4

In English, I can use “to be”, a gerund, and either a time or “when” to mean something in the future. For example, I can say

When are you going?

and mean

When will you be going?/When will you go?

or

The band is playing tomorrow.

and mean

The band will be playing tomorrow./The band will play tomorrow.

Does this structure work in Spanish?

Unlike the other question, this is asking if the thing is valid. The other is asking something different.

5

Yes, you can use the "present progressive" in Spanish (estar + gerund) to indicate future, but not as liberally as in English.

Most commonly Spanish uses a periphrastic future with the verb ir + a + infinitive; in some cases and especially in formal or literary language, it uses the "proper" synthetic future tense; in others it employs the present tense, including both the simple present and the present progressive or continuous.

The progressive, when used to show the future, tends to suggest planning:

Me estoy yendo de vacaciones en un mes.
"I'm going on holidays in a month."

In other cases the progressive-as-future shows immediacy:

Estoy yendo a buscarla a su casa.
"I'm going to fetch her at home."

meaning you're just about to leave, although that's again ambiguous (it could be that you're actually going as you speak).

You cannot use the progressive as future for undefined or hypothetical future events; that is, you cannot say something like

Un día de estos me estoy comprando una gran mansión.
"One of these days I'm getting a big mansion."

In such cases you need to use one of the other alternative ways to express future.

  • Why is the start of the example “Me estoy yendo”? – Stormblessed Aug 12 at 22:23
  • Me estoy yendo = Estoy yéndome. The expression goes irse de vacaciones, with pronominal irse instead of plain ir. The pronoun me can move around, as you see. – pablodf76 Aug 13 at 10:09
  • Just as it happens in Te vas a cansar. – pablodf76 Aug 13 at 10:11
2

First, let's consider your example sentences:

  • When are you going?

    In principle you could use the present continuous ¿Cuándo estás saliendo [de la ciudad]? but it's more usual to say Cuándo vas a salir? or A qué hora sales?.

  • The band is playing tomorrow.

    Here, La banda está tocando mañana works pretty well (in addition to La banda va a tocar mañana / La banda toca mañana). The difference is subtle. "La banda está tocando mañana" covers a broader time period than the non-continuous versions, in that we are currently (now) contemplating the details of tomorrow's plan. In other words, "La banda está tocando mañana" has the feel of something like The current plan is for the band to play tomorrow.

The future continuous is more common than the present continuous. Examples of the future continuous used this way:

  • ¿Estarás ocupando mi taladro el fin de semana? Mi hermana lo quiere usar un día para poner un estante.

    Comparing this with the vanilla form (Vas a ocupar mi taladro el fin de semana?): "Estarás ocupando" is a little more vague, and therefore a little softer and less confrontational.

  • Estaré haciendo la compra de la semana [weekly grocery shopping] pasado mañana. ¿Nos queda suficiente pan para hoy y mañana?

Note 1: Ir is an exception. Continuous forms of ir are unusual. The Spanish learner is recommended to avoid it.

Note 2: There is another way of creating a continuous feel, and it is very idiomatic (natural sounding):

  • Voy preparando mi terrenito para sembrar la lechuga.

    This means: I'm preparing the soil to plan lettuce, or I'm in the process of preparing the soil etc.

It can also be put into the future, similar to what we saw above with the standard future continuous:

  • ¿Irás haciendo depósitos mensuales en mi cuenta para pagar el préstamo?

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