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Ir + Gerund to Emphasize Progression in Spanish

Are you familiar with the Spanish present progressive tense that utilizes the formula estar (to be) + gerund (the equivalent of the -ing form in English) to talk about an action in progress? Let's see an example:


¡Lo estás haciendo genial!

You're doing it great!

Caption 47, Aprendiendo con Zulbany Piensa rápido - Part 1

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Now let's look at an example where the verb ir (to go) is used with the gerund in lieu of the verb estar:


tú vas haciendo y pasan dos horas y te dicen vale ya está.

you're doing it and two hours go by and they tell you OK, that's it.

Caption 55, Blanca y Mariona Proyectos para el verano

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What's the difference? Although both estás haciendo and vas haciendo are translated as "you're doing" in these examples, the construction ir + gerund is often employed to emphasize the fact that an action is, was, or will be evolving over time, gradually, or as part of a process. Let's explore this notion a bit further. 


How to Form Ir + Gerund in Spanish

As the formula suggests, this construction is created by combining a conjugated form of the verb ir (to go) in any tense with the gerund, for example, cambiando (changing), aprendiendo (learning), or diciendo (saying), which you can learn to conjugate in the aforementioned lesson on the present perfect. Let's see some examples in the present, imperfect, and future tenses.


Vamos cocinando (We're cooking) 

Iban creando (They were creating)

Iremos entendiendo (We'll be understanding)


How Does Ir + Gerund Differ From the Present Progressive? 

As we mentioned in the introduction, ir + gerund typically describes actions that take place over time, bit by bit, or as part of a process. Therefore, while their translations are sometimes the exact same as they would be if the verb estar were to replace the verb ir, this implication is present within this structure. With this in mind, let's see a few examples of this construction. 


y... fuimos creciendo juntos en ese momento.

and...we were growing together at that moment,

Caption 77, Biografía Natalia Oreiro - Part 6

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In this caption, the preterite tense of the verb ir is used to describe something that happened in the distant past. However, the formula ir + gerund was chosen to demonstrate that the "growing" being talked about was a process that was unfolding at that moment in time. Let's see another example:


Mientras la cebolla está pochando, en otra sartén vamos a ir haciendo la patata.

While the onion is sauteing, in another frying pan, we're going to be making the potato.

Captions 42-43, La cocina de María Tortilla de patatas

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Here, the formula ir + gerund is once again used to talk about the process of making the potato over time. For this reason, you will often find this construction in sentences that contain the word mientras (while) to talk about an action that is evolving while something else happens. Let's look at one more example:


"Y el consciente..." ¿Viste como tú misma vas cambiando en la medida que vas trabajando?

"And the Conscious"... Did you see how you yourself are changing as you are working?

Captions 18-19, Escribiendo un libro Algunos consejos sobre cómo comenzar - Part 3

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Once again, ir + gerund is utilized because "changing" and "working" are actions that aren't just in progress at some moment but are rather part of a bigger picture of evolution over time. So, the implication here is "Did you see how you yourself are (gradually) changing as you are working (over time)? In fact, words like "gradually" or "over time" may or may not be added to the translations of some instances of the ir + gerund construction, which is sometimes difficult to translate precisely. 


That's all for today. We hope that this lesson has helped you to better understand the often seen but seldom talked about ir + gerund construction, and don't forget to write us with your questions and comments


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