Present participle

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Spanish has two types of present participles: adverbial present participles (sometimes called gerunds) and adjectival present participles.

Adverbial present participles

The adverbial present participle (or gerund) is one of the non-finite verb forms in Spanish. It can function as an adverb, and it is used to form progressive tenses in combination with some form of the verb estar.

The ending of all of these present participles consists of a theme vowel or diphthong followed by the letters "ndo". The choice of theme vowel or diphthong depends on the verb's class.

  • The ending of -ar verbs is pronounced /-ando/ and spelled "-ando". For example: hablar->hablando
  • The ending of -er and -ir verbs is pronounced /-yendo/. The spelling of the ending depends on the last letter in the verb's stem.
    • If the stem ends in any consonant letter except for "ñ" or "ll", the ending is spelled "-iendo". For example: comer->comiendo, vivir->viviendo
    • If the stem ends in one of the consonant letters "ñ" or "ll" or with the vowel letter "i", the ending is spelled "-endo". For example: gruñir->gruñendo', bullir->bullendo, reír->riendo.
    • If the stem ends in one of the vowel letters "a", "e", "o" or "u", the ending is spelled "-yendo". For example: creer->creyendo, vivir->viviendo.

The stem for most verbs is identical to the infinitive stem. Exceptions include -ir verbs such as dormir, sentir, pedir and reír, which change the last "e" or "o" of the stem to "i" or "u" in the third-person preterit forms: dormir->durmio->durmiendo, sentir->sintió->sintiendo, pedir->pidió->pidiendo, reír->rio->riendo. A few other verbs that have irregular preterit forms also have irregular present participles; for example, poder->pudiendo.

The primary stress (or tonic accent) of the present participle is always on the first syllable of the ending. Adding one or more object pronouns to the end of the present participle requires writing an accent mark over the "a" or "e" of the ending: hablando but hablándome, diciendo but diciéndomelo.

Adjectival present participles

Adjectival present participles may be formed from many verbs, but not from all of them. These participles typically function like the English adjectival forms that end in "-ing": "Sleeping Beauty" = La bella durmiente.

They are formed in this manner:

  • -ar verbs: replace the -ar of the infinitive with -ante: alarmar->alarmante, inquietar->inquietante.
  • -er verbs: replace the -er of the infinitive with -iente, or occasionally with -ente: crecer->creciente, proceder->procedente, sorprender->sorprendente, tender->tendiente
  • -ir verbs: replace the -iendo of the gerund/adverbial participle with either -iente or -ente: the choice is not predictable. For example: concernir->concerniente, conducir->conducente, existir->existente, dormir->durmiente, herir->hiriente, producir->producente, reír->riente, salir->saliente, seguir->siguiente, sonreír->sonriente

A few of these forms are irregular: convencer->convenciendo->convincente, convenir->conviniendo->conveniente, fluír->fluyendo->fluente, provenir->proviniendo->proveniente de

Forms in -nte cannot be made from all verbs: you should learn them on a case-by-case basis. Where -nte forms exist it is not possible to substitute gerunds in -ando or -iendo.

Many words ending in -nte are not participles per se but non-verbal adjectives: brillante, corriente, aparente, reciente.

Except for a few slang or popular words, neither participles nor adjectives ending in -nte have separate feminine forms. However, a few nouns in -nte make their feminine forms with -nta.