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Apparently "Voy perdiendo" means "I'm losing." But I thought the present participle was formed using estar. I am confused!

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5 Answers 5

up vote 17 down vote accepted

Versión original

Disculpa que conteste en español. No estoy seguro de poder transmitir en inglés los matices de progresividad que voy a mencionar.

Las construcciones “ir + gerundio” y “estar + gerundio” son perífrasis verbales donde ir y estar tienen función auxiliar.

Otros posibles verbos auxiliares con idéntica construcción son: andar, venir, seguir, llevar y salir.

En estas construcciones, el gerundio imprime una idea de acción en transcurso, pero la connotación es distinta con cada verbo.

  • Está buscando piso. (Idea de acción en desarrollo en general)

  • Anda buscando piso. (Idea de acción reiterada)

  • Los precios van cayendo. (Idea de progresión desde el presente)

  • Los precios vienen cayendo. (Idea de progresión desde un punto del pasado)

  • Sigue comiendo a las dos. (Idea de acción persistente)

  • Lleva dos años saliendo con Marta. (Duración prolongada de una acción que comienza en el pasado)

  • Salió corriendo del colegio. (Acción que se inicia de manera brusca y después continúa)

En el caso de “estoy perdiendo” y “voy perdiendo”, el significado de ambas posibilidades es el mismo y la diferencia, si existe, es muy pequeña. Si acaso, “voy perdiendo” incluye una connotación de progresividad desde el presente que sugiere que la acción va a continuar.


Traducción libre / Loose translation

Sorry for answering in Spanish. I’m not sure that in English I could convey the shades of progressiveness I’ll be mentioning.

The constructions “ir + gerund” and “estar + gerund” are periphrastic phrases in which ir and estar act as auxiliaries.

Other possible auxiliary verbs that share the same construction are: andar, venir, seguir, llevar, and salir.

In these constructions, the gerund expresses an idea of progressive action, but the connotation is different with each verb.

  • Está buscando piso. (idea of unfolding action in general)

  • Anda buscando piso. (idea of repeated action)

  • Los precios van cayendo. (idea of progressive action starting in the present)

  • Los precios vienen cayendo. (idea of progressive action that started in the past)

  • Sigue comiendo a las dos. (idea of persistent action)

  • Lleva dos años saliendo con Marta. (prolonged duration of an action that began in the past)

  • Salió corriendo del colegio. (action that starts suddenly and then continues)

In the case of “estoy perdiendo” and “voy perdiendo”, the meaning of both possibilities is the same and the difference, if it exists, is slight. If anything, “voy perdiendo” includes a connotation of progressiveness beginning in the present that suggests that the action will continue.


Translator’s note

These nuances can be tricky to convey in English; a word-for-word translation is almost always going to be too clumsy for practical use.

Sometimes adding an adverb is enough; other times a different verb is needed, or a different sort of periphrastic verb. The loose translations below are all meant to be idiomatic in casual, spoken English. In some cases I give more than one possibility because no one of them quite hits the nail the head.

For simplicity and consistency, I’ll use he for the implied third-person pronoun of Spanish, although of course she or you (formal), and sometimes even it, are all equally applicable, since in the general case and without further context, we cannot know whether the implied antecedent is él, ella, ello, or Usted.

Elements in square brackets are implied, but probably wouldn’t be included in most translations.

  • Está buscando piso.
    He’s looking for an apartment.
    (idea of unfolding action in general)

  • Anda buscando piso.
    He’s out looking for an apartment.
    He’s still looking for an apartment.
    He keeps looking for an apartment. (although sigue is better for keeps)
    (idea of repeated action)

  • Los precios van cayendo.
    Prices are falling.
    Prices have begun falling.
    Prices have started to fall.
    (idea of progressive action starting in the present)

  • Los precios vienen cayendo.
    Prices have been falling.
    (idea of progressive action that started in the past)

  • Sigue comiendo a las dos.
    He’s still eating [lunch] at 2 o’clock.
    (idea of persistent action)

  • Lleva dos años saliendo con Marta.
    He’s been going out with Marta for two years.
    (prolonged duration of an action that began in the past)

  • Salió corriendo del colegio.
    He took off running from [the [high]] school.
    All of a sudden, he left [the [high]] school at a run.
    (action that starts suddenly and then continues)

Finally, sometimes the sense of “ir a + infinitive” may be better translated into a progressive construct in English, even though it wasn’t one in Spanish.

For example and in particular, the initial “que voy a mencionar” here seems a better fit for “that I’ll be mentioning” instead of the more direct translation of “that I’m going to mention”. This demonstrates how the progressiveness aspect does not necessarily map one-to-one between the two languages.

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3  
Apparently this is a great answer (judging by upvotes) but unfortunately I am just beginning Spanish as my third language and am way too new to understand this answer in Spanish yet! –  Aerovistae Feb 20 '13 at 22:27
    
@Aerovistae, just a rough note: it depends on the context. Estoy is used when you are doing something at this very moment. Estoy perdiendo la partida (I am losing this game -right now-). Voy, when referring to something that doesn't necessarily belong to this moment: Voy perdiendo mil euros en acciones (Until now, I have lost one thousand euros in stocks). Both of them are valid and are (although not always) usually interchangeable. There are sometimes when you can't substitute: it would sound funny to say Estoy dos años saliendo con Marta (an action that started in the past) –  mines Feb 21 '13 at 14:20
    
Hopefully someone with good English command can translate this answer for the OP. –  JoulSauron Feb 22 '13 at 8:31
1  
@JoulSauron I’ve taken at a crack at the translation; I think this is a great answer. –  tchrist Mar 2 '13 at 17:15
1  
@tchrist. Excellent translation. Thanks. –  Albertus Mar 3 '13 at 18:21

Both "voy perdiendo" and "estoy perdiendo" would be understood as "I'm losing". However, from my experience, the first one is preferred, especially when whatever you're talking about is still not over, say a poker or Monopoly game. "Estoy perdiendo señal" would be appropriate, for example, when you're losing cell signal. It's not something you're actively working on (like a game), but it's just something you're losing, out of your control.

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There's a fairly quirky way of expressing a trend in English, namely "I'm on my way to losing". I don't hear this very often but when I do, it sugggests a trend or progression. WhenI hear "voy perdiendo" it carries the same suggestion for me.

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Perdiendo takes on the so-called "present progressive" ("ing) tense. That's why "voy" is preferred.

A literal translation of "Voy perdiendo" is "I am going to be losing." "Estoy conveys the sense of "being," but not of "going."

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Both can be use in the same way while its happening something in that current moment. It wont just happen with perdiendo, but with any other verb which its applying gerund, (ing).

voy saliendo, estoy saliendo (I am going out).

voy cayendo, estoy cayendo (I am falling).

voy corriendo, estoy corriendo (I am running). etc.

Even thought in this sense you can used them both in the same way, "voy", in some cases can be used also for future actions which havent happend yet, (i would) which you cannot do with "Estoy".

For instance:

Mientras estas fuera de casa, yo voy viendo peliculas. (While you are outside home, i would be watching movies).

Me avisas cuando llegue, y me voy corriendo a tu casa. (let me know when you arrive, and i would go running to your house).

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