Spanish verb phrases / Las perífrasis en español

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A verb phrase or periphrasis is the combination of two verb forms, one inflected and the other one a non-finite form. Sometimes there is a conjunction or preposition that links those verbs.

The most important verb phrases are the following ones:

 Verb phrase                   Description               Examples

poder + infinitive
possibility, permision
Puedes salir / You can go out.
haber que (impersonal use) / tener que / haber de / deber + infinitive
obligation, advice
Hay que volver / You have to come back.
Debes volver / You should/must come back.
Tengo que llamarla / I have to call her.
ir a + infinitive
Voy a salir / I’m going out.
estar a punto de + infinitive
impending action
Estoy a punto de salir / I’m about to go out.
comenzar / empezar / ponerse + a + infinitive
Empezó a llover / It started to rain.
Nos pusimos a hablar / We began talking.
volver a + infinitive
Vuelve a llamar / Call up again.
soler + infinitive
Solíamos venir aquí / We used to come here.
acabar / dejar / terminar + de + infinitive
Deja de gritarme / Stop shouting at me.
Ana acaba de irse / Ana has just left.
deber de + infinitive
Debe de ser él / It must be him.
estar / andar / seguir / continuar / llevar + gerund
ongoing action
Estoy comiendo / I’m eating.
Sigue lloviendo / It’s still raining.
estar / tener / llevar + participle
finished action
Con eso está todo dicho / That says it all.

Most of these verb phrases must be used sparingly. Many of them can only be used in certain tenses. The most widespread are:

Estar + gerund

Ir a + infinitive

Verb phrases can be inflected in the passive voice, but this must be used sparingly in Spanish.

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