How to Say "When" in Spanish - Why You Should Know When to Say "When".

How to Say "When" in Spanish - Why You Should Know When to Say "When".

The concept of time repeatedly appears in our daily conversations. Therefore, one of the critical things you need to master when learning a new language is how to make accurate statements on time. In conversation, you will find that to achieve this element of communication, we use the word “when” which translates as cuando.

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How to Say “When” In Spanish


Cuándo, pronounced [ˈkwãn̪.do], can be used in a variety of ways. Below are the most common ones. In questions, direct and indirect, it’s spelled cuándo (with an accent mark). In other statements, it’s spelled cuando (without an accent mark).




The word is used to make inquisition regarding the time when referring to a person or an item. These can either be as a direct or indirect interrogative question.


Direct Questions in Spanish


  • ¿Cuándo viajas? – When are you traveling?


This is a direct question, and it portrays a certain level of familiarity with the person you are talking to. The language used expresses prior knowledge of an individual’s plans to travel, and this acts as a confirmation on the exact dates. Other direct questions include:

  • When is your mother arriving? – ¿Cuándo llega tu madre?
  • When do you get your degree? – ¿Cuándo obtienes tu título?


Indirect Questions in Spanish


  • ¿Podrías avisarme cuándo llegue el gerente? – Could you notify me when the manager arrives?


As an indirect question, the above sentence is seen to have a gentler approach to getting information. As such, it is regarded as the best alternative in professional settings.

It is okay to conclude that whoever is making the request does not have any information on the possible time of arrival of the manager. It shows full inter-dependence on another person, usually someone you don’t know very well. 


Talking About Occasions


You can use cuando when you want to single out a specific time when something happened. This can either be due to habit or circumstances. It can also be used to reminisce about an event that happened and create an association between the time and something significant or one that you recall.

  • El domingo por la tarde es cuando me pongo al día con mi lectura. – Sunday afternoon is when I catch up on my reading.
  • Las reuniones de vacaciones son cuando cuestiono mi necesidad de este trabajo. – Holiday meetings are when I question my need for this job.
  • La última visita que hice a la escuela fue en enero, cuando el Jacarandá estaba cayendo. – The last visit I paid to the school was in January when the Jacaranda was shedding.


Using cuando this way is meant to provide further details about a situation. The sentence above ensures that there is additional information about the visit to the school and January.


Cuando as a Conjunction


The word cuando is used to create harmony between an event and time. These two elements are usually in different clauses. In this case, cuando is a link between tense and an activity.


  1. Present

This is used for different things and situations. The tense expresses something that occurs habitually or without much effort, a permanent state, or something that happens without a prompt.


  • Notarás que estas luces parpadean cuando la abres. – You’ll notice that these lights flash when you open it.


  1. Past

There are different layers to this tense with each covering a specific level of action. The general performance of it is activities that have already been completed, those that were continuous in the past. At times, it is used to show that one thing was done or happened before another one commenced.


  • Todos se pusieron de pie cuando ella entró en la habitación. – Everybody stood up when she walked into the room.
  • Ella empacó nuestras maletas cuando estaba en el trabajo.She packed our bags when I was at work.



  1. Future

This is used to talk about things that are yet to happen, or a state that is to be achieved. The use of “when” with future tense shows belief that whatever task is going on will be completed to allow the other one to begin. Also, it portrays trust that the state will be attained.


  • Cuando termines de recoger los platos, lleva al perro a pasear. – When you finish collecting the dishes, take the dog out for a walk.


General Facts


You can use the word cuando to talk about general facts.


  • Chocolate sabe mejor cuando se toma con crema de latigo. – Chocolate tastes better when taken with whip cream.


This fact is based on personal preference and experience. While it might be true to you, those that have not tasted the beverage and those who do not agree will find the statement inaccurate.


  • El gallo canta cuando amanece. – The cock crows when dawn breaks.


This fact is true across different regions in the world, and it happens daily. However, with this statement, there is a possibility that external factors might affect the accuracy of the sentiment. 


  • Las estaciones cambian cuando la tierra gira alrededor de la tierra.The seasons change when the earth revolves around the sun.


The fact is true and applicable at any angle and for all people who might interact with the statement. It remains unchanged through time.


Simultaneous Situations


If two actions occur at the same time, we use “when” to show the relationship. Both activities take place within the shared timeframe, and there is no distinction on when one thing started compared to the other and when they both ended.

  • Ella limpió la casa cuando fui al mercado. – She cleaned the house when I went to the market.


The statement lacks specificity about the exact time when she cleaned the house. It could either be as soon as one left for the market or moments before they got back. This gap demands the use of a general assumption that the two things happened at the same time.

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Cuando can be used to portray the impact and influence that a deed has on a person or thing. With this usage, you get to explore the role of an activity and the time it happened and the consequences. 

  • Perdió su casa cuando se mudó a un estado diferente. – He lost his house when he moved to a different state.


This statement indicates that there was a possibility that he would have kept his house if he had remained in his current state. It shows that the decision to move had a chain reaction which informed the loss of the house.

  • Empezó a correr cuando se dio cuenta de que ya había pasado la hora de su cita. – She started running when she realized it was already past time for her appointment.


The only reason why she started running was the realization that she might not make it on time. This sentence explores the idea of cause and effect.

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