Verbal Periphrasis in Spanish

Quick Answer

In Spanish, a verbal periphrasis is a verbal construction made of two verb forms, a conjugated form and an impersonal form (an infinitive, a present participle, or a past participle). Verbal periphrasis is used in the informal future, the present progressive, and the perfect tenses.

For example:

examples
Voy a comprar una camisa.
I am going to buy a shirt.
Está nadando muy bien.
He is swimming very well.

Common Types of Verbal Periphrasis

Below you'll find three common types of verbal periphrasis used in Spanish.

1. Ir + Preposition + Infinitive

This first type of verbal periphrasis consists of a conjugated form of ir + a preposition + an infinitive.

For example:

examples
Voy a estudiar.
I am going to study.

2. Haber + Past Participle

This second type of verbal periphrasis consists of a conjugated form of haber + a past participle.

For example:

examples
¿Has ido a España?
Have you been to Spain?

3. Estar + Present Participle

This third type of verbal periphrasis consists of a conjugated form of estar + a present participle.

For example:

examples
Está leyendo un libro.
She is reading a book.

List of Common Examples of Verbal Periphrasis

Below you'll find a list of some common verbal periphrases. Remember that only the first verb in each periphrasis is conjugated.

Verb + Infinitive

Verb + InfinitiveMeaning
acabar de+ infinitiveto have just done something
acertar a+ infinitiveto manage to do something
acostumbrar a+ infinitiveto get used to doing something
alcanzar a+ infinitiveto be able to do something
cesar de+ infinitiveto cease to do something
comenzar a+ infinitiveto begin to do something
deber+ infinitiveto have to do something
dejar de+ infinitiveto stop doing something
echar(se) a+ infinitiveto burst/break into doing something
empezar a+ infinitiveto begin to do something
estar por+ infinitiveto be on the verge of doing something
estar a punto de+ infinitiveto be about to do something
haber de/que+ infinitiveto have to do something
ir a+ infinitivegoing to do something
poder+ infinitiveto be able to do something
ponerse a+ infinitiveto start to do something
quedar por+ infinitiveto remain to do something
llegar a+ infinitiveto come to do something
romper a+ infinitiveto suddenly start doing something
soler+ infinitiveto do something usually
venir a+ infinitiveto come to do something
volver a+ infinitiveto return to do something
tardar en+ infinitiveto take a long time to do something
tener que+ infinitiveto have to do something
terminar de+ infinitiveto finish doing something

Verb + Present Participle

Verb + Present ParticipleMeaning
andar+ present participleto be doing something
estar+ present participleto be doing something
ir+ present participleto be gradually doing something
llevar+ present participleto continue to do something from the past
seguir+ present participleto keep doing something
venir+ present participleto have been doing something

Verb + Past Participle

Verb + Past ParticipleMeaning
dejar hecho+ past participleto leave completed
haber+ past participleto have done something
llevar puesto+ past participleto have on
sentirse+ past participleto feel + past participle
verse+ past participleto see oneself as + past participle

A Note on the Term Gerund

  • In Spanish, the verb form that ends in -ndo is called the gerundio. It is used in compound verb forms, such as Estoy nadando. (I'm swimming.), as well as adverbially, as in Salió corriendo. (literally, He left running.)
  • In English, a gerund is the noun form of a verb, such as swimming in the sentence Swimming is fun. (Es divertido nadar.). In Spanish, this form is translated using an infinitive verb, such as nadar.
  • The term used for the -ing form used in compound verbs in English is the present participle.
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