Using the
Subjunctive
Adverb Clauses
Adverbs, remember, answer the question “where,” “why,” “how,”
“when,” “to what extent,” “under what circumstances.”
We ate before he left.
We ate . . . When? Before he left.
We cried because he left.
We cried . . . Why? Because he left.
We will cry unless he leaves.
We will cry . . . Under what circumstances? Unless he leaves.
Sometimes figuring out what question the clause answers isn’t
quite so easy, but adverb clauses usually don’t start with
que/that or quien/who, so you can pretty well bet that any
clause that starts with one of those words is a noun or adjective
clauses. Most other conjunctions—although, if, when, after,
before, until, etc.—introduce adverb clauses.
There are certain conjunctions that introduce adverb
clauses and REQUIRE the subjunctive:
a menos que
sin que
con tal que
para que
de manera que
de modo que
antes de que
unless
without
provided that
so that
so that
so that
before
According to the previous slide, “que” doesn’t
introduce adverb clauses. That’s true; “que” by itself
doesn’t. In all of these, it’s just a part of the
conjunction.
a menos que
con tal que
de manera que
antes de que
unless
provided that
so that
before
sin que
para que
de modo que
without
so that
so that
Vamos a salir a menos que nos ayudes. – We’re going to leave unless you help
us.
Vamos a salir con tal que nos ayudes.– We’re going to leave provided that you
help us.
Vamos a salir para que nos ayudes. – We’re going to leave so that you’ll help
us.
Vamos a salir antes de que nos ayudes. – We’re going to leave before you help
us.
“Sin que” is going to seem kind of strange to you, because we don’t have an
equivalent conjunction in English:
Vamos a salir sin que nos ayudes. – We’re going to leave without your helping
us.
As you can see, in English, rather than using a clause, we use a prepositional
phrase.
There are some conjunctions, called “time conjunctions,” that SOMETIMES require the
subjunctive.
después de que
hasta que
cuando
tan pronto como
en cuanto
after
until
when
as soon as
as soon as
If the action in the dependent clause has not yet occurred, it needs the subjunctive:
We will eat as soon as you arrive.
In the above sentence, you haven’t arrived yet, so “as soon as” must be followed by the
subjunctive:
Comeremos tan pronto como llegues.
He’s going to study after you leave. – Va a estudiar despues de que salgas.
You haven’t left yet.
I’m going to read until we eat. – Voy a leer hasta que comamos.
We aren’t eating yet.
However, if the action has already occurred, you use the indicative, not the subjunctive:
We ate as soon as you arrived.
You’ve already arrived, so you use the indicative, not the subjunctive:
Comimos tan pronto como llegaste.
Similarly . . .
He studied after you left. – Estudió después de que saliste.
You already left.
You may have concluded that if the verb is in the past tense, you’re going to need the
indicative. That isn’t necessarily so. Consider this sentence:
I was going to eat as soon as Juan left.
During the time frame of this sentence, Juan hadn’t left. You need the subjunctive—
imperfect subjunctive:
Yo iba a comer tan pronto como Juan saliera.
So, if the action has not yet occurred, you use the subjunctive
after the time conjunction. If it has occurred, you use the
indicative. But there’s one more consideration:
If the action occurs habitually, you use the indicative:
We always eat as soon as he arrives. – Siempre comemos tan
pronto como llega.
. . . as opposed to the following:
We’re going to eat as soon as he arrives. – Vamos a comer tan
pronto como llegue.
In the red sentence, we’re not talking about a one time
occurrence. We’re talking about something that’s a regular,
habitual occurrence. In the blue sentence, we’re talking about
a particular occasion, and on this particular occasion, his arrival
hasn’t happened yet.
Click here to go to a brief practice exercise.
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Subjunctive--Adverb Clauses