Present Continuous in Portuguese

When we talk about actions that are happening right at the time of speaking, we use the present continuous. To tackle this topic, it’s helpful to first take a look at how it works in English…
Here’s how present continuous looks when talking about yourself:

I am + verb ending in -ing

“I am” comes from the verb “to be,” and it’s followed by the gerund form of the main verb (ending with -ing).
The Brazilian form is actually the most similar to English, so hopefully you’ll forgive us for mentioning it first! (We know you’re trying to focus on European and not Brazilian Portuguese, but it’s still useful and interesting to explore these differences sometimes. Plus, this gives you an easy way to spot if something you’re reading is Brazilian or European Portuguese.)

Present Continuous in Brazilian Portuguese 🇧🇷

estar to be temporary + gerúndio (-endo) gerund verb ending in -ing

Example: Eu estou estudando gramática. I am studying grammar.

As a European Portuguese learner, whenever you see a word ending in “-ndo” after a conjugation of “estar”, there is a good chance you’re reading Brazilian text (and you may want to be cautious about using it to learn new words or grammar).
Although not used in this “I am [doing something]” construction, the gerúndio verb form does have some European Portuguese uses, although they are more advanced than the scope of this article.

Present Continuous in European Portuguese 🇵🇹

estar to be temporary + a + infinitive verb

Example: Eu estou a estudar gramática. I am studying grammar.

Using Estar + a + infinitive in European Portuguese

Once you learn it, this construction is very easy to use, because the only verb you need to conjugate is estar. The preposition “a” that follows never changes and the other verb always stays in the infinitive form. Also, the order of these 3 elements never changes. (If you’re creative, you can often use this as a way to avoid conjugating an unfamiliar verb 😈)
O que é que estás a ler?What are you reading?
As crianças estão a brincar no quarto. The children are playing in the bedroom.
O senhor está a ser mal-educado. Sir, you are being rude. formal

Andar + a + infinitive verb

In casual conversations, you might hear a slightly different construction, with andar to walk, to go {limited usage} used as the auxiliary verb instead of estar.
This change slightly shifts the meaning of the phrase from present continuous (to be doing…) to present perfect continuous (to have been doing).

  • With estar: O que é que tu estás a fazer? What are you doing? now
Estou a aprender coisas novas. I’m learning new things.
  • With andar: O que é que tu andas a fazer? What have you been doing? lately

Ando a aprender coisas novas. I’ve been learning new things.
Important: This usage is strictly informal. The actual present perfect continuous tense is a more advanced form that you’ll learn later. If you’re curious, here’s an example of that: Tenho aprendido coisas novas.I've been learning new things.


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