- Ay, Miguel; estoy de acuerdo en que al estar en un sabático, necesitamos ser cuidadosos al ahorrar dinero
- Oh, Miguel; I agree that being on a sabbatical, we need to be very careful saving money

This sentence has two examples of this construction and I seem to be having difficulty getting my head around it. I certainly would have expressed it differently in Spanish (like with ahorriendo in the second case). Does anyone have an idea of how best to understand this?


Hola Steven,

I think this may be a matter of translation as well of usage in Spanish. From LightSpeed Spanish regarding the present progressive: "You only use this tense when you are talking about an action that is happening at the moment in real time" . So perhaps rather than "we need to be careful  "saving" money in the present progressive, " be careful "to save" money" using the infinitive might be a better or different translation. Not sure if I'm right or helpful, or if I've abused quotation marks.




I think Ricardo makes a good explanation of when the gerund is used in english but the infinitive is used in Spanish.

But, perhaps like Steven, I wonder why the contraction al is used instead of just a. Additionally, it always confuses me a bit why the a is needed at all in cases like these, when estar already means "to be" and ahorrar "to save."


Ok here's how I understand it.  "Al" is used because the infinitives are used as a noun that is proceded by the definite article "el."  In other words it's "the saving."  As Dan says, sometimes an "a" is required as in this case and that changes it to the contraction "al."

​One example of using this type construction with a different preposition is:  Así que la fe es por el oír, y el oír, por la palabra de Dios.

​Translation:  So that faith is by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.

​In this type of construction, English usually leaves out the definite article but it is a good way in Spanish to use the infinitive as a "gerund."

​As Ricardo says, the actual gerund form tends to have an immediate in this moment significance.  Therefore to sound more native and less like a language learner, it's important to use the infinitive as a gerund in less immediate situations.

I hope this all makes sense.  If this is erroneous, please correct me.


These explanations were exactly what I needed to get a handle on this:
- "al estar" as "to be" / "by being"
- "al ahorrar" as "to save" / "by saving"
So wherever it would work in English to use one of those constructions, the appropriate corresponding Spanish would use the "al" / "a la" + verb in the infinitive.

What's with the caveats? Have you guys ever been wrong?!

Many thanks all. Much appreciated.


And one other usage of al+infinitivo is upon.

​al ver = upon seeing
​al entrar = upon entering


​and yes, I can be wrong.  :)


Good point. In a book I was reading yesterday, I must have come across a half dozen examples of this construction where "upon" would have been the appropriate translation. And here's a different example (from a song):

- Supe al mirarte que al fin, se alejaría el dolor. Here I would translate this as "to look at you".

I pity people trying to learn English...

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