In English, if writing headings that solely describe actions, it is normal to use the "ing" form.

For example

Sightseeing: Castles
Making Desserts
Tarot Reading

As a native English speaker, it would be a bit odd to see "to dance", "to sightsee", "to clean" etc (even though that would be grammatically acceptable).

However, reading Spanish articles, I notice that they tend to use the "to form" more frequently.

For example, instead of:

bailando (Dancing)
limpiando (Cleaning)
comprando (Shopping)
haciendo postres (Making Desserts)

Spanish seems to use:

bailar (Dancing)
limpiar (Cleaning)
ir de compras (Shopping)
hacer postres (Making Desserts)

And for something like "sightseeing: Castles" and "tarot reading", I can't even find an "ing" version on SpanishDict. So I think they could only be Hacer turismo: Castillos and lectura del tarot.

Question: In Spanish, for writing headings that only contain (3rd person) verbs (like the examples I have above), is it more appropriate to use the "to form" or the "ing form"?


This article does explore the use of ing forms in Spanish. However, the examples it covers are mostly in the first person. My question relates to headings, which are in the third person, so I am not sure if it applies to the examples I have given.

I am only a beginner in Spanish and although I am a native speaker of English, I am only a beginner in understanding the usage of grammatical terms, so I would appreciate a simplified explanation.

  • Both a gerund and a present participle come from a verb, and both end in "ing". However, each has a different function. A gerund acts like a noun, while a present participle acts like a verb. In the case where it acts like a noun, Spanish may use a different construct. Commented Aug 14, 2020 at 10:24

3 Answers 3


The ing form corresponds to the Spanish gerund only when it is preceded by a BE form, e.g.

 "He is reading" -> "Está leyendo".  

In the cases you mention, however, it is translated by either the infinitive or a noun, e.g.

 "Reading" -> "Leer" or "Lectura".  

In other cases, such as when the ing form precedes a noun, it is translated in Spanish either as an adjective or as a subordinate sentence:

 "The reading man" -> "el hombre lector",  
                      "el hombre leyente" or  
                      "el hombre que está leyendo".
  • "The ing form corresponds to the Spanish gerund only when it is preceded by a BE form": this is not accurate
    – Gustavson
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 12:03
  • 3
    @Gustavson Ok, how is it not accurate? Leaving a comment simply saying it's not accurate isn't particularly helpful.
    – user91988
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 15:48
  • 3
    @user91988 There are several other instances where V-ing is used in English and, similarly, a gerund is used in Spanish, for example: He spent his life reading (Se pasó la vida leyendo) / Reading an article, I discovered ... (Leyendo un libro, descubrí ...) / He has been reading for years (Lleva años leyendo) / He started by reading comics (Empezó leyendo cómics) etc.etc. You don't just need auxiliary BE for the gerund to be also used in Spanish.
    – Gustavson
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 16:39
  • 1
    @ Gustavson You are right, I should say a BE form or equivalent. It is not accurate but I think it is understood. BTW, one of your counter examples does use a BE form: "He has been reading for years"
    – Leo
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 19:17
  • 1
    @Leo The adverbial use of the V-ing (or the gerund in Sp) does not fit into the after be or equivalent rule. You could add that to improve your answer.
    – Gustavson
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 20:08

While the gerund is the typical nonfinite with nominal value (i.e similar to a noun) in English, in Spanish that role is reserved for the infinitive.

In headings, you can use infinitives or, if available, nouns.

Gerunds can occasionally be used when a action is described as being in development, that is, as an action for which no definitive conclusion is expected. For example, this would be a possible heading (or subheading): Explorando las diferencias entre el infinitivo y el gerundio

As regards the headings you proposed, they are fine in the infinitive, for example as a list of activities:

  • Bailar
  • Limpiar
  • Ir de compras
  • Hacer postres

Nouns could also be used:

  • Baile
  • Limpieza
  • Salida de compras / Compras
  • Preparación de postres

As a native Spanish speaker, the answer to your question seems very natural:

We don't use the "ando", "endo" -which would be the "ing" ending in English, except when we are performing the verb. Thus, if I say: "Estoy bailando" it means that I am dancing right as we speak. But if I plan to do it in the future, we would say "Vamos a bailar/ Fuimos a bailar".

Thus, "Tarot reading here" would become something like "Se hacen lecturas del Tarot aqui". Unless you were tarot reading right now, you would say "Aqui nomas leyendo el tarot"

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