Is this its own tense?

E.g. "Llevo estudiando español desde hace un año."

Is this a tense?

What's its name?

In English it would be like "I have been ..." and it's called the present perfect.

What would the Spanish name of the "llevar" tense be?

2 Answers 2


Your sentence does not sound natural to me because of the adverbial "desde hace un año". However, this similar sentence does:

  • Vengo estudiando español desde hace un año.

If "llevar" is used, I'd prefer this other structure to express time:

  • Llevo un año estudiando español.

Both "venir" and "llevar" + V-ando/endo are "perífrasis de gerundio" (gerundial verb phrases) and are dealt with under item 28.4 in RAE's Nueva gramática de la lengua española - MANUAL. Under 28.4.3a, we find the following, which partially confirms what I said above:

"Llevar + gerundio". A diferencia de otras perífrasis de contenido similar, esta perífrasis exige una expresión cuantificativa que tenga carácter argumental. Designa unas veces el periodo durante el cual se mantiene cierto estado de cosas, como en el primero de los ejemplos que siguen, y otras, su límite inicial, como en el segundo:

[...] ni que me vean siempre sonriente y hecho un gurrumino inseparable de esa mujer que lleva aguantando palizas diez y siete años (Gómez Serna, Automoribundia); Y como no encuentra mejor cosa que decir, repite lo mismo que lleva diciendo desde la mañana (Delibes, Mario). [The bolds are mine.]

There are other examples similar to mine further below in the Manual:

  • Llevaba diez años pintando el mismo bodegón.

  • Llevo años recorriendo este mismo camino.

My understanding is that "venir + V-ando/endo" is clearly similar to the present or past perfect progressive "have/s/d been V-ing" in that it indicates an action started at some previous point and continuing up to now (or up to then).

Instead, "llevar" sounds to me more like "have/s/d been busy doing or engaged in doing sth", and time phrases like "un año" (without "desde") better express the time one has been busy with or engaged in that activity. Some speakers (as is the case with the second example with "desde la mañana") seem to find no objection to time phrases introduced by "desde".

Another point in favor of using "venir" rather than "llevar" with "desde" time phrases is that "venir" is intransitive while "llevar" is always transitive (as we can check in RAE's dictionary), the time phrase following it functioning as its direct object.

The Diccionario Panhispánico de Dudas provides nominal time phrases (without "desde" or any other time linker) in all the examples it provides with "llevar" when it carries this meaning:

  1. Significa también ‘estar [durante un período de tiempo] en una misma situación o en un mismo lugar’: «Llevo treinta y cinco años encerrado por su culpa» (Martínez Perón [Arg. 1989]); «Lleva ya ocho días aquí» (Paso Palinuro [Méx. 1977]). Si se hace referencia a una acción, lo normal es la construcción afirmativa con gerundio o la construcción negativa con sin + infinitivo: «El hombre lleva tres días bebiendo» (Mutis Ilona [Col. 1988]); «Llevaba dos semanas sin aparecer por el apartamento del barrio» (Rovinski Herencia [C. Rica 1993]). Menos frecuente, pero también válida, es la construcción con de + infinitivo, documentada tanto en América como en España: «Llevábamos cuatro años de no vernos» (Aguilar Golfo [Méx. 1986]); «Llevo años de vivir vicariamente» (Leguina Nombre [Esp. 1992]). En algunas áreas americanas, en lugar de llevar, se usa, con este sentido, el verbo tener (→ tener(se), 3).

Short answer: no, llevar + gerund is not considered a tense in Spanish. It is just an idiomatic usage pattern for llevar.

In fact, the "present continuous", estar + gerund, which is related to this pattern, is not considered a tense either, though it may appear so in textbooks for Spanish students. This is more-or-less arbitrary, since grammar terms are conventional.

This pattern of llevar is by no means the only one, and it's not isolated. According to the DPD, besides the common meaning of "to carry, to move, to take something from one place to another", llevar means (translation and emphasis mine):

'to be/stay [during a period of time] in the same situation or at the same location': «Llevo treinta y cinco años encerrado por su culpa» "I've been locked up for thirty-five years because of him/her"; «Lleva ya ocho días aquí» "S/he's been here already eight days". If it refers to an action, the norm is the affirmative construction with the gerund or the negative construction with sin + infinitive: «El hombre lleva tres días bebiendo» "The man's been drinking for three days"; «Llevaba dos semanas sin aparecer por el apartamento del barrio» "S/he had not made an appearence at the apartment in the neighborhood for two weeks". Less frequent, but also valid, is the construction with de + infinitive, documented in America as well as in Spain: «Llevábamos cuatro años de no vernos» "We had not seen each other for four years"; «Llevo años de vivir vicariamente» "I've been living vicariously for years". In some areas in America, instead of llevar, the verb tener is used in this sense.

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