Expressing Progression with the Verb ir

The verb ir (to go) is used in many idiomatic expressions in Spanish. One of the most interesting uses of this verb is to indicate the beginning and progression of an action, for example:


¡Excelente! Voy planeando el evento.
Excellent! I'm starting to plan the event (right now).

It's not easy to translate the expression voy planeando el evento with precision. In the same situation, an English speaker would often use the future tense, "I will start planning the event," which has an exact equivalent in Spanish: comenzaré a planear el evento. But voy planeando (literally, "I go planning") is in the present tense, and the expression means that I'm starting the action of planning at a certain point (the present in this case) and that it will continue for some time in the future until its completion. It also implies that I will be planning while other actions are taking place simultaneously. This may be something obvious that could be inferred by context or mere logic in English, but there is no special verbal form to express it.

Now, this expression has many variations and, since the verb ir (to go) is an important irregular verb, it's worth studying different examples. The basic structure of the expression is as follows: a conjugated form of the verb ir (to go) + a verb in gerundio (-ando, -iendo endings in Spanish). In the previous example we used voy, the conjugated form of the verb ir in the present, and planeando, the gerundio of the verb planear (to plan). Let's see variations with different persons and tenses:

Iré planeando el evento.
I will start planning the event.

Lucía irá planeando el evento.
Lucia will start planning the event.

The verb ir in this expression can also be conjugated in the past tense. For example:

Fuimos planeando el evento.
We went about planning the event.

Did you notice that we adjusted our translation to better express the meaning of the sentence? The same happens when we use other verbs different from planear (to plan):

Voy cancelando el evento.
I start by cancelling the event.
(Though Spanish also has an exact equivalent for this translation: empiezo por cancelar el evento.)

But let's see some examples in real context. In the following examples, try to analyze the construction and meaning of the sentence in Spanish but also the translation we used for each. Maybe you can come up with a better one!


Te pones de rodillas o vas cambiando de postura.

You get on your knees or you go around changing postures.

Caption 75, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 5

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Y ahora, una vez que tenemos el aceite,

And now, once we have the oil,

lo vamos clasificando por calidades.

we're going to classify it by traits.

Caption 66, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 14

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Tienen un olfato muy desarrollado,

They have a very developed sense of smell,

enseguida te huelen el trocito de manzana, galleta, lo que sea,

right away they smell the little piece of apple, cookie, whatever,

y te van siguiendo.

and they start following you.

Captions 54-56, Animales en familia - Un día en Bioparc: Coatís

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Poco a poco la iremos consiguiendo.

Step by step, we are going to achieve it.

Caption 16, ¡Tierra, Sí! - Atenco

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Poco a poco los irás descubriendo todos.

Little by little you'll go along discovering all of them.

Caption 40, Fundamentos del Español - 9 - Verbos Reflexivos

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Hasta después fui aprendiendo

Until later [when] I started learning

conforme se fue haciendo el cómic.

as the comic was being made.

Captions 40-41, Antonio Vargas - Artista ilustración

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Finally, here's an interesting example that uses the verb ir not only as the auxiliary conjugated verb but also for the gerundio, which is yendo (going). The expression is then voy yendo (literally "I go going").  

Bueno, voy yendo que... -Sí, sí. -...deben de estar por llegar.

Well, I'm going since... -Yes, yes. -...they are bound to arrive soon.

Caption 24, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido

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That's it. Mejor nos vamos despidiendo (We better start saying goodbye)!

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