Adverbial Clauses in Spanish

Instructor: Elena Sacramento Lechado

Elena has a PhD in linguistics from University of La Laguna (Spain). Currently, she teaches Spanish as a foreign language and creates teaching resources.

Adverbial clauses are groups of words that work as adverbs, so they describe actions or add more information about a particular event. Learning about the types of adverbial clauses, including time, purpose, concessive, and conditional.

What Are Adverbs?

Before going into detail about adverbial clauses, we should start with a simple question: What is an adverb?

An adverb is a word that modifies an adjective, another adverb, or a whole sentence. Adverbs provide information about time, place, purpose or cause, among others. To put it simply, they tell us when, where, for what or why an action is taking place.

They can appear at the beginning of a sentence, in the middle or at the end. Read the following sentences. The adverbs ('tomorrow', 'over there', and 'also') are in bold.

  • Mañana iremos al cine. ('Tomorrow we will go to the cinema'.)
  • Tu libro está ahí. ('Your book is over there'.)
  • Nosotros también iremos a la fiesta. ('We will also go to the party'.)

Adverbial Clauses: Definition & Types

Now, our second question is: What is a clause? A clause is a group of words that normally depend on or are included within a bigger sentence.

So now we are ready to talk about adverbial clauses. These are groups of two or more words that function as adverbs. They are considered as a single unit and they answer questions such as 'When?', 'What for?' or 'Under what condition?'

Adverbial clauses normally consist of a preposition or conjunction + a sentence.

Let's take a close look at the types of adverbial clauses.

Time

Time adverbial clauses specify when the action took or will take place.

Helpful tip! Any group of words that you can replace by a simple adverb such as hoy ('today') or mañana ('tomorrow') will be a time adverbial clause. The most frequent ones are introduced by the following words:

Time Adverbial
Clauses
Translation
cuando when
antes de (que) before
después de (que) after
hasta que until
en cuanto as soon as
mientras while
siempre que whenever, every time that

Hago senderismo siempre que puedo = I go trekking every time I can
senderismo

Note: If these time adverbial clauses refer to an action that is complete or habitual, they will be followed by the indicative. If not, they will be followed by the subjuctive.

For example, you are talking about your typical routines and interests. You say:

  • Me gusta oír música de fondo cuando estudio. ('I like to hear background music when I study'.)
  • Hago senderismo siempre que puedo. ('I go trekking every time I can'.)

In these sentences, cuando and siempre are part of adverbial clauses. They describe routine actions, so they are followed by indicative.

In the following sentences, however, cuando and hasta que introduce an action that has not happened yet, so subjunctive is required:

  • Te llamaré cuando salga de clase. ('I will call you when I finish class'.)
  • No voy a salir hasta que termine de estudiar. ('I'm not going out until I finish studying'.)

No voy a salir hasta que termine de estudiar = I am not going out until I finish studying
studying

Purpose

Purpose adverbial clauses specify for what an action or event occurs.

Purpose
Adverbial Clauses
Translation
para for
para que so that
de manera que so, so that

Note: Para is always followed by an infinitive. The other two require subjunctive.

  • Estoy ahorrando dinero para irme de viaje. ('I'm saving up to go on a trip'.)
  • Te ayudaré para que termines antes. ('I will help you so that you will finish earlier'.)

Now think about yourself. What are you saving money up for? Why are you studying Spanish? Try to answer these questions using a adverbial clause in Spanish.

Concessive

The concessive type of clauses indicates a contrast with the other part of the sentence. That is, in spite of A, B happened.

Concessive
Adverbial Clauses
Translation
aunque although
a pesar de que in spite of, despite
pese a que in spite of, despite

Again, if we refer to an action that is complete or habitual, these expressions will be followed by indicative. If not, they will be followed by subjunctive.

A pesar de que se esforzaron, perdieron el partido = Despite their effort, they lost the match
football

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