There are words in Spanish which have different meanings when written with or without a written accent. Let's look at cuando vs cuándo.
Cuándo with an accent
Cuándo is used in both direct and indirect exclamatory sentences and interrogative sentences. It is generally translated as when.
¿Cuándo es tu cumpleaños?When is your birthday?
¡Cuándo acabará todo!When will all this be over!
Dime cuándo vas a viajar a Italia.Tell me when you are travelling to Italy.
Cuando without an accent
Cuando is a relative adverb. It is translated as when when it is used to introduce a subordinate clause.
Me lo propuso cuando fuimos al centro de la ciudad.He proposed it when we went to the town centre.
El día 7 es cuando se celebra el aniversario de Sandra.The 7th is when Sandra's anniversary is celebrated.
The function of the word cuándo/cuando indicates if it does or does not require a written accent. If it helps you to remember, even though the most natural translation for both is "when", translate the phrase into English and see if you can replace "when" with "at what moment in time"; if so then you know it is cuándo with the written accent. Look at these examples:
¡Cuándo acabará todo!At what moment in time will all this be over!
El día 7 es cuando se celebra el aniversario de Sandra.The 7th is at what moment in time Sandra's anniversary is celebrated.
- Cuándo = when = "at what moment in time" (interrogative and exclamative adverb)
- Cuando = when (relative adverb)
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