Verbal Periphrases in Spanish

"Ir" means to go, and is one of many Spanish periphrases.

For Spanish language learners who have reached the intermediate level or above, you will soon start learning about verbal periphrases. A verbal periphrasis is made up of two verbs in the following forms:

Conjugated verb form + impersonal form (infinitive, gerund, participle). Depending on the verb, a preposition might be needed. 

Spanish compounds verb tenses (haber + participle, estar + gerund) could technically be considered verbal periphrases. The same goes for Spanish power verbs. Both follow the format conjugated verb + impersonal verb. I leave that decision to the discretion of your language instructor or fellow linguists. As for me, my method, the Diáfano Method, focuses on the simplification of language and identification of patterns. Except for ir, and mainly due to all its uses, I choose not to include compound verb tenses or power verbs under periphrases. 

Below, I will list the most common periphrases, starting with…


to go.

This power verb is used to talk about the immediate future and used with the preposition “a.” 

  1. Él va a ver a su madre hoy – He is going to see his mother today. 
  2. Voy a estudiar este fin de semana – I’m going to study this weekend. 

The reflexive form of this verb, irse, refers to the act of leaving. It also requires “a,” which can be substituted by “para” if referring to a place one is headed to. Vamos para Puerto Rico este año – We’re going to Puerto Rico this year.

  • Vamos para Santo Domingo. El clima es excepcional – Let’s go to Santo Domingo. The weather is fantastic. 

*Note that in this case “Vamos para…” can mean “We’re going to…” or “Let’s go to…”

Used mainly colloquially, ir can also be paired up with the gerund to indicate an action that is currently taking place, as in the following: 

Va llegando – He is arriving.

Verbs using the preposition “a”

For actions that you plan to start or do again. 

  • Empezar/comenzar a, to begin.
    1. ¿Habéis empezado a hacer ejercicio, como me dijisteis? – Did you start exercising as you said you would? 
  • Quiero empezar a correr por las mañanas – I want to start running in the morning. 
  • Volver a, to do something again. 
    1. He vuelto a estudiar español porque es una lengua que me encanta – I’ve gone back to studying Spanish because I love the language. 
  • Los niños volvieron a dibujar en la pared, pero insisten que fue Batman – The kids drew on the wall again, but insist it was Batman.


Verbs using the preposition “de”

These verbs refer to an action that has ended. 

  • Terminar de, to finish. 
    1. Terminé de leer esa novela – I finished reading that novel.
  • Terminé de preparar la presentación – I finished working on the presentation. 
  • Acabar de, “just did…”
    1. Acabo de ver esa película. ¡Es maravillosa! – I just watched that movie. It’s great!
  • Mi amiga acaba de llegar a la fiesta – My friend just arrived to the party.

*Note that acabar is conjugated in the present tense even though you are talking about an action that happened in the past. 

  • Dejar de, to quit. 
  1. He dejado de fumar y me siento mucho mejor – I quit smoking and feel much better. 

¿Puedes dejar de pelear por trivialidades? – Could you stop fighting for every little thing?

Verbs with gerund

These verbs do not have any preposition. They refer to an ongoing action. 

  • Llevar, to carry on doing something.

a) Llevo 10 años practicando yoga – I’ve been doing yoga for 10 years. 

b) ¿Llevas 15 años viviendo en Boston, ¿verdad? – You’ve been living in Boston for 15 years, right? 

  • Seguir/continuar, to continue.

a) ¿Sigues viviendo en Madrid o ya te mudaste a Barcelona? – Are you still living in Madrid or did you move to Barcelona? 

b) ¿Ustedes continúan estudiando chino? Es un idioma muy difícil, ¿no? – Are you guys still studying Chinese? It’s a really difficult language, isn’t it?

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