Last month I promised, or possibly threatened, that we would look at Irregular Gerunds. That sounds a lot worse than it is, honestly!
Firstly as a quick recap, a Gerund, or present participle, is the equivalent in Spanish of the English ‘– ing’ word. ‘Running’, ‘jumping’ and ‘playing’ are all Gerunds in English. To make one of these in Spanish we must change verbs that end in ‘-ar’ in the infinitive to an ‘-ando’ ending. We do this by changing only the ‘ar’ part of the verb. The other part is the root of the verb which remains unchanged irrespective of whether it consists of just one letter or many letters. Verbs that end in ‘-er’ or ‘-ir’ in the infinitive make a similar change with those two letters, becoming ‘-iendo’.
We have also seen how these Gerunds combine with the verb ‘estar’ to produce a verb tense that refers to actions in the present moment. Thus we can make statements like:
Estoy escribiendo – I am writing
Estamos estudiando – We are studying
Están hablando – They are speaking
and so on.
Now I have to tell you that there are just a few verbs which produce very minor changes in the Gerund. The changes are really quite negligible, to the point where, if we missed them completely when speaking, it would hardly be noticed.
Firstly, the verb ‘dormir’ (to sleep)
When we change this to a Gerund, we make the usual ‘–ir’ to ‘–iendo’, but we make a one-letter change to the root giving us the word ‘durmiendo’ (sleeping).
Another verb which does exactly the same thing is ‘morir’ (to die). ‘Dying’ is therefore ‘muriendo’.
Secondly, there are a few other verbs ending in ‘–ir’ when making a root change from ‘e’ to ‘i’ in the Gerund:
‘Pedir’ (to order, to ask for) becomes ‘pidiendo’
‘Decir’ (to say, to tell) becomes ‘diciendo’
‘Venir’ (to come) becomes ‘viniendo’
‘Seguir’ (to follow, to continue) becomes ‘siguiendo’
‘Repetir’ (to repeat) becomes ‘repitiendo’
‘Medir’ (to measure) becomes ‘midiendo’
Well, that’s about as scary as Gerunds get. As I’ve already said, a principle use of the Gerund is with the verb ‘estar’ to talk about present actions. However, we do find the Gerund used in other ways. One interesting use is in conjunction with the verb ‘ir’ (to go). For example we can say ‘voy aprendiendo’. The literal translation of this would be ‘I go learning’, but what it actually means is that ‘I am gradually learning’. The use of the verb ‘ir’ here gives the meaning of something occurring as a gradual process.
‘Va descrubriendo’ (He or she is gradually discovering)
‘Vas leyendo’ (You are reading gradually).
To any of these we might add a phrase such as ‘poco a poco’ (little by little) – ‘Voy entendiendo poco a poco.’ (I am gradually understanding, little by little).
We can also add the Gerund to the verb ‘venir’ (to come). In this case it expresses the idea of having been doing something for a period of time.
‘Vengo diciendo que …’ (literally ‘I come saying that …’), but what it actually means is ‘I have been saying that ….’.
‘Vengo pensando’ (‘I have been thinking’)
These two forms, with ‘ir’ and ‘venir’ illustrate the fact that the Gerund does have other uses, but our principle one for now is with ‘estar’.
Time for a little homework, I think! Translate into Spanish:
What are you doing?
I am measuring the wall.
You are telling the truth.
My husband is washing the dishes.
We are spending a lot of money.
My children are cleaning the house.
As ever, I will start off with the answers next month. See you then.
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.