There are some Spanish words that exasperate our students at Spanishviaskype. Some of them are impossible to be pronounced (aéreo), others are false friends (actualmente), but the word we bring you here today goes beyond their patience.
We have a very complex verbal system that allows us to mold the time as we please. But what happens when we enter the subjunctive mode into the equation?; and what’s more, what if we need to know when to write a tilde (acute accent) on one word that is not always written with it?
The word that shares all these factors is ‘cuando’ (when).
8 different ways to use ‘cuando’
The first thing you should know about cuando is that it’s really different words, written in the same way. It can be an adverb (for expressing circunstances), a noun (for denominating a reality), a preposition (for joining words) and a conjunction (for introducing clauses).
1. As a relative adverb
In this case, cuando works as an adverb that describes a previous word that means time. It’s written with no tilde and it’s used with indicative, if the previous word is specific or known, or subjunctive, if it’s not.
For example: El día cuando te conocí llovía mucho / Espero el momento cuando gane la lotería.
2. As a noun
As strange as its sounds, cuando can be used as a noun. It’s preceded by an article and can be changed into plural. It’s written with tilde.
For example: No me explicó el cuándo ni el porqué. / En periodismo es importante explicar los cuándos de las noticias.
3. As an interrogative adverb
It’s maybe the most popular usage. Of course, you can find it in questions. However, there are two kinds of questions: the direct ones and the indirect ones. The first ones are written with a question mark, but the second ones seem to be affirmative sentences but they actually are asking for an information. In both cases, cuándo is written with tilde and it’s followed by indicative.
For example: ¿Cuándo vas a venir a mi casa? / No sé cuándo vas a venir a mi casa.
4. As a temporal conjunction
Perhaps is the second usage we use the most. We introduce a temporal clause with this cuando. The problem here is when you should use indicative or subjunctive. If you express a subsequent action to the main verb, you should use subjunctive. So, don’t use indicative if you are referring to a future action. It’s not written with tilde.
For example: Iré a tu casa cuando tenga tiempo / Fui a tu casa cuando tuve tiempo
5. As a conditional conjunction
For expressing conditions, we also have cuando, with the meaning of ‘if’ or ‘since’. It’s not a common usage but you can find it. It’s used with indicative and it’s not written with tilde.
For example: Tendrá razón tu padre cuando te ha reñido.
6. As a causal conjunction
In order to express a cause, you can use cuando with indicative and no tilde on it. It’s translated by ‘as’, ‘since’ or ‘when’.
For example: Es increíble que diga que es inocente cuando todo el mundo sabe que es culpable.
7. As a concessive conjunction
This last usage as a conjunction means ‘even if’ or ‘even when’. It expresses an obstacle for the main clause. No tilde on it neither.
For example: Has vuelto a fumar, cuando el doctor te había aconsejado dejarlo por tu salud.
8. As a preposition
It might be the less usage of cuando. It’s followed by an adjective or a noun, and it means ‘at the moment of’. Again, it uses no tilde.
For example: Cuando niño, viajaba mucho con mis padres.
As you can see, cuándo usar cuando is not easy in Spanish. What we can say to you is cuándo to start learning Spanish via Skype: right now! Reserve a free trial lesson here cuando tengas claro el cuándo. Cuando la clase, we’ll be ready for you.