Uses for the Present Participle in Spanish

In the section on present participles, we learned that the present participle is used to express actions that are continuous or habitual in nature. There are several other uses for the present participle in the Spanish language which we'll explore below. As shown in the following two examples, the present participle is most often used in the progressive tense with the verb "estar" (to be).

She was thinking about her parents.
Estaba pensando en su madre.
I am running to my house.
Estoy corriendo a mi casa.

The Present Participle as an Adverb

In Spanish, the present participle is often used as an adverb to modify or describe the action being expressed by another verb in the sentence. Review the following examples of the past participle functioning as an adverb.

I spent my vacation swimming in the sea.
Pasé mis vacaciones nadando en el mar.
Living in Spain, it was easy to speak Spanish.
Estudiando en España, era fácil aprender español.

The Present Participle Expresses Continual Action

The present participle is frequently used with the Spanish verbs ir (to go), andar (to walk), venir (to come), and seguir (to follow) to emphsize a continual action. Read and listen to the following examples, then repeat each out loud.

I am walking around looking for my tie.
Ando buscando mi corbata.
The drunk is gradually coming out of his stupor.
El borracho va saliendo de su estupor.
We continue fighting against the government.
Seguimos luchando contra el gobierno.
I've been feeling that I did the best I could.
Vengo sintiendo que hice lo mejor que pude.

When NOT to use the Present Partciples

The past participle in Spanish is equivalent to the gerund form (words ending in -ing) in English. The gerund form is frequently used in English as a noun, as an adjective, and to express the future – but not in Spanish. Review the following examples.

Nadando es buen ejercicio.
Swimming is good exercise.
Nadar es buen ejercicio.
Swimming is good exercise.
Viendo es creyendo.
Seeing is believing.
Ver es creer.
Seeing is believing.
Le gusta hablando italiano.
She likes speaking italian.
Le gusta hablar italiano.
She likes speaking italian.
¿De quién es el bebé llorando?
Whose is this crying baby?
¿De quién es el bebé que llora?
Whose is this crying baby?
Ellos saliendo mañana.
They are leaving tomorrow.
Salen mañana.
They are leaving tomorrow.