Cuando + indicative for past events (adverbial clauses)

Cuando is always used with past tenses in the indicative to express "when something happened/has happened/had happened". We understand that these actions actually took place, there is no doubt about it.

For example:

María se enfadó mucho cuando Marcos llegó a casa muy tarde.
María got cross when Marcos arrived home very late.

Marta solía pasar el verano en Torremolinos cuando era pequeña.
Marta used to spend the summer in Torremolinos when she was a little girl.

Cuando mi novio ha llegado a casa, yo le he ofrecido un café.
When my boyfriend arrived home, I offered him a coffee.

Mi madre me llamó por teléfono cuando yo ya me había acostado.
My mum rang me when I had already gone to bed.

Cuando + subjunctive

If we use past tenses in the subjunctive with cuando, then we are not referring to past events but future or hypothetical events.

Here are some examples:

Cuando hayas vuelto de Londres podrás practicar más tu inglés.
When you return from London you will be able to practice your English more. (future event)

Ella te habría perdonado cuando tú le hubieras pedido perdón.
She would have forgiven you when you had apologised to her. (hypothetical situation)

Dijo que me llamaría cuando llegara al hotel.
He said he'd call me when he arrives at the hotel. (future/hypothetical event)

None of the above refer to actions that actually happened in the past.

See also Cuando + El Presente de Subjuntivo vs Cuando + El Presente de Indicativo

 

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Cuando hayas vuelto de Londres podrás practicar más tu inglés.
When you return from London you will be able to practice your English more. (future event)


Marta solía pasar el verano en Torremolinos cuando era pequeña.
Marta used to spend the summer in Torremolinos when she was a little girl.


Dijo que me llamaría cuando llegara al hotel.
He said he'd call me when he arrives at the hotel. (future/hypothetical event)


María se enfadó mucho cuando Marcos llegó a casa muy tarde.
María got cross when Marcos arrived home very late.


Ella te habría perdonado cuando tú le hubieras pedido perdón.
She would have forgiven you when you had apologised to her. (hypothetical situation)


Cuando mi novio ha llegado a casa, yo le he ofrecido un café.
When my boyfriend arrived home, I offered him a coffee.


Mi madre me llamó por teléfono cuando yo ya me había acostado.
My mum rang me when I had already gone to bed.


Q&A Forum 4 questions, 6 answers

cuando llegara al hotel

why is a future tense used in this sentence? could we use some of the past tenses instead?

Asked 2 weeks ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hola Emanuel

In this sentence:

Dijo que me llamaría cuando llegara al hotel.

He said he'd call me when he arrives at the hotel. (future/hypothetical event)

we are expressing something that will happen. He has not yet arrived at the hotel. It is something expected to happen soon. This is why we need the subjunctive here. 

This would be a different situation where you could use the preterite:

Me llamó cuando llegó al hotel.

He called me when he arrived in the hotel. (He did arrive)

Saludos

Inma

cuando llegara al hotel

why is a future tense used in this sentence? could we use some of the past tenses instead?

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ha llegado ... he ofrecido

Do I understand correctly that this sentence implies that it took today or even a short time ago?

Asked 2 weeks ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hola Emanuel

In this sentence:

Cuando mi novio ha llegado a casa, yo le he ofrecido un café.

When my boyfriend arrived home, I offered him a coffee.

using the present perfect implies that the speaker is not being precise about when he arrived and when she offered the coffee. It also normally implies as you say that it is something that has happened recently (today, in the last few hours) and it feels like it is still connected to the moment of speaking.

Saludos

Inma

 

ha llegado ... he ofrecido

Do I understand correctly that this sentence implies that it took today or even a short time ago?

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María got crossed when Marcos arrived home very late.

This sentence must surely read:

María got cross when Marcos arrived home very late.

Asked 3 weeks ago
ShuiKwiziq language super star

Hola Johan 

Thanks for spotting this - correcting the typo now!

Gracias

Shui

María got crossed when Marcos arrived home very late.

This sentence must surely read:

María got cross when Marcos arrived home very late.

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Only one question?? :)

Asked 6 months ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hola Nick

Sorry, technical problem. It should be ok now.

Gracias y un saludo

Inma

Still looks like just one question? 

:)

ShuiKwiziq language super star

Hola - I've got someone looking into this - will hopefully be resolved soon!

Thanks for letting us know

Saludos

Shui

Only one question?? :)

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