Using llevar + gerund to express duration of an action

In Spanish we can use the verb llevar followed by a gerund (Gerundio) in order to express the duration of a still-ongoing action:

llevar (conjugated) + gerund

Have a look at the following examples:

Carlos lleva trabajando en ese colegio dos años.
Carlos has been working in that school for two years. 

El profesor llevaba hablando con el estudiante diez minutos cuando entramos en la habitación.
The teacher had been talking with the student for ten minutes when we entered the room.

Llevo tres días estudiando para el examen.
I've been studying for the exam for three days.

Notice how:

  • the time phrase (tres días, diez minutos, dos años...) can be placed either at the end of the verbal structure or in between the verb llevar and the gerund. 
  • the Spanish tenses used with this structure are El Presente and El Pretérito Imperfecto. The perfect tenses are not used.
  • However, note that the equivalent tenses in English are the perfect tenses or the progressive perfect tenses (have done, have been doing, had been doing,...)

The negative form

If we want to express the same but in the negative, the structure changes to:

llevar (conjugated) + sin + infinitive

For example:

Llevamos sin dormir desde ayer.
We haven't slept since yesterday.

Llevaba cinco años sin fumar.
He hadn't smoked for five years.

Llevo sin ver la tele desde el sábado pasado.
I haven't watched TV since last Saturday.

You can see that in the negative form, the time phrase can also be placed straight after llevar, or after the whole structure.

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Llevamos sin dormir desde ayer.
We haven't slept since yesterday.


Llevo tres días estudiando para el examen.
I've been studying for the exam for three days.


El profesor llevaba hablando con el estudiante diez minutos cuando entramos en la habitación.
The teacher had been talking with the student for ten minutes when we entered the room.


Llevo sin ver la tele desde el sábado pasado.
I haven't watched TV since last Saturday.


Carlos lleva trabajando en ese colegio dos años.
Carlos has been working in that school for two years. 


Llevaba cinco años sin fumar.
He hadn't smoked for five years.


Q&A Forum 2 questions, 3 answers

Lleva vs. está

Is lleva interchangeable with está and what is the difference between the two? Thank you

Asked 1 month ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hola Emanuel

No, they are not interchangeable. Take for example one of the sentences from the lesson:

Carlos lleva trabajando en ese colegio dos años.

Carlos has been working in that school for two years. 

If we try with the perfect tense of estar:

Carlos ha estado trabajando en ese colegio dos años.

Carlos has been working in that school for two years. 

The sentence is grammatically correct but using estar doesn't imply that he is still working in the school, he may be, he may not be. With "lleva + gerund" it always implies that the event is still ongoing in the present.

So they are similar sentences but with a different nuance.

Hope this helps.

Inma

 

If we said: Carlos está trabajando en ese colegio desde hace dos años would't it imply he is still working there? or do we have to use the present tense: Carlos trabaja en ese colegio desde hace dos años?

Lleva vs. está

Is lleva interchangeable with está and what is the difference between the two? Thank you

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Hi - done this test a few times now and score won't go above 33% despite not getting any wrong :)

Asked 5 months ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hola Nick

Just so you know I've asked someone to look into this and we will be getting back to you!

Saludos

Inma

Hi - done this test a few times now and score won't go above 33% despite not getting any wrong :)

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Getting that for you now.