Spanish present particles, or gerunds, are the equivalent of English –ing verb forms. Present participles are used less often in Spanish than they are in English and are used somewhat differently than their English counterparts. One of the reasons for this is that the present tense in Spanish is already capable of conveying ideas such as “I am speaking” and “I am eating.” As a result, the progressive tense is used less often in Spanish than in English.
Spanish present participles are generally used when the speaker wants to emphasize the continuing rather than the habitual nature of an action. While English present participles can be used as other parts of speech (e.g. adjectives and nouns), Spanish present participles are almost always used in conjunction with other verbs. The most frequently-used of these pairs a form of estar (to be) with a present participle in a manner not unlike the “be + -ing” construction of English progressive verbs.
It’s important to note that you can’t use the Spanish progressive tense to refer to a future event. So while you could say “I am returning tomorrow” in English, the same cannot be done in Spanish. You must use either the simple present or future tense in such situations.
Forming the Present Particle
The present particle of regular verbs is constructed by adding the appropriate ending to the infinitive stem. Append –ando to the stem of –ar verbs and –iendo to the stems of –er and –ir verbs. Hablar (to speak) becomes hablando (speaking), beber (to drink) becomes bebiendo (drinking), vivir (to live) becomes viviendo (living), and so on.
Irregular present participles use the same endings but take a spelling change in their stems. For example, the present participle of venir (to come) is viniendo (coming), and the present participle of decir (to say) is diciendo (saying). In a few instances, the –iendo ending will change to –yendo to avoid an awkward or confusing spelling. So leer (to read) becomes leyendo (reading) instead of the more unwieldy “leiendo.”