Learning practical aspects of Spanish, I have discovered that the most natural way to express present perfect continuous is to use the structure llevar + GERUNDIO:

Llevo mucho tiempo buscando a ella. I have been looking for her for a long time.

Similar, conjugated forms of 'llevar' can be used for the past etc.

I would be interested, do any other constructs exist to substitute for the English perfect continuous?

Some examples:

  • Even though he has been examining it since early this morning, we still do not know what it is.
  • When we decided to get divorced, we both had been living in Madrid for 4 years.
  • Aren't you tired? You have been walking since yesterday evening.

Of course the examples do not cover all the cases, but that is the point of the question.

  • There's nothing with using "He estado buscando", in some cases it may even sound better (for example, if no discrete time frame is given). Other verbs have similar-ish meanings like venir Jul 10, 2018 at 13:55
  • Please provide an English example first without the Spanish. What do you mean by "similar for the past"? At times llevar is right, but not always.
    – Lambie
    Jul 10, 2018 at 13:57
  • @Lambie I meant you just conjugate llevar and can use it for past perfect continuous for example.
    – ludgo
    Jul 10, 2018 at 14:27
  • You can use it in some cases. It is not always the case.
    – Lambie
    Jul 10, 2018 at 14:28

2 Answers 2


The most common substitution is the most literal one, using estar + gerund. All three of your English examples can be translated using this structure.

An alternative, as you already know, is using llevar + gerund. This one would also be correct in your three examples.

  • Aunque lleva examinándolo desde esta mañana temprano, todavía no sabemos qué es.
  • Cuando decidimos divorciarnos, ambos llevábamos (ya) cuatro años viviendo en Madrid.
  • ¿No estás cansado? Llevas caminando desde anoche.

One particular thing with this structure is that it's a bit more loosely coupled than estar + gerund. That is, it's rather common to place other things (complements of time/duration, mostly) between llevar and the gerund. You can do this with estar + gerund, but they tend to keep together.

Yet another alternative involves using venir + gerund, and in some dialects at least, andar + gerund.

These verbs (llevar, venir, andar) have some subtle connotations that differentiate them from estar in this "present continuous". Obviously they connote movement, so they reinforce the idea of the action as an ongoing process.

There's also tener + gerund, which is used only in some places. It means the same, even though the verb suggests permanence instead of movement.

Finally there's a common phrase using pasarse + gerund, which means "to spend (a certain lapse of time) doing (something)". This can be more or less identical in meaning with the "present continuous", or it can be frequentative:

Se pasa los días trabajando. "He spends the days working."

This frequentative meaning is often expressed using a nonsense pronoun (la or lo) with pasarse:

Se la pasa mirando por la ventana.

That means either "He spends all the time looking out the window" or "He goes and looks out the window time and time again". The pronoun doesn't refer specifically to anything, though it can construed as meaning "life" or "all the time".

  • gerundio + me/te/lo/le/la/nos/les/se
    – Mike
    Jul 11, 2018 at 5:58

(Supplementary answer)

Here are a few more for the example "You have been walking since 10 am":

Vas caminando desde las diez de la mañana

Sigues caminando desde etc.

Estás camine y camine desde etc. [This is the most colorful]

No paras de caminar desde etc.

Caminas desde etc.

Estás caminando desde etc.

Llevas varias horas caminando, desde las 10 de la mañana.

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