Available in / Disponível em:

Present Continuous in Portuguese

This Learning Note will cover the present continuous in Portuguese. When we talk about actions that are happening right at the time of speaking, we use the present continuous, also known as the present progressive. Let’s start by taking a look at how this works in English.
Present continuous in the first person:

I am + verb ending in -ing

Example: I am driving

“I am” comes from the verb “to be” and is 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 can be helpful 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 paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to be (temporary) + gerúndio (-endo) paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio gerund (verb ending in -ing)

Example: Eu estou estudando gramática. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio 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 paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio gerund verb form does have some European Portuguese uses, but they are more advanced than the scope of this article.

Present Continuous in European Portuguese 🇵🇹

estar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to be (temporary) + a paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio + infinitive verb

Example: Eu estou a estudar gramática. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I am studying grammar.

Using Estar + a + infinitive in European Portuguese

This estar + a + infinitive construction is very easy to use because the only verb you need to conjugate is estar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio to be (temporary). 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 shortcut to avoid conjugating an unfamiliar verb 😈)
O que é que estás a ler? paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio What are you reading?
As crianças estão a brincar no quarto. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio The children are playing in the bedroom.
O senhor está a ser mal-educado. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio Sir, you are being rude. (formal)

Andar + a + infinitive verb

In casual conversations, you might hear a slightly different construction, with andar paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio 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).

Estar vs. Andar

  • With estar: O que é que tu estás a fazer? paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio What are you doing? (now)
Estou a aprender coisas novas. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I'm learning new things.
  • With andar: O que é que tu andas a fazer? paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio What have you been doing? (lately)

Ando a aprender coisas novas. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I've been learning new things.
Important: This usage of andar 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 what that looks like: Tenho aprendido coisas novas. paused audio playing audio Play slow audio Play normal audio I've been learning new things.
 

  • I like this better than the Brazilian construction. Easier.
    Mac
    PS the two final examples above are shown as “with Ir”. Should it be “with andar” ?

  • Is the “a” always used between the conjugated ‘estar’ and the infinitive? As well as in ‘andar’ plus infinitive? I could have sworn I was encountering examples where it wasn’t used, until I came to some Shorties, and this lesson. Are there variations on this—or was I thinking of the ‘ir’ plus infinitive construction, which in Spanish always has the action-based “a” , and in Portuguese doesn’t? I notice that the formal present perfect continuous tense does not contain an ‘a’, while creating a gerund of the second verb.
    Thanks for clarifying!

    • Yes, the construction is always “[verb estar/andar] + a + [main verb in the infinitive]” OR “[verb estar/andar] + [main verb in the gerund]” (the latter is not common in European Portuguese, but it’s grammatically correct).

      However, there is no ‘a’ on the construction of the future tense with the verb ir, where it’s just “[verb ir] + [main verb in the infinitive]”. So, basically, all you said is correct 🙂

  • Hi guys. Is it acceptable to use the Continious Present when refering to the future! As in “eu estou a voltar amanha”, I am returning tomorrow, “eu estou a estudar sabado”, I am studying on Saturday!

    • Olá, Robert. Yes, we use it sometimes (maybe even many times), but I wouldn’t use it all the time 🙂

  • Not easier if you’ve previously learned Spanish. They also use the gerund form, both in Spain and Latin America. 🙂

  • (If you’re creative, you can often use this as a way to avoid conjugating an unfamiliar verb )

    I can do that!! :))

  • Pois… technically, that’s “I learned new things” in the perfect past tense and not the past participle using “have”. But perhaps this section is simpified for this level and past participle will come up later(?)

    • English and Portuguese are different in this regard. In Portuguese, both “I learned new things” (simple past) and “I have learned new things” (present perfect) would mean “Eu aprendi coisas novas” (Portuguese simple past = pretérito perfeito). If we were to use the exact same grammatical structure in Portuguese as in the English present perfect, we’d get “Eu tenho aprendido coisas novas”, but this is actually much closer to the English present perfect continuous, “I have been learning new things”.

  • Thank you; a great lesson. I do have a question. I utilize your instruction as well as Learn Portuguese with Leo who also provides instruction in European Portuguese. In one of his videos he says ” …para poder partilhar com voces todas as dicas e conselhos que fui aprendendo ao longo dos anos…”. If I understand this correctly, que fui aprendendo = that I have been learning which is the same as que tenho aprendido. Is this correct? And if so, there are two ways to express what on has been doing?

    Thank you in advance for any insight.

    • Good question, Paul. They’re both correct and they can both be translated similarly to English (have been learning). If I had to differentiate between them, I’d say that “fui aprendendo” points more towards the past (i.e. most of the action happened in an earlier time or it might have been completed already – in which case, the present perfect would be a better translation choice), while “tenho aprendido” is more suggestive of a still-ongoing action.

  • When would you say “tenho estado a aprender” instead of “ando a aprender”. Is the first formal and the second informal ?

    • Olá, Ian. They’re basically interchangeable. “Tenho estado a aprender” is just much longer! It’s not formal, but neutral – you could use it in any context. “Ando a aprender” is more casual.

  • Excellent lesson.

    I have recently run into an example in European Portuguese where Ir + Gerund appears to be used and was wondering if you could speak about its use. For example “…as pessoas que vão contribuindo…”. Would this be translated as …the people that are contribuiting…” and therefore the equivalent of…” estão a contribuir…”?

    Thank you in advance for any insight into this.

    • Good question, Paul. While “estar + a + main verb” usually describes actions that are ongoing in the present time and have clear continuity, “ir + gerúndio” comes with a vaguer and more extended sense of time (whether towards the past or future), and describes actions that are not necessarily ongoing in a continuous manner and may not be happening at all at that exact moment. Think of it as a solid line vs. a dotted one. Hopefuly, the examples below will help show what I mean:

      – Ela está a trabalhar como polícia (She’s working as a cop). -> This is her job right now.
      – Ela vai trabalhando aqui e ali (She works here and there). -> She doesn’t have a steady, continuous job; she just jumps from one to another over time – past, present or future. Not clear whether she’s employed at all right now.
      – Eu estou a andar. -> I am walking at this very moment.
      – Eu vou andando. (I’m going to leave) -> “Vou andando” is a very common expression we use when we want to start saying our goodbyes to people. And in that context, it describes a near-future action, not one that is already ongoing in the present time. In a more literal context, “vou andando” would just describe a non-continuous action of walking.
      Vão estudando durante as férias, queridos alunos. (Keep studying/Study regularly during your holidays, dear students)
      Vamos falando, está bem? (Let’s keep in touch, okay?)
      – …

  • Hi, “estar & gerund” is apparently used in the Algarve, which is where I live.
    How common is this?
    Is this considered acceptable to the rest of Portugal?
    Can I safely speak like this or would it be frowned upon?

    • Olá, Anton. The gerund has some presence in the Algarve and in the Portuguese islands, and even more so in the Alentejo. I’d say it’s uncommon in the rest of Portugal, but my perspective might be biased due to the fact that I’ve always lived in Lisbon, where I barely hear anyone use the gerund except for people from other regions.

      Using the infinitive is safe anywhere in the country, so when in doubt, that would always be my first recommendation. My second recommendation is to pay close attention to how other people around you speak with each other. If you notice that the gerund is used in your area, by all means use it as well 🙂 If it’s not used, and if you want to “blend” with the locals as much as possible, then maybe you can avoid it too.

  • I’ve seen this phrase in a shortie;
    “Ficar a cuidar deles” which seems to get translated as “taking care of them”. Its the “a” in the middle of the sentence that is throwing me. It’s not a gerund is it but I’d love to know what the “a” means in this context.

    Thank you
    Massive Practice Portuguese fan

    • Olá, Diarmuid. The segment “a cuidar” is replacing what would be the actual gerund: “cuidando”. It would be grammatically correct to say “Ficar cuidando”, but this is not as common in European Portuguese as “Ficar a cuidar”.

      In this alternative phrasing, the preposition A is just there as a connecting word with no meaning per se, as it would not be correct to have the two infinitives together without that linking element (“ficar cuidar”).

  • You say that andar+a+infinitive verb is strictly informal. Does this mean that it can only be used with the tu form, and never with the você form?
    Thanks for this site/app, by the way! I am an interpreter and am learning portuguese as a sixth language (just for fun, not for work), and this is great!
    Maybe one suggestion, though. Would it be possible to have two tiers of questions in the quizzes on the shorties, one at the current level of difficulty, and one a little more difficult? I understand from the commentaries that many people find the questions difficult, and I totally get it. But I have French as my mother tongue and speak Spanish, and for me, these questions are really not much of a challenge. Hence my two-tier suggestion. But of course, I totally understand if it’s not possible.
    I do agree, however, with your policy of not providing a translation for the questions. You should stick to it. Keep up the good work!

    I understand from

    • Olá, Eric. Thank you very much for your feedback and suggestions – duly noted! About your question, “andar a” can definitely be used with “você” as well, but ideally in contexts where even with “você”, there’s still some degree of informality/familiarity. For example, it should be fine to use when speaking to older relatives or acquaintances, but maybe not to your boss 🙂

  • Regarding the Andar +a+ infinitive form, what does it means that it’s more formal?
    Will it be strange if I use this in casual conversation with strangers? Or in the office? What is the case when you wouldn’t use it?

    • Olá, Zsofia. “Andar a” is not more formal – it’s actually informal 🙂 You can use it in any casual/relaxed context.

What Did You Think? Leave Us a Comment Below:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


The subject is used only for admin purposes and won't be displayed in your comment.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.