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Verbal Periphrasis in Spanish

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:

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:

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:

¿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:

Están 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 being 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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