Explanation

Quick Answer

The Spanish present progressive tense (el presente progresivo), also called the present continuous tense (el presente continuo), is used to talk about something that is happening now.

How to Form the Present Progressive

The present progressive is generally formed using the verb estar, plus a present participle.

Present Progressive Formula

estar + present participle

Regular present participles are formed as follows:

  • Present participle of -ar verbs = verb stem + -ando (Example: hablando)
  • Present participle of -er and -ir verbs = verb stem + -iendo (Examples: escribiendo, comiendo)

Learn more about regular and irregular present participles here!

Check out these examples of the present progressive.

examples
Estoy hablando con mi madre.
I am speaking to my mother.
Los niños están comiendo en el patio.
The children are eating in the yard.
El abuelo está durmiendo en la sala.
Grandpa is sleeping in the living room.
Marco está escribiendo un ensayo para su clase de español.
Marco is writing an essay for his Spanish class.
Estamos preparando la cena.
We are cooking dinner.

Estar Review

The present progressive is formed with the present tense of the verb estar (to be).

Here's an example showing the present progressive of the verb hablar(to speak). Only the estar part of the present progressive changes to match the subject. The present participle (hablando) does not change.

examples
Yo estoy hablando.
I am speaking.
estás hablando.
You are speaking.
Él/Ella está hablando.
He/she is speaking.
Usted está hablando.
You are speaking.
Nosotros estamos hablando.
We are speaking.
Vosotros estáis hablando.
You (all) are speaking.
Ustedes están hablando.
You (all) are speaking.
Ellos/Ellas están hablando.
They are speaking.

Pronoun Placement

There are two options regarding the placement of direct object pronouns, indirect object pronouns, and reflexive pronouns with the present progressive. You can either place the pronoun in front of the conjugated form of estar or attach it to the end of the gerund (the verb ending in -iendo or ‐ando.)

Check out these examples:

examples
Me estoy lavando el pelo.
I am washing my hair.
Estoy lavándome el pelo.
I am washing my hair.

When attaching a pronoun to the end of the gerund, an accent mark must be added on the antepenultimate (third from last) syllable.

Present Progressive and Present Simple

In both English and Spanish, the present progressive is used to talk about what a subject is doing right now. However, it is also possible to use the simple present to talk about what a subject is doing right now in Spanish. Check out the pair of examples below; the first set uses the present simple, while the second uses the present progressive.

Present Simple

examples
¿Qué haces?
What are you doing?
Limpio la cocina.
I'm cleaning the kitchen.

Present Progressive

examples
¿Qué estás haciendo?
What are you doing?
Estoy limpiando la cocina.
I'm cleaning the kitchen.
Looking for the old quiz?
Take the old Spanish Present Progressive Forms quiz here.