We are making progress with those wonderful things called verbs and if you have been following these articles from the beginning you will now have a few of them under your belt. Without explaining all the ramifications, we have looked at the present tense of a number of verbs and their infinitives. To explain this differently in terms of one verb (hablar), this is what we now know about it so far:

Hablar – to speak (infinitive)
Hablo – I speak (first person singular)
Hablas – you speak (second person singular)
Habla – he or she speaks, or you speak, more polite (third person singular)
Hablamos – we speak (first person plural)
Hablan – they speak (third person plural).

Whatever you’ve understood of all of that is good! For those of you who are already familiar with verb conjugation in Spanish, you will be aware that I have so far omitted one form, which is the second person plural – in this case habláis. There is no particular reason for omitting this and we will include it of course once we go into more details about the present tense later on. It is a form which does not have any resonances in English, since we do not have a plural version of ‘you’. That makes it hard to translate and we end up with ‘you two’, ‘you folks’, ‘you lot’ and so on. However, we will look into all of that in more detail later on.

We’re now going to look at another form which is even simpler than all of the above. Sticking for now with the verb hablar, the word in question is hablando which means ‘speaking’.

The proper grammatical name for this form of a verb is a ‘gerund’, also referred to as the ‘present participle’ and it is broadly the equivalent of the ‘…ing’ form in English. However, we need to be careful as it isn’t used nearly so much in Spanish as the ‘…ing’ forms are in English. Nevertheless it is quite a common type of word and also very useful and also (this is the best bit) extremely easy to work out!

We have mentioned before that all verbs can be divided into two parts – the root and the ending. Continuing with hablar – if we remove the ending – ‘ar’ we are left with the root, which is therefore ‘habl’. This process is a very important one as we will need to do it for all verbs all the time, whatever else we do with them in future articles.

Hablar is a verb that ends in – ‘ar’ and therefore follows the same simple rule as all – ‘ar’ verbs, which is to change the – ‘ar’ to – ‘ando’, giving us habl-ando, – hablando – speaking. This same process is identical for all verbs ending in – ‘ar’.

Mirar – to look
Mirando – looking
Cambiar – to change
Cambiando – changing
Trabajar – to work
Trabajando – working
Cocinar – to cook
Cocinando – cooking
Bailar – to dance
Bailando – dancing
Andar – to walk
Andando – walking
Cerrar – to close
Cerrando – closing
Escuchar – to listen
Escuchando – listening
Estar – to be
Estando – being

This ending is different for verbs ending in ‘er’ and ‘ir’, but the good news is that these two are the same as each other. The rule is that the endings ‘er’ and ‘ir’ both change to ‘iendo’. This gives us, for example:

Correr – to run
Corriendo – running
Dormir – to sleep
Dormiendo – sleeping
Salir – to go out
Saliendo – going out

As you can imagine there are a lot more exciting things to say about ‘gerunds’, including (I’m afraid) just one or two simple irregular versions. Also of course we need to know when and how we can use them, but that will have to wait now until next month!

Jane Cronin’s “Step by Step Spanish” articles are available as e-books at www.janecronin.eu where you can also obtain Jane’s “Step by Step Internet Spanish” course.