Using Spanish Gerunds With Verbs Other Than ‘Estar’

Use of gerund often indicates continuing action

sleeping in the park
Siguió durmiendo. (He kept on sleeping.).

Diógenes /Creative Commons.

The Spanish gerund — the verb form ending in -ando or -iendo — is used frequently with forms of estar to form the progressive tenses. However, it can also be used with other verbs, sometimes with meanings that are similar to the progressive tenses.

Verbs Often Used With the Gerund

Here are some of the most common verbs that can be followed by the gerund:

Seguir or Continuar

These verbs typically mean "to keep on" or "to continue." With this usage, the two verbs are generally interchangeable with little difference in meaning.

  • Sony sigue hablando mal del plasma, mientras sigue lanzando televisores LCD. (Sony keeps on speaking poorly of plasma while it keeps on releasing LCD televisions.)
  • Venezuela continuará comprando cemento cubano. (Venezuela will keep on buying Cuban cement.)
  • Muchas veces seguimos durmiendo más de lo que deberíamos. (Many times we continue sleeping longer than we should.)
  • Las cuatro continuaban peleando y un hombre que se movilizaba en una motocicleta aprovechó para robarles. (The four kept on fighting and a man on a motorcycle took advantage of the situation to rob them.)

Andar

Although standing alone andar typically means "to walk," when followed by a gerund it means roughly the same as "to go around" doing something in a rather pointless or unproductive fashion. If you're translating to English, the translation can vary considerably with context. Andar generally has a negative connotation when used this way.

  • Descubrí el foro porque andaba navegando en Internet. (I discovered the forum because I was browsing around the Internet.)
  • Katy anda comiendo todo el día. (Katy goes around eating all day.)
  • Tú sabes que todos andamos buscando una vida que satisfaga. (You know that all of us spend our time looking for a satisfying life.)

Ir

Sometimes, ir is used in the same way as andar, above. But it usually doesn't have the negative connotation. In fact, it usually suggests that the action in progress is proceeding gradually or steadily. Again, translations of ir followed by the Spanish gerund can vary with the context.

  • Vamos estudiando mejor la situación real del pueblo. (We are coming to study better the real situation of the people.)
  • Fueron comprando trozo a trozo el terreno durante un proceso de unos quince años más o menos. (They went about buying the land one piece at a time during a process that lasted 15 years more or less.)
  • Los estudiantes van ganando influencia. (The students are steadily gaining influence.)

Venir

Followed with a gerund, venir often refers to something that has been occurring for a long time and is still continuing. It sometimes conveys frustration that the action isn't complete. As in the first two examples below, it is often used to indicate how long something has been occurring.

  • En los últimos años, se viene hablando de liderazgo. (In recent years, much has been spoken about leadership.)
  • Hace seis meses que viene probando suerte como modelo en París. (For the past six months she has been trying her luck as a model in Paris.)
  • Vienen diciendome que no soy normal. (They have been telling me that I'm not normal.)

Following Other Verbs With Gerunds

In general, most verbs can be followed by a gerund as a way of indicating how the first verb's action in performed. In effect, the gerund functions much as an adverb. In many cases, sentences using a gerund in this way can't be translated word for word.. A few examples:

  • Empezamos escuchando y terminamos entendiendo todo. (We begin by listening and finish by understanding everything.)
  • De pronto nos encontramos escribiendo una nueva historia. (Suddenly we found ourselves writing a new story.)
  • Antonio miraba estudiando todos mis movimientos. (Antonio watched me, studying all of my movements.)
  • Buscamos en su Instagram unos fotos donde aparezcas sonriendo. (We are searching on your Instagram feed for photos where you appear to be smiling.) 
  • ¡¡Ella perdió 12 kilos bebiendo este jugo milagroso!! (She lost 12 kilograms by drinking this miracle juice!)

Key Takeaways

  • The gerund is used most often with estar to form the progressive or continuous tenses.
  • It can also be used with several other verbs, among them seguir and continuar, to convey an idea similar to a progressive tense.
  • In other situations, the gerund can function much like an adverb in modifying or explaining the meaning of another verb.