Mastering The Art of Saying When’ in Spanish – A Comprehensive Guide

how to say when in spanish


Learning a new language opens doors to diverse cultures, enhances communication, and fosters personal growth. Spanish, with its rich history and global prevalence, is a language that millions of people worldwide are eager to learn. In any language, understanding how to express concepts like “when” is fundamental. In Spanish, expressing time-related ideas can be a bit intricate, but with the right guidance, anyone can master it. In this article, we will explore the various ways to say “when” in Spanish, from basic expressions to more nuanced uses.

Basic Expressions

a) “Cuando” – The Most Common “When”

The most straightforward way to say “when” in Spanish is to use the word “cuando.” This word can be used in various contexts and is highly versatile. For example

– ¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños? (When is your birthday?)

– Llámame cuando llegues a casa. (Call me when you get home.)

b) “En el momento en que” – A Formal Alternative

For a more formal expression of “when,” you can use “en el momento en que.” It’s suitable for professional or academic contexts and is slightly more complex

En el momento en que se anunció la noticia, todos quedaron sorprendidos. (When the news was announced, everyone was surprised.)

Telling Time

When discussing specific times, Spanish employs different expressions based on the hour.

a) “A las” or “A la” – At Specific Times

To express “at” a particular time, you can use “a las” for plural or “a la” for singular times. For example:

– La reunión es a las cinco. (The meeting is at five.)

– El tren sale a la una. (The train departs at one.)

b) “A eso de” – Approximate Times

When you want to say “around” a certain time, “a eso de” is the go-to phrase:

– Salimos a eso de las nueve. (We’re leaving around nine o’clock.)

Duration and Periods

Expressing “when” in terms of duration or periods of time requires specific constructions.

a) “Durante” – During

To say “during” a particular period, use the word “durante”:

– Durante el verano, vamos a la playa. (During the summer, we go to the beach.)

b) “Desde…hasta” – From…to

When you need to specify a range or time frame, use “desde…hasta”:

– La tienda está abierta desde las nueve hasta las cinco. (The store is open from nine to five.)

Relative Time

Spanish offers various ways to indicate “when” something happens relative to another event.

a) “Antes de” – Before

To express “before” a certain event, use “antes de”:

– Lava tus manos antes de comer. (Wash your hands before eating.)

b) “Después de” – After

To convey “after” an event, use “después de”:

– Salimos de casa después de cenar. (We left home after dinner.)

c) “Mientras” – While

For “while” or “during the time,” use “mientras”:

– Mientras estudiaba, escuchaba música. (I listened to music while I was studying.)

d) “Tan pronto como” – As Soon As

To express “as soon as,” use “tan pronto como”:

– Tan pronto como llegue, te llamaré. (I will call you as soon as I arrive.)

Specific Situations

a) “Cuando” vs. “Si” – When vs. If

In Spanish, “cuando” can sometimes be interchangeable with “si” when expressing future events. However, “cuando” implies more certainty than “si”:

– Cuando termines, mándame un mensaje. (When you finish, send me a message.)

– Si terminas, mándame un mensaje. (If you finish, send me a message.)

b) “Cuando” vs. “Mientras” – When vs. While

“Cuando” typically signifies a point in time, while “mientras” denotes concurrent actions:

– Cuando cocino, mi hermano limpia. (When I cook, my brother cleans.)

– Mientras cocino, mi hermano limpia. (While I cook, my brother cleans.)

c) “Desde que” – Since

To express “since” in Spanish, use “desde que”:

– Estudia español desde que era niño. (He has been studying Spanish since he was a child.)

Conditional “When”

Spanish uses the conditional tense when “when” implies a hypothetical or uncertain event in the future. To convey this, use the formula “cuando + subjunctive verb”

Iré al cine cuando tenga tiempo. (I will go to the movies when I have time.


Is it quando or cuando?

When cuándo is used in a question to mean “when,” a written accent is used with the á. Cuando (without a written accent) is frequently used to introduce a clause that can be in either the indicative or subjunctive mood.

How do you use cuando in a sentence?

Cuando (When) is followed by a verb in the subjunctive mood to express a future event still to happen. Read and listen to these examples: Cuando sea mayor, seré médico. When I am older, I will be a doctor.


Mastering the various ways to say “when” in Spanish is essential for effective communication. From the basic use of “cuando” to the more nuanced expressions for specific situations and timeframes, the Spanish language offers a rich tapestry of options. By understanding and using these expressions, you can enhance your fluency and confidently navigate conversations in Spanish. So, whether you’re discussing appointments, durations, or conditional events, you now have the tools to express “when” with finesse in this beautiful language. ¡Buena suerte! (Good luck!)

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