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Don't be afraid of the Subjunctive in Spanish - subjunctive after "cuando"

The Spanish subjunctive is one of the most feared aspects of the language. If you ask people learning Spanish what the most difficult thing is, even advanced Spanish speakers will often say that the subjunctive still trips them up.

The subjunctive can indeed be tricky because it doesn't exist at all in English and it is more common and used in different situations compared to other languages. But there's no avoiding it!

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What is the Spanish Subjunctive

We use the subjunctive when we're talking about emotions, desires or things which are not certain. It's precisely because of this that the subjunctive tends to be confusing for Spanish learners. How do we know when to use it? Fortunately, there are a few helpful triggers which can alert us to when we need to use the subjunctive.

In this blog, we're going to look at one particular use case for the Spanish subjunctive. Make sure to download the worksheet to practice this and learn to speak Spanish like a native.

Let's look at these two phrases, can you tell the difference?

  1.  Cuando voy a México, como muchos tacos.

  2. Cuando vaya a México, voy a comer muchos tacos.

Before we look at the subjunctive, there's one simple difference between these two phrases. Did you spot it? That's right! Sentence one is in the present and sentence 2 is in the future. It's as simple as that! Let's translate these sentences into English to make sure we fully understand them.

You can also watch a video about this topic here:

Translation Time

Here's how I'd translate those sentences to highlight the present vs. future aspect you pointed out:

  • Sentence 1: "When I go to Mexico, I eat a lot of tacos."

  • This highlights a recurring habit – every time the speaker goes to Mexico, there are tacos involved.

  • Sentence 2: "When I go to Mexico, I'm going to eat a lot of tacos."

  • Here, the focus is on a future anticipation. The speaker isn't currently in Mexico, but they have a strong intention to feast on tacos when the trip happens.

Why it Matters

This distinction between present and future is super important because it helps us decide whether or not to use the subjunctive in Spanish. 

Remember, one of the uses of the subjunctive is when we talk about things that we're not sure about. In the first sentence, we know that every time we go to Mexico, we eat a lot of tacos. It's a fact! When we talk about facts, we use the indicative (normal) version of the verb. In this case, "I go" translates to voy.

The future is uncertain

In the second sentence, there's a bit of uncertainty. The trip to Mexico hasn't happened yet. Will it definitely happen?  Are those tacos a 100% guarantee? We might be pretty sure that we will eat a lot of tacos when we are in Mexico but since it hasn't happened yet, there is still an element of uncertainty. This is why we always use the subjunctive after cuando if we're talking about the future.

In this case, even though the translation in English is still "I go", we need to use the subjunctive in Spanish. In this case, it's vaya.

Can you remember your verb conjugations? Here they are for the verb ir in the present tense.


Present indicative

Present subjunctive

English Translation




I go



You go (informal)




He/She/You (formal) goes




You all go (informal, Spain)




They/You all (formal) go

Please download below the table conjugation of the Subjunctive Mood:

Let's look at some more examples:

Cuando llegues a la casa, cierra la puerta.

This phrase means "When you arrive at the house, close the door." It is a command or request, using the present subjunctive verb form "cierres" (to close). The phrase is used to give someone instructions on what to do when they arrive at a particular location.

Cuando sepa, te aviso.

This phrase means "When I know, I will let you know." It is a statement of fact but talking about the future, using the present subjunctive verb form "sepa" (to know). The phrase is used to inform someone that you will tell them something as soon as you find out about it.

Cuando lo tenga, te lo doy.

This phrase means "When I have it, I will give it to you." It is a promise or offer, using the present subjunctive verb form "tenga" (to have). The phrase is used to tell someone that you will give them something as soon as you acquire it.

Now it's your turn, let us know in the comments how would you translate the following sentences:

  1. When you finish your homework, we will go to the movies.

  2. When she arrives, tell her to call me.

  3. When we move to the new house, we will have a big party.

  4. When you feel better, we can go for a walk.

If you enjoyed this blog, please don't forget to leave a comment below, so we feel encouraged to keep writing more blogs to help you Thrive in Spanish! 🤩

206 views2 comments

2 comentários

slim beast
slim beast
19 de mar.
  1. When you finish your homework, we will go to the movies.

  2. When she arrives, tell her to call me.

  3. When we move to the new house, we will have a big party.

  4. When you feel better, we can go for a walk.

  1. Cuando termines tu tarea, vamos al cines.

  2. Cuando llegue, di se llamarme.

  3. Cuando muviemos a la casa nueva, teneremos una fiesta grade.

  4. Cuando sientes mejor, podemos ir a pasear.

22 de abr.
Respondendo a

Omg! Thank you!. You are right!

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