We use the present progressive to talk about what is happening now. It is formed as shown below:
present indicative conjugation of estar + present participle of verb = present progressive
The present participle (gerund) is formed with the stem of the verb plus -ando (for -ar verbs) or -iendo (for -er and -ir verbs). For example:
hablar ---> hablando (speaking)
comer ---> comiendo (eating)
vivir ---> viviendo (living)
The present participle of hablar (to speak) is hablando. The table below shows the formation of the present progressive for hablar:
||(I am speaking)
||(you are speaking)
||(he/she/you are speaking)
||(we are speaking)
||(you guys are speaking)
||(you all/they are speaking)
Let's look at some example sentences:
I am writing.
Yo estoy trabajando.
I am working.
Roberto está comiendo en la cocina.
Robert is eating in the kitchen.
Don Luis está pintando.
Mr. Luis is painting.
Los niños están hablando por teléfono.
The children are talking on the telephone.
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The present progressive tense is formed with the auxiliary verb estar plus a main verb in its present participle form (e.g. estoy escribiendo). The present participle is formed with the stem of the verb plus -ando (for -ar verbs) or -iendo (for -er and -ir verbs). For example:
hablar -> hablando
comer -> comiendo
beber -> bebiendo
vivir -> viviendo
In the case of -ir stem changing verbs the stem vowel changes. For example:
preferir -> prefiriendo
pedir -> pidiendo
venir -> viniendo
Verbs with stems that end in a vowel also have an irregular form:
caer -> cayendo
oír -> oyendo
traer -> trayendo
The verb estar must be conjugated to match the subject pronoun. For example:
Yo estoy comiendo.
I am eating.
Tú estás cantando.
You are singing.
Él está hablando.
He is speaking.
Ella está bebiendo.
She is drinking.
Nosotros estamos hablando.
We are speaking.
Ellos están estudiando.
They are studying.
Present Progressive vs. Simple Present
Just like English, Spanish uses the present progressive tense to describe actions that are occurring while one is speaking (e.g. John is writing a letter). Also similar to English, the present tense is used to describe actions that one does repeatedly or habitually (e.g. John writes a letter every morning). One difference between the two languages, however, is that in Spanish the present tense can also be used to describe progressive actions. For example:
¿Qué haces? / ¿Qué estás haciendo?
What are you doing?
¿Qué escuchas/ ¿Qué estás escuchando?
What are you listening to?
Progressive tenses: estar + gerund.
To form a progressive tense, use the appropriate tense of the verb estar immediately in front of the gerund, e.g.:
No me molestes; estoy trabajando.
Don't bother me; I'm working.
Estábamos almorzando cuando llegaron.
We were eating lunch when they arrived.
Estuvimos haciendo ejercicio por tres horas.
We were exercising three hours [Or: We spent three hours exercising.]
Dudo que estén practicando a esta hora.
I doubt they're practicing at this hour.
Note that any tense can be used to form a progressive, even the preterit as given in the third example above [note that there the action is viewed as having been limited to a three hour period]. However, the present and imperfect tenses the ones most frequently seen.
Caution: As the name indicates, the progressive tenses express an action viewed as being in progress. Do not use the progressive for other purposes, such as for expressing a future action: “We're leaving for Mexico tomorrow” (Salimos para México mañana [NOT Estamos saliendo).