singing)
  • -er verb:
    • Beber— bebiendo (drinking)
  • -ir verb:
    • Escribir— escribiendo (writing)
  • stem-changing -ir verbs:
    • Dormir— durmiendo (sleeping)
    • Preferir-– prefiriendo (preferring)
    • Servir– sirviendo (serving)
singular plural
1a yo estoy escribiendo nosotros estamos escribiendo
2a tú estás escribiendo vosotros estáis escribiendo
3a él/ella/usted está escribiendo ellos/ellas/ustedes están escribiendo

Note: To form a negative sentence in the present progressive, place the no in front of the form of estar: No estoy escribiendo.

Remember that the present progressive is used to express an action in progress. Note the differences in meaning:

  • Estudio español. (an ongoing situation over a period of time: you are taking Spanish as part of your studies this semester)
  • Estoy estudiando español. (an action in progress right now: you have your book out or a site open and you are actively studying a lesson or preparing right now.

Note also: Although in English, the present progressive tense can refer to events in the future (“We are going to the movies tonight”), in Spanish the present progressive always refers to ongoing action. For future actions, Spanish uses the present tense or the future tenses.