In Spanish we use verbal structures (also known as verbal periphrasis) which are formed by:
A conjugated auxiliary verb + an infinitive/a present participle/a past participle
Sometimes these structures have a preposition, a conjunction or a group of words working as connectives after the auxiliary verb and they form part of the whole structure so they cannot be omitted or they won't make sense, or it will change the meaning.
Some examples of basic verbal periphrases are:
- Estar + present participle (to be doing [something])
Carmen está bailando con Andrés
Carmen is dancing with Andrés
está (auxiliary verb conjugated) and bailando (-ing form)
- Ir + a + infinitive (to be going to do [something])
Carmen va a bailar con Andrés
Carmen is going to dance with Andrés
va (auxiliary verb conjugated), preposition a, and bailar (infinitive)
- Tener + que + infinitive (to have to do [something])
Carmen tiene que bailar con Andrés
Carmen has to dance with Andrés
tiene (auxiliary verb conjugated), que, and bailar (infinitive)
- Soler + infinitive (to usually do [something])
Carmen suele bailar con Andrés
Carmen usually dances with Andrés
suele (auxiliary verb conjugated) and bailar (infinitive)
Some more advanced verbal periphrasis are:
- Acabar de + infinitive (to just do [something])
I had just arrived when you called.
- Empezar a + infinitive (to start to do [something])
I had started to study when I was interrupted.
- Dejar de + infinitive (to stop doing [something])
Ellos dejaron de fumar hace dos meses.
They stopped smoking two months ago.
- Estar a punto de + infinitive (to be about to do [something])
La pequeña está a punto de llorar.
The little girl is about to cry.
- Llevar + past participle (to have done [something])
Lleva leídas 38 páginas.
She has read 38 pages.
Verbal periphrasis sometimes expresses the progression of an action (estar + present participle), sometimes obligation (tener que + infinitive), and it can also express the beginning of an action (empezar a + infinitive), etc.
Spanish verbal periphrasis works in a similar way to phrasal verbs in English (to get up, to cross over, to get down, to show up...). However, phrasal verbs do not need a second non-conjugated verb form (an infinitive, a present participle or a past participle) right after them.
It is important not to omit the preposition or group of words in between the two parts of the structure, as well as using the right non-conjugated form (infinitive, present participle or past participle) as this could change the meaning of some of the verbal periphrasis.
Have a look:
Terminó de estudiar.
She finished studying.
She ended up studying.
Llevo hechos 12 pasteles.
I have baked 12 cakes.
Llevo haciendo pasteles toda la mañana.
I have been baking cakes all morning.
To see how these verbal structures are classified, you can watch this video in Spanish: