Gerundio/Spanish present participle

Spanish present participle

a.k.a. Spanish Present Participle

Spanish verb forms ending in -ando or -iendo , e.g. "hablando", are called gerundios (present participle). These special verb forms are known as verbals because these words no longer act like verbs in sentences - they have no subject. Instead they act like adjectives or adverbs. 

See also: Spanish past participle.

Top tip: In English, we use the term present participle as well as gerund, but in Spanish we only use "gerundio" (so "participio" always refers to the past participle). Historically, a present participle and a gerund were supposed to describe different roles played by the same word, but in reality, there is no such clear distinction. As a result, it's very easy to get confused trying to wrap your head around the difference! Thankfully, modern grammar has dropped the distinction completely and they are now synonymous. Phew!
  • The Spanish present participle of the first conjugation -ar (e.g: hablar, cantar, caminar) is formed with the ending -ando

¿Estás hablando de mí?
Are you talking about me?

Me siento bien caminando por la playa.
I feel good walking along the beach.

Se pasa el tiempo cantando.
He spends all his time singing.

  • The Spanish present participle of the second and third conjugation -er and -ir (e.g: beber, comer, vivir) is formed with the ending -iendo.

Bebiendo y comiendo tanto no vas a adelgazar.
Drinking and eating so much you won't get thinner.

Ella está viviendo en una casa pequeña.
She is living in a small house.

There are some verbs whose present participle forms are irregular, i.e have a slightly different spelling when the stem of the verb ends in a vowel. For example:

Leer (to read)

Estoy leyendo un libro interesante.
I am reading an interesting book.

 Sometimes the irregularity falls on the stem, not the ending:

Mentir (to lie)

¿Me estás mintiendo?
Are you lying to me?

Note that in Spanish the gerund form is not used in the same way it is used in English when acting as a subject. We would use the infinitive form instead:

Caminar regularmente es muy saludable.
Walking regularly is very healthy.

Caminando regularmente es muy saludable.

There are other cases where, whilst in English the gerund is used, in Spanish we use the infinitive, for example after prepositions:

Estoy interesado en  hacer un curso de informática básico.

Estoy interesado en haciendo un curso de informática básico.

I am interested in doing a basic IT course.


¡Tienes que parar de fumar!

¡Tienes que parar de fumando!

You have to stop smoking!

One case that coincides in Spanish and English in terms of using the gerund is when expressing "by doing something", however in Spanish we do not use preposition "por" (by):

Se puede llegar alto trabajando duro en la vida.

Se puede llegar alto por trabajando duro en la vida.

You can reach high by working hard in life.