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Él está de compras en una joyeria.

vs.

Él está comprando en una joyeria.

I am trying to understand the difference between these 2 sentences. I do not understand what verb form compras is in the first sentence. It looks like "tú compras", but it is being used as an infinitive. I see the first sentence has no direct object, while the second sentence does, as toys are being bought. Thank you.

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  • 1
    Hello, Chris, welcome to the site. I've corrected a bit the format of your question and fixed a few things. I want to point you two of my corrections. (1) joyería has got female gender in Spanish, so its modifier should be "una" instead of "un". "estar de comprando" is not idiomatic, I have removed the word "de" making the sentence correct. – RubioRic Jun 14 at 7:02
  • Thank you. I think I accidentally added "de". Great edits. Much clearer. Thank you. – Chris Johnson Jun 15 at 18:28
  • Don't forget the accent in joyería :) – Sergio Velasquez Jul 7 at 19:01
6

There is not much difference between:

  1. Él está de compras en una joyería.

and

  1. Él está comprando joyas en una joyería.

The tense in both sentences is the present indicative. While in (2) the gerund "comprando" forms a verb phrase (perífrasis verbal), in (1) we have a prepositional phrase formed by "de" and the noun "compras".

We can find other similar examples where the verb "estar" followed by a prepositional phrase is equivalent to "estar" + gerund:

  • estar de paseo = estar paseando
  • estar de viaje = estar viajando
  • estar de visita = estar visitando
  • estar de festejo = estar festejando

There might be a slight difference between the two: while "estar de + noun" may be used to mean that the person is engaged in an activity though not doing the action right now, "estar + gerund" may be used to mean that the action is currently in progress. Therefore, if we say:

  • Está de compras.

it may be the case that he is at a shopping mall but having a coffee right now,

while if we say:

  • Está comprando.

it may be the case that he is buying at the moment of speaking.

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  • Thank you so much. From the pictures I am looking at, I can now see they are trying to show one in the act of buying something (cash being exchanged) while the other is still shopping or browsing. Is there a literal translation of the prepositional phrase? Or is it just something to be memorized based on whether the action is currently in progress? Thanks again. Big help – Chris Johnson Jun 14 at 1:04
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In that particular case, as a Spanish I would see a difference between the two.

By saying

  • "Él está de compras en una joyeria"

I understand he went to a jewelry planning to buy something but he might or not buy it. I guess it will depend on availability of the item, budget,...

However when you say:

  • "Él está comprando en una joyeria"

It´s clear to me he´s already buying something or about to. The construction "estar + another verb in gerund" means that you´re doing something as we speak.

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In "está de compras", "compras" is not a verb, but a noun. "Compra" means "purchase" when it is a noun.

Think of this other expression "Está de cervezas". "Cervezas" is obviously not a verb here. This means that he is having beers (or other drinks).

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