In English the present progressive
is often used to indicate an action in progress or ongoing. If the present tense is used to state “I bathe,” it has a slightly different meaning than if the present progressive tense is used: “I am bathing.” The understood meaning of the present progressive is that the action of the verb is happening at that point in time. There are other cases in English sentences where the present progressive indicates that the action of the verb is not necessarily occurring at that exact moment of time, but rather is an ongoing process that is much like the simple present indicative tense. For example, “He is studying French” has the same basic meaning as “He studies French.” But if one asks what he is doing right now, it would also be appropriate to use the present progressive to answer: “He is studying French.”
The Spanish use the present progressive similarly. The present progressive construction is created the same way in Spanish as it is in English. This makes the present progressive very easy to learn and understand.
To use a verb in the present progressive, you must first conjugate the verb estar to go with the subject. Then you use the present participle form of the main verb. The present participle in Spanish ends in – ando (for –ar verbs) or – iendo (for both – er and – ir verbs) and is the equivalent of an English verb ending in –ing. For example: Juan estudia (John studies) is the present tense. Juan está estudiando (John is studying) is the present progressive construction. You must have both parts in this contruction, or else it will not make sense.
An –ir verb that stem changes in the present tense will have an e>i or o>u stem in the present participle form. Here are some examples of –ir verbs:
All other verbs that stem change in the present tense will not have any stem change in the present participle form.
If you want to use a verb in the present progressive, you are really only conjugating the verb estar, and adding the exact same present participle form to each of the different forms of estar. For example, Table 1 shows how the verb trabajar (to work) is used in the present progressive.
If you read or hear a Spanish sentence in the present progressive and it doesn't sound right, it may be that English would have used the present tense. So, if you try thinking of the present tense form of the verb that's in its present participle form, the sentence may be easier for you to understand.