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Chapter 8: Ser and Estar; Gerund and Passive voice

  8.11 Gerund

The gerund is a construction that has quite a few purposes. One of them is - as also in English - the construction of a part of a sentence.

Llorando me contó su vida = Crying he told me his life story.
                                               He was crying when he told me his life story.

As we can see the gerund in English is formed by taking the verb and adding the ending ing.
eat => eating
sing => singing
cry => crying
swim => swimming

Unfortunately that doesn't always work the same way as in English. For more details please see chapter 8.17.

Los hombres que trabajan. = The working men. The men who work.

In the example above you can see that the part-sentence is a description of a noun (the men), which means it has an adjectival purpose. In that kind of cases the gerundio cannot be used in Spanish. A gerund cannot be changed according to gender and number therefore they cannot be used adjectivally.

  Have a look at this comparison

adverbial construction

adjectival construction

Riendo salío por la puerta.
= Laughing he left through the door.

Saludando la muchedumbre entró en la sala.
= Greeting the crowd, he entered the room.

El pájaro que canta encanta mi corazón.
= The singing bird enchanted my heart.

La mujer que rie está nadando.
= The laughing woman is swimming.

  estar + gerundio forms the continuous

Now we find something very similar to the continuous forms. They are formed with the conjugated form of estar and the gerundio.

present continuous

estar + gerundio

I am eating
you are singing
he is crying
we are swimming
you are greeting
they are laughing

estoy comiendo
estás cantando
está llorando
estamos nadando
estáis saludando
están riendo


¿Qué estás haciendo? Estoy trabajando.= What are you doing? I am working.

See the difference!

¿Qué buscas? Busco trabajo. = What do you look for? I look for work.


¿Qué estas buscando? Estoy buscando mi monedero.
= What are you looking for? I'm looking for my wallet.

The difference is quite clear - what is somebody doing at this moment in comparison to what is he doing in general.

¿Qué están haciendo los niños? Están durmiendo. = What are the kids doing? They sleep.


More details on this issue you'll find in chapter 8.13.

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