Using Estar a punto de + [infinitive] = to be about to do something

In Spanish we use this verbal structure to say when a person is about to do [something].

Estar (conjugated) a punto de + Infinitivo

Have a look and listen to the following examples in different tenses:

Estoy a punto de aterrizar en Madrid.
I am about to land in Madrid.

Susana está a punto de llamarte.
Susana is about to call you.

Nosotros estábamos a punto de salir cuando llegó nuestra madre.
We were about to leave when our mother arrived.

Mis amigos estaban a punto de venir cuando sonó el teléfono.
My friends were about to come when the telephone rang.

has estado a punto de entrar sin avisar.
You were about to enter without warning.

No creo que esté a punto de llover.
I don't think it is about to rain.

Bear in mind that although this verbal structure can be used in different tenses, when used in El Pretérito Perfecto it could also express an action that was "nearly done" but never happened.

For example:

He estado a punto de atropellar a un gato. 
I nearly ran over a cat (but I didn't).

See also Soler para expresar hábitos.

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

has estado a punto de entrar sin avisar.
You were about to enter without warning.


Mis amigos estaban a punto de venir cuando sonó el teléfono.
My friends were about to come when the telephone rang.


Nosotros estábamos a punto de salir cuando llegó nuestra madre.
We were about to leave when our mother arrived.


Susana está a punto de llamarte.
Susana is about to call you.


No creo que esté a punto de llover.
I don't think it is about to rain.


Estoy a punto de aterrizar en Madrid.
I am about to land in Madrid.


Q&A

Karen

Kwiziq community member

29 January 2019

1 reply

Why perfecto not Preterito indefinido here?

The answer to ‘they were about to finish their exam’ is given as ‘Han estado a punto de...’   

there’s no sense that this is the situation of ‘but something intervened’, and it doesn’t feel like a natural ‘perfecto’ tense to me, more just an action in the past. So I’m wondering why the perfecto was chosen here?

Inma

Kwiziq language super star

29 January 2019

29/01/19

Hola Karen

All these sentences would be correct for "they were about to finish their exam":

1. Ellos estaban a punto de terminar su examen.

2. Ellos estuvieron a punto de terminar su examen.

3. Ellos han estado a punto de terminar su examen.

As what we're testing here is the structure "estar a punto de + infinitive", we are not adding any nuance to the sentences. We want the student to recognise "estar a punto de" as a way to say "to be about to do something". 

There is a note in the lesson though about a special nuance when using El Pretérito Perfecto with this structure which is to "nearly do" something but that something we understand didn't happen in the end. This sentence has that nuance. 

I hope this clarifies it.

Un saludo

Inma

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