Mientras with past tenses in the indicative and subjunctive (subordinate time/conditional clauses)

Mientras is used in time clauses that relate to past events as well as present events. For present events see Mientras with El Presente de Indicative or El Presente de Subjuntivo.

We use past tenses in the indicative with mientras when we want to express that two actions that happened simultaneously. For example:

Mientras tú veías la tele yo fregaba los platos.
While you watched the TV I washed the dishes.

Los niños jugaron en el parque mientras los adultos nos tomábamos un café y charlábamos.
The children played at the park while we adults had a coffee and chatted.

Mientras ella reñía a su hija, nosotras mirábamos hacia otro lado.
While she reprimanded her daughter, we looked the other way.

Su romance fue bonito mientras duró.
Their romance was nice while it lasted.

However, mientras can also be used with past tenses in the subjunctive, but the meaning will change. It no longer means "while" but "as long as/provided". They become subordinate clauses expressing a condition. In this case you can use both mientras and mientras que.

Have a look:

De pequeña, mi madre me dejaba ver la tele mientras que yo hiciera los deberes antes.
When I was little, my mother would let me watch TV as long as I did my homework first.

Yo te habría aceptado de nuevo en casa mientras me hubieras contado la verdad.
I would have accepted your return home provided you had told me the truth.

These sentences are talking about the past, with a condition, introduced by mientras/mientras que, for the main clause to be fulfilled.

Bear in mind that we could also use mientras/mientras que with a past tense in the subjunctive when referring to a future/hypothetical situation. In this case we normally find the conditional in the main clause, which gives that sense of future/hypothetical idea. For example:

 

Yo te habría aceptado de nuevo en casa mientras me hubieras contado la verdad.
I would have accepted your return home provided you had told me the truth.

Mientras + past tenses in the indicative = while 

Mientras/mientras que + past tenses in the subjunctive = as long as 

 See also Mientras with El Presente de Indicative or El Presente de Subjuntivo

Learn more about these related Spanish grammar topics

Examples and resources

Mientras tú veías la tele yo fregaba los platos.
While you watched the TV I washed the dishes.


Yo te habría aceptado de nuevo en casa mientras me hubieras contado la verdad.
I would have accepted your return home provided you had told me the truth.


Javier sería más cariñoso con su novia mientras ella le hiciera más caso a él.
Javier would be more affectionate with his girlfriend as long as she paid more attention to him.


De pequeña, mi madre me dejaba ver la tele mientras que yo hiciera los deberes antes.
When I was little, my mother would let me watch TV as long as I did my homework first.


Su romance fue bonito mientras duró.
Their romance was nice while it lasted.


Los niños jugaron en el parque mientras los adultos nos tomábamos un café y charlábamos.
The children played at the park while we adults had a coffee and chatted.


Mientras ella reñía a su hija, nosotras mirábamos hacia otro lado.
While she reprimanded her daughter, we looked the other way.


Q&A Forum 1 question, 2 answers

Mientras y mientras que

It says in the lesson that you can use "mientras" or "mientras que" with the subjunctive to mean "as long as" or "provided that". Is there any difference between these two forms?

Asked 3 months ago
InmaKwiziq language super star

Hola Allison

No, they are interchangeable. They both convey the same when they mean "as long as".

One is not more formal than the other, and they are used equally. 

Saludos

Inma

Thank you!

Mientras y mientras que

It says in the lesson that you can use "mientras" or "mientras que" with the subjunctive to mean "as long as" or "provided that". Is there any difference between these two forms?

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