The Three Essential Uses Of 'Seguir'
Today we go deep on how and when to use Seguir! Crack out wine and get comfy!
Welcome to the first instalment of a new series - Interesting Words - in which we go one-by-one through a number of Spanish words which are used every day but are quite 'WTF' to our English brains, either because they translate weirdly or have a million different uses for the same word.
We're going to start off the series with a deep dive on how to use Seguir, which has three really handy uses, and finish off with a couple of bonus tips!
To hear the proper pronunciation of all the following examples you can check out our video about the topic at the top of this page.
The Three Meanings Of 'Seguir'
Seguir has three main translations:
To Keep + ING
To Be Still
Here's some examples of each use case:
Sigo tratando de aprender español
I keep trying to learn Spanish
Mi hijo sigue en Londres
My son is still in London
Deberíamos seguir a este tipo
We should follow this guy
We'll look at each usage in detail in a moment, but let's firstly look at the conjugation of Seguir so we can see how these sentences were made.
The Conjugation Of 'Seguir'
Here is the conjugation of Seguir:
Okay, now we know the conjugation, let's dive in to how to use it in real life.
Usage 1: To Keep + ING
Seguir very commonly translates to Keep + ING, in the meaning of 'to continue doing something'.
Let's look at a few examples and how they were made.
Tenemos que seguir trabajando
We have to keep working
Tenemos que (we have to) is a modal verb so is followed by the infinitive, Seguir (to keep), which is then followed by the present participle, Trabajando (working).
So you can see this translates very nicely to English, as both languages follow "keep" with the present participle* - which in English is the -ING form, and in Spanish is the -ando/-iendo form.
*If you need a refresher on how to make the present participle you can check out this video about it here.
Sigue tomando malas decisiones
He keeps making bad decisions
In this example we want to say "he keeps" so we use the he/she form of Seguir, which we can see from the conjugation above is Sigue - and then we just follow with the present participle (the ING form), which for Tomar is Tomando.
In Spanish we "take decisions" which is why we use Tomar.
Sigo pensando en eso
I keep thinking about it
Here we want to say "I keep" so we use Sigo, and then simply follow with the present participle of Pensar, which is Pensando.
Remember in Spanish we say Pensar en + infinitive (to think about + ING).
Seguimos tratando de encontrarlo
We keep trying to find it
In this last example we want to say "we keep" so we use the We form of Seguir, which is Seguimos, and follow by the present participle of Tratar which is Tratando.
Remember to say "try to do something" in Spanish we say Trater + De + Infinitive Verb.
*One last note on this: in English we have a few ways to say "keep doing something". For example we could say, "We can't [continue/carry on/keep going/go on] like this." For all of these we would use Seguir in Spanish.
Seguir vs Continuar
One important note is the difference between Seguir (keep doing) and Continuar (to continue) in Spanish.
We use Continuar when we want to say the verb Continue by itself - so not followed by another verb. Whereas we use Seguir when it's more in the meaning of Continue + ING.
Podemos detenernos ahora y continuar después del almuerzo
We can stop now and continue after lunch
No podemos seguir haciendo esto
We can't continue doing this
So just remember to use Continuar when you're using the verb To Continue by inself, and not in the meaning of "continue doing" something.
Using In The Past
To use in the past, simply use the past conjugation of Seguir (either preterite or imperfect depending on context) and again follow with the present participle. Here is the past form of Seguir:
And here's a couple of examples!
Seguí hablando con él
I kept talking to him
¿Por qué seguiste trabajando allí?
Why did you keep working there?
Again, to hear the pronunciation of this, you can check out our video at the top of this post :)
Using In The Future
Usage in the future is the same; just use the future form of Seguir. Here is the future conjugation and some examples:
Seguiré hablando con él
I will keep talking to him
Nos seguirán molestando
They will keep annoying us
¿Seguirás trabajando ahí?
Will you keep working there?
Usage 2: To Be Still
The second usage of Seguir is To Be Still. This can feel a bit weird because the whole meaning of "I am still/he is still etc" is contained within the one word Sigo/Sigue etc.
Let's look at a few examples to see what we're dealing with here.
I am still here
You can see that the whole meaning of "I am still" is contained in the one word, Sigo.
This can feel quite strange at first, because it almost feels not enough, like we should add something else, but nope that's it!
¿Sigues en casa?
Are you still at home?
As you can see, this also works in questions. The whole meaning of "are you still" is contained in the one word, Sigues. Because Spanish doesn't have a question structure, we just say the positive sentence "you are still at home" and then add the question marks to turn it into a question.
They are still alive
In this last example you can see we simply use the "they" form of Seguir.
Hopefully you're starting to get the hang of Seguir! Let's finish off with learning the last meaning of it, and a couple of bonus pro tips.
Usage 3: To Follow
The last meaning of Seguir is To Follow.
This translates very nicely, as Spanish uses Seguir in all the same ways we use To Follow in English. Let's look at a few examples.
Me está siguiendo
He is following me
In this example, we are using the present continuous tense, which is Estar + Present Participle.
The present participle of Seguir is Siguiendo, hence the sentence Me está siguiendo.
*For a review on how to make present continuous sentences you can watch this video :)
¿Puedo seguirte en IG?
Can I follow you on IG?
As I mentioned before, Spanish uses Seguir in all the same ways we use To Follow in English. So we can use it for talking about following people on social media. How awesome is that?!
No sigo tu lógica
I don't follow your logic
We can also use Seguir in the meaning of whether you follow what someone is saying or not. Nice right?!
Siempre sigo las reglas
I always follow the rules
Lastly, we can also use Seguir in the meaning of "to follow the rules". So as you can see, Seguir really is the gift that keeps on giving!
Extra Usage: Sigue Siendo (this is important!!)
Now There's one time that Seguir is used that will just make your mind boggle if you see it in subtitles, and that is the phrase sigue siendo - which directly translates to "he is still being".
This is used in sentences to say [someone] is still a [something], often in funny cases like "She's still my wife, bro, so don't be saying stuff like that!"; but also in just normal cases like, "I'm still a policeman".
In Spanish they say Sigue siendo mi esposa, or Sigo siendo policía which translate directly to "she's still being my wife", or "I'm still being a policeman", which of course sounds very weird, but that's just the way it goes!
Let's look at a couple of examples.
Mi esposa es un poco molesta, pero sigue siendo mi esposa
My wife is a bit annoying, but she's still my wife
So we can see here if we want to say "she's still" we say Sigue siendo (she is still being). This is pretty useful to know!
Mi pueblo es una mierda, pero sigue siendo mi pueblo
My hometown is a shit-hole, but it's still my hometown.
I just thought this example was quite funny. My hometown is an "it" so we use the he/she/it from of Seguir, which is Sigue.
Mi jefe es genial, pero sigue siendo mi jefe, así que debo tener cuidado con lo que digo
My boss is great, but he's still my boss, so I have to be careful what I say
This is example is quite a clear case of when and why we would use this phrase. Hopefully I've convinced you that this phrase is actually worth learning!
Note: Sigue vs Todavía Está
Just one final note on Seguir.
Sometimes, when the verb is To Be, we can use either Seguir or Todavía + Estar to express what we want to say - and both are fine.
Here's an example of what I mean:
Todavía está enojada
In this case, both sentences meaning "are you angry", as Todavía estás means literally "are you still" and Sigues also means "are you still".
In this case, the Todavía version just maybe emphasises the word "still" a bit more (are you still angry), but both are essentially fine.
I spoke to Lissette about this (check out our podcast if you don't know who Lissette is!), and she said she would have no preference between both sentences - both sound equally fine.
So guys, that was our first Interesting Word - I hope you found it useful and learned a couple of things about Seguir you didn't know already!
If you'd like to hear us talk about this topic in more detail you can check out this episode of the Jacob Learns Spanish podcast, or watch the video at the top of this page.
As always, you can download our grammar leaflet here for a clear and concise summary of all essential Spanish grammar, which I find helpful to have as a quick reference guide when trying to speak.
Hope you all have a great rest of the day, and I'll see you in the next one!