How To Use the Spanish 'Cuando' as a Preposition

'Cuando' When It Means 'When' or 'During'

Windmills of La Mancha, Spain
Jon Bower at Apexphotos / Getty Images

The Spanish word cuando usually means "when" in English. In Spanish, cuando is frequently used as a preposition dealing with a time element. In English, "when" is usually used as a conjunction

Cuando can also be used as an adverb or conjunction, but let us take a deeper look at cuando as a preposition.

Cuando as a Preposition

When used as a preposition, cuando can often be translated as "when," more specifically, it can mean "during" or "at the time of." Often the sentence using cuando in this way cannot be translated word for word but must be loosely translated to indicate that something happened during the time of the prepositional object.

Cuando Meaning 'When'

oMost Spanish dictionaries will give "when" as the first meaning for cuando, because it is the most common usage. For example, La escribió cuando estudiante, which translates to, "She wrote it when she was a student." Here, cuando directly translates to the word, "when."

Cuando Meaning 'During'

In the following example, "during," is the English translation for cuando: Así fue cuando la Revolución Francesa. The sentence translates to mean, "That's how it was during the French Revolution."

Cuando Meaning 'At the Time Of'

Let's review "at the time of," as the English translation for cuando. In the sentence, Cuando las inundaciones yo era muy chica, means, "At the time of the floods I was very young."  Cuando is used to mean, "at the time of."

Similarly, the sentence, Yo era enfermizo cuando muchacho con asma, translates to mean, "As a boy I was sickly with asthma." "When," "during" or "at the time of" do not directly translate into cuando. "As a boy" implies "at the time of boyhood," here, acting as the sentence's preposition, cuando.

Cuando as an Adverb or Conjunction

Although used consistently as a preposition, cuando is used more frequently as an adverb or conjunction. When cuando is used as an adverb, the "a" in cuándo gets an accent mark. As an adverb, cuándo is a questioning "when." For example, ¿Cuándo vienes?, means, "When will you come?"

As a conjunction, cuando does not get an accent. For example, here, cuando is used as a conjunction, Acababa de acostarme cuando sonó la campana," which translates to mean, "I had just gone to bed when the bell rang."