Forming El Pretérito Indefinido progresivo with estar + gerundio (past progressive)

Each Spanish past tense has a continuous (progressive) form to express an action which was ongoing in the past.

In the case of El pretérito Indefinido progresivo, it follows this pattern for most regular verbs:

Estar in El Pretérito Indefinido +

-ando (-AR verbs)

 

-iendo (-ER and -IR verbs)

It is very similar to the English past continuous.

Look at and listen to these examples:

Yo estuve caminando durante 4 horas.
I was walking for 4 hours.

Tú estuviste corrigiendo exámenes hasta las diez.
You were marking exams until ten.

Ella estuvo bailando con ese chico toda la noche.
She was dancing with that guy all night.

Nosotros estuvimos hablando con los periodistas.
We were talking to the journalists.

Vosotros estuvisteis merendando en el parque por la tarde.
You were having a snack at the park in the afternoon.

Ellos estuvieron arreglando el grifo de la cocina.
They were fixing the tap in the kitchen.


ESTAR

Verbs ending in -AR
LLAMAR (to call)

Verbs ending in -ER-IR
APRENDER (to learn)
VIVIR (to live)

estuve

llamando


aprendiendo
viviendo



estuviste

estuvo

estuvimos

estuvisteis

estuvieron

 

See also: Forming El Presente Progresivo with estar + gerund (present progressive) and Forming El Imperfecto Progresivo with estar + gerund (imperfect progressive).

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Vosotros estuvisteis merendando en el parque por la tarde.
You were having a snack at the park in the afternoon.


Tú estuviste corrigiendo exámenes hasta las diez.
You were marking exams until ten.


Ella estuvo bailando con ese chico toda la noche.
She was dancing with that guy all night.


Nosotros estuvimos hablando con los periodistas.
We were talking to the journalists.


Ellos estuvieron arreglando el grifo de la cocina.
They were fixing the tap in the kitchen.


Yo estuve caminando durante 4 horas.
I was walking for 4 hours.


Q&A

nick

Kwiziq community member

11 February 2019

1 reply

Thanks for the explanations here. I am still a little unclear how the last two examples can be Pret Indefinido as no mention/suggestion of timeframe?

Thanks!

Nick

Inma

Kwiziq language super star

12 February 2019

12/02/19

Hola Nick,

In this lesson we are only dealing with the conjugation of the tense, therefore there is no emphasis on how/when we use it. We want the students to focus on the form only. But we do have a different lesson explaining when to use it, and we compare it with the other "was doing" which is El imperfecto progresivo, "estaba haciendo". 

As previously mentioned to Papi in a previous question, the preterite tense (progressive or non-progressive) doesn't always come with a time phrase. Sometimes that time phrase is known as it was mentioned before in the conversation, or simply, you don't add a time phrase. When using a preterite tense, the speaker is seeing that action in the past as a "completed action". If you have a look at these two lessons, everything will be clearer:

1. Lesson on difference between El Indefinido progresivo and El Imperfecto progresivo

 

2. Lesson on difference between El Indefinido and El Imperfecto (general use, with no time frames)

 

I hope you see it with more clarity after seen these two lessons.

Un saludo

Inma

papi

Kwiziq community member

15 April 2018

4 replies

past progressive

Considering estar can be used in the preterite and imperfect with the present participle ( gerund ), are they used in different ways?  Or do they mean the same thing?  For example, do: 

"Estuve corriendo" and "estaba corriendo" mean the same thing?  I was running.  Is one used more than the other for any reason? 

Inma

Kwiziq language super star

16 April 2018

16/04/18

Hi Papi,

yes, they are used in different ways. We use the past progressive with the Indefinido (simple past) when the ongoing action is "inside a timeframe in the past", however the past progressive with the Imperfecto (imperfect tense) is used to "describe" an ongoing action in the past without mentioning a specific timeframe. See these two examples: "El chico estuvo bailando durante una hora" (The boy was dancing for an hour)[timeframe] vs "El chico estaba bailando en la discoteca" (The boy was dancing in the disco)[descriptive].

We will have a lesson comparing these two tenses next week. 

Thanks for your question. I hope it is clear now.

Inma

Silvia

Kwiziq language super star

16 April 2018

16/04/18

Hola papi, we already know that translating"was" into Spanish can be difficult sometimes. The main difference between "estaba" and "estuvo" is that we use the imperfect tense when we have a background information of condition or location, but the timeframe is unknown or not relevant. It also gives a nuance of "ongoing". However, we will choose the preterite when the condition or location is within a more definite timeframe and the condition is no longer true or relevant. Since recently, we are creating usage lessons with main verbs like "ser", "estar", etc. explaining the difference of meaning when used in the past tense. Muchas gracias por tu comentario. Silvia

papi

Kwiziq community member

16 April 2018

16/04/18

Inma, 

Thank you for responding!  However, I still need a little more clarification.  I the "Pretérito Imperfecto" section you state:

"I was at the supermarket" would be "Yo estaba/estuve en el supermercado." (from "estar")
"I went to the supermarket" would be "Yo iba/fui al supermercado." (from "ir")
Bear in mind that we can use both the Imperfecto (estaba) or the Indefinido (estuve) in the first sentence, as well as in the second sentence we could use the Imperfecto (iba) or the Indefinido (fui). 

- Does this imply that if you have a timeframe, then use the past progresive with "pretérito indefinitivo"?  Because, in your expanation in the "Pretérito Imperfecto" section, it appears that it may be possible that either may be used.  I am guessing that it is because there is no time frame stated.   Am I interpreting this correctly? Or am I missing the boat?!  

Inma

Kwiziq language super star

21 April 2018

21/04/18

Hi Papi,

Thanks for coming back to us for more clarification. It is very important for us to make sure the lessons are very clear to everyone.

Despite using both progressive tenses (indefinido and imperfecto) to express ongoing actions in the past, as said before, the imperfect progressive will be used with a descriptive function and where the beginning and end of the action is not relevant. And the indefinido progresivo will be used when in the mind of the speaker there is a timeframe, with a beginning and an end, in which that ongoing action took place. Saying this, it is fair to say that it is more likely to find those time phrases when we use the Indefinido progresivo:

Carlos estuvo bailando de 10 a 12 de la noche.

Carlos estaba bailando.

However, you will also find sentences in El indefinido progresivo with no mention at all of a timeframe. That is because it is obvious in the conversation and it is not mentioned any more. When you see these, you need to think of it as an ongoing action in the past that had an end.

Have a look at this new lesson comparing both tenses that we promised last week. Please let us know if you still need more clarification as we understand the Imperfect and the Simple past need quite a lot of practice.

El Imperfecto progresivo vs El Indefinido progresivo (was +ing)

Un saludo cordial

Inma

Let me take a look at that...