Aula Hispánica

Different meaning of the gerund "-ing" in Spanish

In our spanish school we have seen that the foreigners, when they learn Spanish have sometimes problems with the different meanings of the English gerund “-ing” translated into Spanish. In this article we want to explain to you the most uses this ending has in Spanish.

Sentences such as "I am studying" and "She was working" are examples of using a progressive tense. In Spanish, progressive tenses are formed in much the same way as in English, by using a form of estar ("to be") followed a gerund (the verb form ending in -ando or -endo). Keep in mind, however, that the progressive tenses are used more in English than in Spanish, so it may be more appropriate to use a simple tense instead. See how the following English sentences can be translated using either progressive or simple tenses:

- He is studying today. Está estudiando hoy. Estudia hoy.
- I wasn't driving a car downtown yesterday. Yo no estaba conduciendo un coche por el centro ayer. Yo no conducía un coche por el centro ayer.

As a noun:
It is very common to translate "-ing" sentence subjects using the Spanish infinitive (the verb form ending in -ar, -er or -ir). However, sometimes there is a separate noun, not a word that is also a verb form, that can be used as well or instead. Sometimes, especially when the "-ing" word is the object of a verb, the sentence may need to be recast for translation.

- Seeing is believing. Ver es creer.
- Buying on the Internet is a simple process. Es un proceso simple el comprar por Internet.
- Crying doesn't do any good. Llorar no sirve de nada.
- Swimming is the most complete sport. La natación es el deporte mas completo. El nadar es el deporte más completo.
- The meeting in London ended without an agreement. La reunión acaba sin acuerdos.
- They're fatter because of eating cheap food. Son más gordos por comer alimentos baratos.
- I am thinking about attending a Spanish school in Spain. Pienso asistir a una escuela de español en España.
- I prefer your living here. Prefiero que vivas aquí.

As an adjective:
Sometimes, a verb has what is known as an adjectival present participle, a form ending in -ante or -ente that can be used to translate the English word. But where none exists, which is usually the case, some other adjective or clause must be used. It may be necessary to recast the sentence for direct translation.

- "Soul" is another way of saying "person" or "living being." "Alma" es otra manera de decir "persona" o "ser viviente".
- I can't hear the snoring man. No puedo oír el hombre que ronca.
- I don't have her forwarding address. No tengo su nueva dirección para reenvío de correo.
- She is a very loving person. Es una persona muy cariñosa.
- There are many people wanting to earn more money. Hay mucha gente que quiere ganar más dinero.

As an adverb:
The Spanish gerund can be used as an adverb much the same way it can be in English. (Note that many grammarians don't classify this an adverbial use in English, although it more clearly is so in Spanish.

- The princess went away singing because she felt happy. La princesa se fue cantando porque se sentía feliz.
- He studied, thinking about her. Él estudiaba pensando en ella.

Untranslated expressions:
Although criticized by purists, many Spanish speakers have adopted a few English "-ing" words outright, making them Spanish nouns. Examples include jogging, marketing and camping. Note, however, that these words often change in meaning once they are adopted into the language. Camping, for example, can be synonymous with the English noun, but it also can mean a campground or campsite.