When most people think of present participles in Spanish (if they think about them at all!), they usually think of verb forms ending in -ando or -endo. They are the most common verb equivalents of the English present participle, which typically ends in “-ing.”

However, there is another type of present participle in Spanish, and those are the adjectives ending in -ante and -ente that are derived from verbs, such as andante (walking) and picante (spicy hot, from picar, to bite or sting).


If you’ve studied much French or Italian, you can see the similarity with the present participles of those languages (which end in -ant and -ent in French and -ante, -anti, -ente and -enti in Italian). By definition, participles are words that can have the characteristics of both verbs and adjectives. That’s still true of the present participles in French and Italian, but in Spanish the -ante and -ente words function just like other adjectives, so in Spanish not all grammar experts classify them as participles. When they do, they usually call them adjectival present participles to distinguish them from the more common kind. (Also note that like most other adjectives, these can be made into nouns. Common examples include estudiante, student, and visitante, visitor.)

Like -ando and -endo words, the adjectival participles are frequently the equivalent of English “-ing” adjectives. Thus Sleeping Beauty is known as Bella Durmiente (from dormir, to sleep) in Spanish, and laughing gas is known as gas hilarante (from hilar, to spin). In a few cases, compound words are formed using these forms; for example, a person who is Spanish-speaking can be described as hispanohablante (from hablar, to speak).

These adjectival forms are formed by dropping the verb ending (-ar, -er or -ir) and adding -ante to the stem of the -ar verbs and -ente or -iente to the stems of -er and -ir verbs. There are no fixed rules for determining which of the two suffixes are used with -er and -ir verbs. Also, especially in the case of irregular -ir verbs, the stem of the verbs can also change (as in durmiente).

Here are some sample phrases and sentences showing how these adjectives are used and correspond with the English present participle (sometimes called a gerund):

* la páginas siguientes, the following pages

* Fuimos a la ciudad durmiente. We went to the sleeping city.

* el presidente saliente, the outgoing president (i.e., leaving office)

* Se necesita agua para la población creciente. Water is needed for a growing population.

* una asombrante variedad, an amazing variety

* Es un plan de estudios conduciente al título. It is a curriculum leading to the degree.

* El instrumento produce un sonido vibrante. The instrument produces a vibrating sound.

* los españoles pertenecientes al partido, the Spaniards belonging to the party

* la población comprante, the buying public

* los datos determinantes, the determining data

These adjectival forms do not exist (or are not used) for many verbs, especially when some other adjective form is available. Thus, for example, mentiente (from mentir) is not used to translate “lying,” but mentiroso is; a boring film is una película aburrida, not una película aburriente; and a fighting spirit is un espíritu luchador, not un espíritu luchante.

Additionally, verbs-turned-adjectives are not as common in Spanish as the equivalent adjectival “-ing” forms are in English. It is more natural in Spanish in many cases to use an phrase instead. Thus while in everyday speech in English we may talk about the crying baby, in Spanish we talk about el bebé que llora or el bebé que está llorando. Similarly, a cooking class is una clase de cocina, and the breaking point is el punto de estallar.

Because these adjectival participles aren’t associated with every verb, you should normally avoid coining them. Excessive use of the participles, especially rare or coined ones, can sound like journalese, since one of the growing uses of them is their use in news stories, especially those that have been translated from English. The final two phrases in the bulleted list above are examples of Spanish journalese.

via Adjectival Present Participles – Learn Spanish Language Grammar.

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