For­ma­tion of present ac­tion tense

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - Basic Spanish -

We started to look at gerunds, or “present par­tici­ples” last week; that is the Span­ish equiv­a­lent of words in English end­ing in – ing. We saw how sim­ple they are to form, by chang­ing the end­ings in a very uni­form way. The – ar of the in­fini­tive verb changes to – ando, and the –er and –ir in­fini­tive end­ings change to – iendo.

These forms are used fairly ex­ten­sively in Span­ish, but are not nearly so com­mon as the gerund is in English. In English we use “–ing” words to ex­press many dif­fer­ent things that are not pos­si­ble in Span­ish. For ex­am­ple we can talk about fu­ture events by say­ing “To­mor­row I’m play­ing ten­nis” or “What are you do­ing later?” This is im­pos­si­ble in Span­ish. We have to say “To­mor­row I’m go­ing to play ten­nis” (Mañana voy a ju­gar al te­nis) or “What are you go­ing to do later?” (¿Qué vas a hacer más tarde?).

In English we can also use gerunds to de­scribe ac­tiv­i­ties, for ex­am­ple “I go to swim­ming les­sons”. In Span­ish this would be “Voy a clases de nat­ación”. An­other ex­am­ple is the use of the gerund in English af­ter “I like” – as in “I like vis­it­ing the fam­ily” or “I don’t like watch­ing hor­ror films”. Af­ter “me gusta” and re­lated forms in Span­ish we use the in­fini­tive of the verb. “Me gusta vis­i­tar a la fa­milia”, “No me gusta ver pelícu­las de ter­ror”. So, we can def­i­nitely say that in Span­ish the gerund has much more lim­ited uses, so we need to be care­ful not to trans­late too lit­er­ally.

Prob­a­bly the most com­mon use of this form in Span­ish is to com­bine it with the verb es­tar to talk about ac­tiv­i­ties at the present mo­ment in time. For ex­am­ple, if you phone some­one up on their mo­bile phone, you might say to them: “What are you do­ing?” In that ques­tion you are en­quir­ing about ex­actly what their ac­tions are at that spe­cific mo­ment. They might re­ply “I’m clean­ing the kitchen” or “I’m hav­ing a drink with a friend”. In the con­text, the use of the gerund or present par­tici­ple is ex­actly the same as it is in English.

So, to cre­ate the same mean­ing we need the equiv­a­lent of “I am” and “you are” etc. and for this we use the verb es­tar. Here is the verb es­tar in its dif­fer­ent forms. Es­toy (I am) Estás (you are – fa­mil­iar sin­gu­lar)

Está (he is, she is, it is, you are – for­mal sin­gu­lar) Es­ta­mos Estáis in­for­mal plu­ral)

Están (they are, you are – for­mal plu­ral) (we are) (you are –

Now we can sim­ply com­bine the ap­pro­pri­ate form of es­tar with the gerund of our verb to make a mean­ing­ful sen­tence, re­fer­ring to ac­tions in the present mo­ment.

Here’s what I’m do­ing now.

Es­toy es­cri­bi­endo un artículo. Es­toy tomando un té. Es­toy es­cuchando la llu­via. Es­toy pen­sando. ¿Qué estás ha­ciendo? What are you do­ing?

Now here is what my friends and fam­ily are do­ing (I as­sume, although I haven’t phoned them to find out).

Mi madre está ha­ciendo las com­pras. Mi gata está comiendo. Mi her­mana está tra­ba­jando.

Mis hi­jas están es­tu­diando.

Now you have some fairly ob­vi­ous home­work – at any mo­ment you can think about how to say in Span­ish what you and the peo­ple round you are do­ing!

Next week we will look at just a few ir­reg­u­lar gerunds, but don’t worry, there aren’t many!

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