I have read in several articles that in a cuando-clause, use present subjunctive if the event has not taken place yet, otherwise, use indicative. This article is one of the references: http://spanish.about.com/od/verbmoods/a ... nctive.htm

So, I want to better understand the reason behind such mood choice.

What's the "logic" behind the above usage convention?

Here is my guess:

If something has not happened yet, no one can declare it, in other words, the event in the cuando-clause has not been materialized yet, so it cannot belong to anyone yet.


  • Posted Dec 13, 2012
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  • Your understanding is correct, yes :) - cogumela Dec 14, 2012

4 Answers



The logic behind this convention is a condition or fact that exists. The condition is, ie: "cuando llueve, los arboles se mojan " ... "when it rains, the trees become wet."

The same is true with "If clauses," ie ..... "Si llueve, no trabajamos" ... "If it rains, we don't work."

With these types of sentences we are not indicating any particular mood, but in other types where a nuance can be created by the speaker, subjunctive may or may not be chosen over indicative, so there are many times that relying on so-called "triggers" of subjunctive can produce a mood that you have not intended.

  • Dec 13, 2012
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  • thank you. I don't think I will ever fully understand the subjunctive lol - billygoat Dec 13, 2012
  • Yo también billy - Goldie_Miel Dec 16, 2012


They way I understand the subjunctive with "cuando" is. If the event has already happened then you declare it. If the event is yet to happen, then you obviously can't declare it, as it might never happen!

For example:

Cuando regresé a la casa, ya habia salido mi mujer.

When I returned home, my wife had already left. ie I am declaring a fact


Cuando regrese a la casa quiero ver la televisión.

When I return home I want to watch tv. ie here I use the subjunctive because I can't declare with certainty that I actually will get home!

This is just my understanding lol, it may be waaaaaaaaaay wrong, so please take it with a pinch of salt!!



With these types of sentences we are not indicating any particular mood

I like this statement, it shines some new light onto the indicative/subjunctive usages. Can you elaborate?

  • Dec 13, 2012
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This comment might exceed the length that can be put in the comment field so I am putting it in as a reply. "Cuando regrese a la casa quiero ver la televisión." I do not think that this is quite the way it works. The "cuano" in the main clause introduces doubt (even though you may be pretty sure that you are going home.) That doubt results in the use of the subjunctive in the subordinate clause "... quiera ver la televisión." I think that is what mi amigo nuevo, JulianChivi was driving at. I am drifting off the the subject a little now but "cuando" when talking about something that happened often invlolves the use of the imperfect tense. "Estaba (imperect) leyendo un libro cuando sonó el teléfono." because the stage is being set for what happened.

  • Dec 14, 2012
  • | Edited by kirk1 Dec 14, 2012
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  • thank you kirk. You may well be right. To be honest I am very hit and miss on the subjunctive. I am trying to develop a "feel" for it rrather than using rules and triggers. One day I hope to get there though lol. cheers - billygoat Dec 14, 2012
  • Gracias y feliz Navidad. - kirk1 Dec 15, 2012