When to use gerund in Spanish

When to use gerund in Spanish

Gerund vs infinitive

Every beginner has this question! And people from all levels might have difficulty knowing which one to use.

I'll show you what I'm talking about:
Jugar - to play
Jugando - playing

So, why is this translated this way...

  • "Me gusta jugar al fútbol"

and not like this?:
- "I like playing football"
- "Me gusta jugando al fútbol"*

In English, the previous sentence can be said in two ways:

  1. I like playing football.
  2. I like to play football.

Same happens here:

  1. Before to go home.
  2. Before going home.

  1. Travelling is great.
  2. To travel is great.

In some cases one sounds better than the other, yes, but both have the same meaning, and this happens because here that action is the subject not the verb.

That means that when we translate it, we only use the infinitive (a verb that ends in -ar, -er or -ir) in Spanish:

  • Me gusta jugar al fútbol (I like TO PLAY football)
  • Antes de ir a casa (Before TO GO home)
  • Viajar es genial (TO TRAVEL is great)

So, if you can choose between "to do" or "doing" in the English sentence, go with "to do", the infinitive, in Spanish.

Use the gerund when:

Gerund expresses action, not a concept. That means that it is happening, was happening or will be happening.

So, when I give an opinion about doing something, for example, I just talk about the idea of doing something but I don't say when it's happening or who does it.

Usually gerund is used for one of these things:

To be doing something

Estar + gerund

¿Estás descansando? - Are you resting?
Estamos terminando esto - We are finishing this

To keep/continue doing something

Seguir/continuar + gerund

Él continúa fumando - he continues smoking
¿Seguís yendo a clase de zumba? - do you guys keep going to zumba class?

Notice that yendo is an irregular gerund. If you want to learn more about gerund and its irregulars, check out this post

Seguir + gerund can be also translated as "to still do/be":

¿Sigues siendo profesor? - are you still a teacher?

By/while/when doing something

Gerund alone:

Descubrí la verdad preguntándole a María - I discovered the truth by asking María.

Me relajé limpiando la casa -I relaxed by/while cleaning the house.

Soy feliz trabajando con las plantas - I'm happy working with plants.

All of the "I'm happy/sad/... doing" will have gerund and the same for "I enjoy", "I relax", etc..

¿Disfrutas pasando tiempo conmigo? - Do you enjoy spending time with me?

That's it, remember this when you're choosing between gerund and infinitive and check out this other post if you want to learn more about gerund, infinitive and participle and do a bit of practice on it.

¡Hasta pronto! :)