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The gerund and the indicative present

 

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Old September 14, 2008, 11:02 AM
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The gerund and the indicative present

  • Estoy comiendo. = I am eating.
  • Como. = I eat.

In English there is no difference, but does that also apply to Spanish?
Are the two sentences interchangeable?
I guess the first is intransitive. But is that the only difference?

¡Gracias!
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  #2  
Old September 14, 2008, 01:10 PM
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Look at these two sentences:
I'm eating a ham sandwich (now, at the time of speaking)
I eat lots of vegetables, I often eat out ( I'm talking about habits, things that take place in my life with a certain frequency).

There are other possible uses of both the present continuous and the simple present . A couple of examples:

I'm leaving tomorrow.(future, it's something I'm sure I'm going to do, I have already bought my ticket, packed my case...)
The train leaves at seven ( it's also future, often used in timetables).


Transitive verbs and intransitive verbs are a different matter. If you say a verb is transitive it means it is accompanied (often followed) by a Direct Object:

Some verbs can be both transitive or intransitive, depending on the sentence, like 'to eat'.
She ate the whole cake.
She ate non-stop and gained a lot of weight.

Spanish grammar is not my forte so I'll let somebody else explain that to you.

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Last edited by María José; September 16, 2008 at 04:04 AM.
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Old September 14, 2008, 07:13 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ElDanés View Post
  • Estoy comiendo. = I am eating.
  • Como. = I eat.
In English there is no difference, but does that also apply to Spanish?
Are the two sentences interchangeable?
I guess the first is intransitive. But is that the only difference?

¡Gracias!
There is no gerund in these sentences. A gerund is a verbal that ends in -ing, but functions as a noun.

There is a difference between the sentences you've posted, in both languages.

In the first Spanish sentence, you used the present progressive tense (estar + present participle). (The present participle looks like a gerund, but it functions as a verb.) While it is true that this sentence is translated as I am eating, we English speakers tend to overuse it in Spanish. That is because we often use the present progressive (or present continuous) tense to describe current action. But, the Spanish speaker uses the present indicative tense to do that (not the present progressive). The Spanish present progressive tense means 'I am currently in the process of something (and was just interrupted)'. So, estoy comiendo is usually said between bites, and the connotation is 'Can't you see that I'm eating?'

The present indicative tense, used in the second Spanish sentence you wrote, is also translated as I am eating. This is the tense that you should use if you're enjoying breakfast and asking someone if they'd like to join you: Como el desayuno. ¿Quieres algo? This is the tense that often corresponds to the English present progressive. This tense is also used to refer to a (near) future event: Me acuesto a las once y sueño contigo en seguida.

The second English sentence you wrote is in the present simple tense, only used to describe habits or routines. If you are currently eating, you never say I eat. That requires the present progressive tense. If you normally eat breakfast, it's OK to say I eat breakfast. If you usually eat the same thing, or if you eat at the same time everyday, you can say I eat cereal for breakfast, or I eat breakfast before I shower. In both of these cases, the Spanish present indicative verb is used.

I believe María was trying to communicate the same thing. The sentences are not equivalents.


Transitive verbs take an object (direct and/or indirect). Dar is an example of a verb that can have both types of objects: Te doy un libro. (I give you a book (each year for your birthday). | I'm giving you a book (it's in my hand, take it). | I'll give you a book (in a moment, same as "I'm giving you a book soon.").)

Intransitive verbs don't have an object:
Él duerme. (He's sleeping.)
Duermo toda la noche. (I sleep all night long.)

Comer can be both intransitive and transitive.

Here are some intransitive examples:
Como. (I'm eating.)
Como todos los días. (I eat every day.)

Here it is transitive:
Como una manzana. (I'm eating an apple.)
Como manzanas. (I eat apples.)

Last edited by Rusty; September 14, 2008 at 07:31 PM.
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Old September 14, 2008, 11:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by María José
Spanish grammar is not my forte so I'll let somebody else explain that to you.
No, it was good, thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rusty
There is no gerund in these sentences. A gerund is a verbal that ends in -ing, but functions as a noun.
Oh. I didn't really know what a gerund was, so I just gave it a shot. Thanks for clearing it up. And thank you for the examples as well. I guess it requires a re-reading and some practice.

And about (in)transitive verbs. I'm fully aware of how they work, I was mentioning them because I couldn't find any other difference between the two sentences, so I just tried to come up with a "rule," and that was, that the present participle could only work as a transitive verb. But now I see, that the explanation was completely different. So thanks (once again )
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Old September 16, 2008, 04:02 AM
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'I believe María was trying to communicate the same thing'.
Rusty,
I was. Do you mean to say I didn't succeed in doing so? I put a lot of time and effort into the colour scheme...
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Old September 16, 2008, 06:11 AM
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Hello all

Gerunds and infinitives pose a problem to most people who are studying English ( i still get confused). The trouble is gerunds can also appear in compound nouns, such as swimming pool, shopping centre and racing pigeon. Also in phrases where there is no main verb such as no smoking.

The gerund should not be confused with the present participle which has the save form (verb-ing). I have tried to remember the following rule - not sure it will help but here goes :

Sometimes a present participle is not preceded by a form of 'to be'. For example, in the sentence 'I saw him dancing' dancing is a present participle as it doesn't operate as a noun. As a test, try replacing it by 'something'. You cannot say 'I saw him something', therefore it is neither a noun nor a gerund. On the other hand, you can say 'I enjoy something' therefore in the sentance 'I enjoy dancing' dancing is a gerund.

The trouble is this area of grammar is quite complex - even for the English !!..Hope I haven't confused you all.

have a nice day

Ruby

I think the trouble is that when English is your first language you take words for granted when using them. Does this happen in other languages?
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Old September 16, 2008, 06:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by María José View Post
'I believe María was trying to communicate the same thing'.
Rusty,
I was. Do you mean to say I didn't succeed in doing so? I put a lot of time and effort into the colour scheme...
I was only giving you credit for trying to say the same thing I did. Your color scheme was fantastic, by the way. I don't know who took longer writing their post.
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Old September 16, 2008, 07:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rusty View Post
I was only giving you credit for trying to say the same thing I did. Your color scheme was fantastic, by the way.
Thank you. I thought so, but I was trying to make sure.
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