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Published on: Grammar Bites

Time, tenses and the time clauses in Spanish

Mientras, cuando antes de, hasta que… we know these connectors can cause a few headaches, so we’ve prepared an easy guide to help you figure them out with lots of practical examples. Let’s get started!

Conectores Temporales:

Time connectors help us provide a time setting for recurring, past, future and simultaneous actions.

We use time sentences in the MODO INDICATIVO when discussing recurring actions, past actions or a specific moment in time.

We use them in the MODO SUBJUNTIVO when discussing future actions or actions related to an undetermined or non-specified moments in time.

Time connectors - Easy Español

Out of these connectors, the most frequently-used one is CUANDO.

Examples using Indicativo:
  • CUANDO tengo tiempo, me gusta descansar. When I have time, I like to rest. (Recurring action in the present).
  • CUANDO llegué a la casa, me di cuenta de que había olvidado las llaves. When I arrived to the house, I realized that I’d forgotten the keys. (Real situation in the past).
  • CUANDO tenía tiempo, me gustaba ver películas. When I had some spare time, I liked to watch movies. (Recurring action in the past).
  • Ellos escuchaban un podcast MIENTRAS preparaban la comida. They were listening to a podcast while preparing the meal.
  • Somos amigos DESDE QUE nos conocimos. We’ve been friends since we met. (This connector indicates the beginning of an action. We use it only with INDICATIVO)
Examples using Infinitivo:
  • AL VIAJAR en autobús, me duermo. = Cuando viajo en autobús, me duermo. When I travel by bus, I fall asleep.
  • ANTES DE volver a casa, compré el pan para el desayuno. Before I got home, I bought some bread for breakfast.
  • DESPUÉS DE TENER una siesta, me siento mejor. After taking a nap, I feel better.
Examples using Subjuntivo:
  • CUANDO viaje a Estados Unidos, te visitaré. When I travel to the United States, I will visit you.
  • Ellos regresarán a su casa ANTES (DE) QUE comience a llover. They will get home before it starts raining. (Present subjunctive used to talk about the futuro)
  • Ellos regresaron a su casa ANTES (DE) QUE comenzara a llover. They got home before it started to rain. (Past subjunctive to indicate an action that hadn’t taken place yet).
  • Te esperaré HASTA QUE regreses. I’ll wait for you until you get back.
  • Quédate en mi casa MIENTRAS te quedes en la ciudad. Stay at my place while you’re staying in town.
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