How to use the present progressive in Spanish

How to use the present progressive in Spanish

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated June 21, 2023

No matter where you are on your Spanish learning journey, it can be helpful to compare what you’re learning to what you already know. In English, we use the present progressive tense in all sorts of situations. If that name does not sound familiar, the present progressive is indicated by a verb ending in “-ing.”

For example: They are running. We are driving. He is eating. 

Easy, right? But what is the present progressive tense in Spanish, and how do you form it? We’ll answer those questions in this guide, and review some additional examples that illustrate when to use the present progressive.

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What is present progressive in Spanish?

The present progressive tenses in Spanish and in English have very similar constructions and uses. 

In both languages, we use the present progressive to talk about actions that happen continuously. In other words, the action is still taking place at the moment the person is speaking. 

Here are some examples: 

I am eating. Estoy comiendo. 
They are driving. Están manejando. 
We are leaving. Estamos saliendo. 
She is reading. Está leyendo. 

In Spanish, it is also common to use the present indicative or present simple to talk about actions that are happening right now. Therefore, you’ll often have two different ways to ask the same question. 

Present simple 

¿Qué haces? (What are you doing?)

Limpio la cocina. (I’m cleaning the kitchen.)

Present progressive 

¿Qué estás haciendo? (What are you doing?)

Estoy limpiando la cocina. (I’m cleaning the kitchen.)

How to use present progressive in Spanish

The present progressive tense in both Spanish and English is formed by using an auxiliary verb or a helping verb

In English, we combine the verb “to be” with a verb that ends in “-ing.” A verb with this ending is also known as a present participle. For example:

  • I am running. 

Similarly, in Spanish, we use the verb estar (to be). Before we can form the present progressive, we should review how to conjugate the verb estar. Remember that, in Spanish, we do not need to include the subject unless it is unclear. Also, Spanish uses usted for the formal “you.” Learn more about formal and informal Spanish.  

SubjectEstar conjugatedExample sentence
yo (I)estoyEstoy comiendo. (I am eating.)
(you; informal)estásEstás comiendo. (You are eating.)
él/lla (he/he)estáEstá comiendo. (He or she is eating.) 
Here you might want to use the subject if it is not clear which person you are talking about.
usted (you; formal)estáEstá comiendo. (You are eating.) 
nosotros (us)estamosEstamos comiendo. (We are eating.)
ellos / ellas (they)estánEstán comiendo. (They are eating.)
ustedes (you all)estánEstán comiendo. (You all are e

Now let’s form the present progressive tense in Spanish: 

Estar + present participle

Estoy + comiendo. 

Estoy comiendo. (I am eating.)

Verbs that end in -ar add -ando. Hablar (to speak) becomes hablando.

Verbs that end in -ir and -er add -iendo. Escribir (to write) becomes escribiendo. 

Now, let’s look at some of the irregular and stem-changing present participles. 

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EnglishSpanishPresent participle
to comevenirviniendo
to telldecirdiciendo
to feelsentirsintiendo
to askpedirpidiendo
to sleepdormirdurmiendo

Here are some irregular verbs that we call -yendo verbs. The –i changes to –y.

EnglishSpanishPresent participle
to goiryendo
to readleerleyendo
to believecreercreyendo
to bringtraertrayendo

Examples of present progressive in Spanish

Let’s look at some example sentences. These are affirmative or positive sentences. 

My dad is washing the dishes.Mi papá está lavando los platos. 
The babies are sleeping. Los bebés están durmiendo. 
I am studying. Estoy estudiando. 
We are exercising. Estamos haciendo ejercicio. 

These are examples of negative sentences. 

We are not running. No estamos corriendo. 
You are not driving. No estás manejando. 
She is not paying attention. Ella no está poniendo atención. 
They are not talking. Ellos no están hablando. 

These are examples of interrogative sentences or questions. 

Are you traveling (right now)?¿Estás viajando? 
Are they shopping? ¿Están haciendo compras? 
Are we leaving? ¿Estamos saliendo? 
Is she reading? ¿Está leyendo? 

Here’s a classic song that uses the present progressive in Spanish: “Estoy pensando en ti” by Sonora Santanera.

¿Estás estudiando? (Are you studying?)

Learning Spanish takes time, but with some little tricks, you can speed up the process! The present progressive in Spanish and English are built and used in a very similar way. Leverage that to your advantage to recall the rule behind it.  
You should also remember to practice conjugating the verb estar (to be) and learning your irregular verbs. With a pinch of patience and resolve, you will master this new tense in the blink of an eye.

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Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Turkish. Her consulting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.

Alison Maciejewski Cortez

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