Present Continuous in Portuguese

When we talk about actions that are happening right at the time of speaking, we use the present continuous. 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 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 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 to be temporary + a + infinitive verb

Example: Eu estou a estudar gramática. 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 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 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).

Estar vs. Andar

  • 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 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. I've been learning new things.
 

Comments:

  • 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 🙂

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