Spanish Grammar


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The Use of Cuando with Indicative and Subjunctive

The use of cuando is quite simple to understand. However, Spanish learners can easily make mistakes when they need to use it spontaneously. In this free grammar resource we are going to explain the use of cuando with indicative and subjunctive in Spanish.

Before continuing, it might be a good idea to review how the present subjunctive is formed in Spanish.

Generally, subordinate time clauses in our language are introduced by some connector (cuando, mientras, hasta que…). In this way, speakers can express actions that occur before, after or at the same time as others. Let’s see how it works:



The use of cuando to talk about past actions

If we express actions in the past that the speaker has as real events and finished in that time, the use of cuando requires a verb in indicative.

Cuando fui a Madrid el año pasado, compré muchos regalos.

In this sentence, my visit to Madrid was a real event and ended. In higher levels we will see how it is possible to express an action in the past that would take place at a later time. We will use the subjunctive in this case.

Frequent actions in the present with cuando

If the actions are in the present and express habits, we will also use the indicative, since they are real events known by the speaker.

Cuando voy a Madrid cada año, normalmente compro muchos regalos.

The use of cuando to talk about the future

However, the use of cuando in the future is different. If the speaker expresses future actions, we will use the subjunctive. This is because these actions are not yet real events and might not happen.

Cuando vaya a Madrid el año que viene, compraré muchos regalos.

As we can see, the use of cuando in Spanish seems quite easy. However, not all connectors behave in the same way (antes, después, al…). But we will study these exceptions in further articles.


Infographics about the use of cuando in Spanish