Periphrasis/Perífrasis verbal (by Lazarus)

periphrasis - /-?siz/?/p??r?fr?s?s/ Show Spelled Pronunciation [puh-rif-ruh-sis] –noun, plural -ses ??pe?riph?ra?sis 1.the use of an unnecessarily long or roundabout form of expression; circumlocution. expression phrased in such fashion.

None of those definitions are suitable for verbal periphrases in Spanish. perífrasis.

~ verbal. 1. f. Gram. Unidad verbal constituida por un verbo en forma personal y otro en forma no personal; p. ej., Vengo observando su conducta.

In Spanish, a periphrasis is a special construction with at least two verbs (and sometimes other words) that behave as a group like a single verb would.

Periphrases normally have a helper verb, which is fully conjugated, but does not provide the main meaning in the periphrasis, and another non-finite verb (ie. an infinitive or a participle) which is not conjugated, but provides the main meaning of the periphrasis

For example:

Voy a pensar (I am going to think)

is a periphrasis. "Voy" is the helper verb, and unlike in normal sentences, you are not "going anywhere", you are not moving at all. This loss of meaning is one of the features of a periphrasis. "Pensar" is the helped verb, which doesn't change, and tells you that the whole periphrasis is about thinking (and not going).

Some of the most common periphrases include:

  • estar + gerundio (to be doing something)
  • seguir + infinitivo (to continue to do something)
  • llevar + participio (to have done something)
  • llevar + gerundio (to lead to do something)
  • empezar a + infinitivo (to begin to do something)
  • ponerse a + infinitivo (to start to do something)
  • ir a + infinitivo (going to do something)
  • deber + infinitivo (to have to do something)
  • terminar de + infinitivo (to finish doing something)
  • poder + infinitivo (to be able to do something)
  • soler + infinitivo (to do something usually)
  • tener que + infinitivo (to have to do something)
  • acabar de + infinitivo (to have just done something)

And, of course, all the perfect tenses (eg. he comido, había visto,...), which are normally regarded as proper tenses.

updated MAR 22, 2012
edited by 0074b507