8 Types Of Spanish Conjunctions And When To Use Them
- Jada LòpezSpanish teacher, translator🎓 B.A., Translation and Interpreting English and Spanish, Universidad de Granada🎓 M.A., Formación de Profesores de Español como Lengua Extranjera (ELE), Universidad Pablo de Olavide
Passionate language teacher and translator. Wife, mother of 3 and amateur surfer.
Conjunctions are necessary if you want to learn Spanish.
Since learning Spanish conjunctions is a must, I’ll get right into it.
What is a conjunction?
A conjunction is a word that links two parts of a sentence together. They can add extra information, contrast a sentiment, and even express a timeframe.
There are two main types of conjunctions in Spanish: coordinating and subordinating conjunctions.
Each type is then further divided into subtypes, which range from words that offer alternatives to words that express a concession.
Keep reading to find out more about each type.
Coordinating conjunctions in Spanish
The first (and easiest) type of conjunction to remember is a coordinating conjunction.
Coordinating conjunctions are used in sentences to connect two or more parts of equal value together. They can add or contrast information, as well as provide alternative sentiments.
Some of the most basic words and grammatical structures are coordinating conjunctions.
Often, these words are used instinctively. Chances are, you’ll be using coordinating conjunctions in Spanish every day without even realising it!
There are three main types of coordinating conjunctions: cumulative, adversative, and alternative. The following sections offer more details on each one.
Cumulative conjunctions: Y, ni, tanto… como…
Cumulative conjunctions are the most basic type of linking words.
They give additional information in the sentence and are exceedingly common. You’ll find these conjunctions everywhere you look.
Examples of cumulative conjunctions include y (and), ni (neither), and tanto… como… (as much as). However, there are plenty more, as this table demonstrates:
|y||and||Yo estudio psicología y él estudia biología|
(I study psychology and he studies biology)
|ni||neither/nor||No tengo ni zapatos ni calcetines en el armario|
(I have neither shoes nor socks in my wardrobe)
|tanto… como…||as much as||Mi amigo tiene tanto dinero como yo|
(My friend has as much money as me)
|así como||just as much as||Me gusta el fútbol, así como el baloncesto|
(I like football just as much as basketball)
|no solo… sino también…||not just… but also…||Will es no solo mi hermano, sino también mi amigo|
(Will isn’t just my brother, he’s also my friend)
What’s curious about y, though, is that it changes to e when the next word starts with a similar sound. But if that sound is a dipthong (a double vowel sound), it stays as it is.
The examples below should clarify this:
Visité Alemania y Francia
Visité Alemania e Inglaterra
Hay bebidas y hielo en la mesa
Adversative conjunctions: Pero, mas, sino
Adversative conjunctions are the opposite to cumulative conjunctions.
They express a contradiction to the other parts of the sentence, but can also offer corrections and clarifications. They will no doubt form a vital part of your Spanish.
Let’s see them in action:
|pero||but||Me gusta el fútbol, pero hoy no tengo ganas de jugar|
(I like football, but I don’t feel like playing today)
|mas||but||Ella me llamó, mas no contesté|
(She called me, but I didn’t answer)
|sino||but (rather)||No estoy aquí para hacer amigos, sino para ganar|
(I’m not here to make friends, but to win)
There are a few things worth noting here.
Firstly, sino can only be used following a negative expression. You cannot use sino after a positive sentence, so you have to say “no” in Spanish before it can be used.
Secondly, the word mas isn’t commonly used in Spanish, because it’s considered very formal. As a result, it’s only really found in literary texts and hardly even spoken orally.
If you’d like more information on formal vs informal Spanish, check out our guide on the topic.
Alternative conjunctions: O, bien, ya sea
The final type of coordinating conjunction is the alternative conjunction.
These introduce an alternative option in a sentence and are used to offer a choice to whoever you’re interacting with. Rather than contrast statements, they provide alternatives of equal value and sentiment, but convey the idea that you can only pick a single option.
Here are some common alternative conjunctions in Spanish:
|o||or||¿Prefieres sal o azúcar?|
(Do you prefer salt or sugar?)
|bien… bien…||either… or…||Bien compras los billetes, bien te quedas en casa|
(Either you buy the tickets, or you stay at home)
|ya sea… o…||whether… or…||Londres ofrece muchas actividades, ya sea verano o invierno|
(London offers many activities, whether summer or winter)
|sea… sea…||whether… or…||Sea esta semana, sea la próxima, estaré aquí|
(Whether this week or the next, I’ll be here)
One important thing to note is that o changes to u in certain circumstances.
This change occurs in much the same way as the y to e shift, in that o will change to u when the next word starts with the same sound.
These examples illustrate this change:
No puedo eligir entre un gato o un perro.
Pues, elíge uno u otro.
Subordinating conjunctions in Spanish
While coordinating conjunctions add or contrast information of equal value in the sentence, subordinating conjunctions introduce separate clauses of lesser value, also known as subordinate clauses.
Depending on the trigger word, these subordinate clauses can come either before or after the main clause.
Now, here’s where things get a little trickier.
It’s not always the case, but it’s quite common for subordinating conjunctions to trigger the subjunctive in Spanish.
But don’t worry, as a little practice goes a long way. Soon, it will be second nature as to which conjunctions trigger the subjunctive. 😁
Without further ado, then, let’s delve into the various types of subordinating conjunctions.
Causal conjunctions: Porque, como, ya que
When you learn a language, even if you’re a Spanish beginner, you’ll no doubt want to know how to justify yourself.
If you’ve learned how to say “because”, you’ve already come across the first type of subordinating conjunction: the causal conjunction.
These indicate reasons and motives behind the sentiments expressed in a sentence. Causal conjunctions allow you to justify and rationalise your statements, giving you a useful tool to communicate your thoughts and feelings to other Spanish speakers.
There are many examples of causal conjunctions in Spanish, including:
|porque||because||Patrick se queda en casa porque no tiene dinero|
(Patrick’s staying at home because he doesn’t have any money)
|como||as||Como estoy muy ocupado, no puedo verte ahora mismo|
(As I’m very busy, I can’t see you right now)
|ya que||since||Sebastián está siempre cansado, ya que duerme muy poco|
(Sebastian is always tired, since he doesn’t sleep much)
|dado que||given that||Chris está sorprendentemente sano, dado que sólo come patatas fritas|
(Chris is surprisingly healthy, given that he only eats fries)
|visto que||seeing as||Visto que tengo más años, sería yo más alto|
(Seeing as I’m older, I should be taller)
|pues||since||Tengo hambre, pues he comido muy poco|
(I’m hungry, since I haven’t eaten much)
The seasoned Spanish learners among you might be eyeing up the que and wondering whether this triggers the subjunctive or not. Incidentally, causal conjunctions don’t trigger the subjunctive.
However, you are right to look out for the que, and we’ll now see why.
Conditional conjunctions: Si, siempre que, mientras
The subjunctive has arrived.
Conditional conjunctions are used to express sentiments of doubt, uncertainty, and possibility, which is why they need a subjunctive mood over an indicative one.
These words are frequently used with the conditional tense in Spanish, since the verbs need to be conjugated like this to express the appropriate hypothetical sentiments.
Take a look at the following conditional conjunctions and let the examples guide you through how they work:
|si||if||Si tuviera más dinero, compraría un avión|
(If I had more money, I would buy a plane)
|siempre que||whenever/as long as||Puedes salir, siempre que me avises adónde vas|
(You can go out, as long as you tell me where you go)
|mientras||as long as||Mientras estés aquí, está todo bien|
(As long as you’re here, everything’s ok)
|a menos que||unless||A menos que haya una piscina, Rosie no se quedará en el hotel|
(Unless there’s a pool, Rosie won’t stay in the hotel)
|salvo que||unless||Sebastián no irá a la fiesta, salvo que haya cerveza|
(Sebastián won’t go to the party, unless there’s beer)
|cada vez que||every/each time||Cada vez que esté en la playa, Chris se quema|
(Every time he’s at the beach, Chris burns himself)
|con tal de que||provided||Haré la tarea, con tal de que me pagues|
(I will do the work, provided you pay me)
While the conditional tense is commonly used with these conjunctions, that’s not always the case. Depending on what you’re trying to say, you can use past and present tenses too.
But always remember to conjugate the verb in a subjunctive mood.
Conjunctions of concession: Aunque, por más que, por mucho que
Next up, we have the subordinating conjunctions that express concessions.
These are used to express contradictions and are similar to adversative conjunctions. However, the main difference is that these conjunctions of concession trigger the subjunctive.
Let’s take a look at some in action:
|aunque||although||Aunque sea sábado, no quiero salir|
(Although it’s Saturday, I don’t want to go out)
|por más que||no matter how/as much as…||Por más que abro ventanas, el cuarto aún apesta|
(No matter how many windows I open, the room still stinks)
|por mucho que||however much…||Por mucho que pidas, no vas a conseguir mi número de teléfono|
(However much you ask, you’re not going to get my phone number)
Conjunctions that express purpose: Para que, a fin de que
Conjunctions of purpose express the aim or intention of the sentence.
They are great for giving reasons or justifications for your statements, much like causal conjunctions. Because of the que, these phrases trigger the subjunctive.
Let’s have a look at some of the most common examples:
|para que||so that||Tienes que comer para que puedas crecer|
(You have to eat so that you can grow)
|a fin de que||so that/in order to||Ví la película a fin de que más tarde pudiera conversar con mis amigos sin espóilers|
(I saw the film so that I could chat to my friends later without spoilers)
If you’re not comfortable with the subjunctive just yet, you can always replace para que with para for more or less the same meaning.
Using para with a verb infinitive means in order to do something.
By getting rid of the que, no subjunctive is needed. If you’re ever in doubt, this is a much easier way to use a conjunction of purpose.
Conjunctions that express time: Antes de que, cuando, hasta que
Time conjunctions are words or phrases that indicate when something happens, has happened, or will happen.
In most cases, these conjunctions trigger the subjunctive. This is because the time period being expressed is hypothetical, uncertain, or non-real.
They don’t always take the subjunctive, though, so watch out for pitfalls.
Here’s a Spanish conjunctions list of the most common time-related conjunctions:
|cuando||when/whenever||Cuando tenga más años, asistiré a la universidad|
(When I’m older, I will go to university)
|antes de que||before||Ordena tu cuarto antes de que vayas|
(Tidy your room before you go)
|después de que||after||Después de que termine el trabajo, voy a la fiesta|
(After work finishes, I’m going to the party)
|hasta que||until||Continua hasta que llegues al parque|
(Continue until you reach the park)
|en cuanto||as soon as||En cuanto le veas, dime|
(As soon as you see him, tell me)
Conjunctions are your friends
Conjunctions are conversational connectors. Without them, you won’t get far with Spanish.
I hope what I’ve shared here benefits you.
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