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Usage: Subjunctive in Adverbial Clauses

En España, hoy es miércoles el 18 de octubre de 2017.

An adverbial clause is one in which the subordinate clause, introduced by a conjunction, modifies or expands upon the meaning of the primary clause. The subjunctive will be used if the primary clause indicates possible future action, and after some conjunctions which by their nature, imply doubt.

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2016-01-27 – © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick

Both of the following examples are uses of the subjunctive with adverbial clauses, in these particular cases, with the conjunction ‘cuando’.

Tendré muchos hijos cuando me case.
(Cuando me case, tendré muchos hijos.)

Tendré un garaje cuando tenga una casa propia.
(Cuando tenga una casa propia, tendré un garaje.)

Conjunctions which do not always require the subjunctive

In the case of the conjunctions which do not always require the use of the subjunctive, the subjunctive will used in the subordinate clause if there is any indication of future in the primary clause.

Indication of Possible Future Action ➔ Subjunctive

Possible indications of the future would clearly be the future indicative, or an ‘ir a’ construction. Thus, ‘tendré muchos hijos’ and ‘tendré un garaje’ indicate future, and therefore the present subjunctive is used in the subordinate clause.

Conjunction Meaning
cuando when
después de que after
en cuanto, apenas, luego que as soon as
así que, tan pronto como as soon as
hasta que until
mientras que while
aunque although

Indication of Purpose or No Indication of Fact ➔ Subjunctive

Conjunction Meaning
aunque although
de modo que so that
de manera que so that
donde where
como since, as
aun cuando even though

Indication of Habitual Action ➔ Indicative

If there is some indication of habitual action in the primary clause, then the indicative will be used in the subordinate clause. Possible indications of habitual actions would be ‘siempre’, ‘cada día’, ‘diariamente’, ‘cada vez’, etc.

Indication of Completed Action ➔ Indicative

If there is some indication of completed action in the primary clause (ie, a preterite indicative), then the preterite indicative will be used in the subordinate clause.

Speaker’s Intent

If there is no indication of future, nor any indication of habitual action or of completed action, then the mode of the subordinate clause could be either the indicative or the subjunctive, depending upon the intended meaning of the speaker. IE.

Puedes llamarle aunque no está en casa.
Puedes llamarle aunque no esté en casa.

Conjunctions which Always Introduce the Subjunctive

Baldo: 2007-01-19

2007-01-19 – © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal Press Syndicate

There are a number of conjunctions which will always indicate the use of the subjunctive in the subordinate clause due to their meaning, even with indications of habitual or completed actions in the primary clause. Some of these are more common than others, but they all simply need to be memorized. They are:

Conjunction Meaning
antes (de) que (before)
a menos (de) que (unless)
con tal (de) que (such that)
para que (in order to, in order that, so that)
sin que (without which, without that)
excepto que (unless)
salvo que (unless)
en caso de que (in case that, in case of which)
a fin de que (such that, with the result that)
a condición de que (on the condition that, such that)
no sea que (unless)
a no ser que (unless)
siempre que* (provided that it means ‘provided that’)

If one of these conjunctions is used after a primary clause which includes an indication of completed action (ie., a past tense), then the imperfect subjunctive will be used in the subordinate clause rather than the present subjunctive.

**siempre que* is tricky. Logically, much of the time it implies “always” or “whenever” and when used in that context, the indicative mode is used in the subordinate clause. However, language is a rich thing, and sometimes siempre que is used by native speakers to mean “provided that” or “whenever” and with that usage, it will introduce a clause in the subjunctive. I recommend you stay away from using this conjunction in your own speech and writing, but recognize it in literature.

For more examples of the Subjunctive with Adverbial Clauses, see below:

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