‘mientras’ VS. ‘mientras que’

This week I visited Universidad de Alcalá (UAH) (Madrid, Spain) to attend the workshop COROLA “Copulas within and across Romance Languages”. As you can infer from the title of the workshop, it was a perfect event for me to learn more about ser and estar, the verbs around which my PhD revolves. The workshop was really interesting and I am looking forward to attending next editions!

 

After the workshop, while I was taking a night walk in this beautiful Spanish city (Alcalá de Henares), I met a group of exchange students from Ireland and UK. Their knowledge of Spanish was simply amazing. We had a great time and they also asked me a great question that I was not able to answer with ease at that moment: What is the difference between ‘mientras’ and ‘mientras que’?

So in this post I am going to explain the distinction between ‘mientras’ and ‘mientras que’ and I would like to dedicate it to these nice exchange students! It was great meeting you, people!

Let’s see. Here you have a simplified overview of the meanings.

  1. mientras + indicativo = while
  2. mientras + subjuntivo = as long as
  3. mientras (between punctuation) = meanwhile
  4. mientras que = while (with the sense of BY CONTRAST)
  5. Other considerations:
    • mientras más…, más… = the more…, the more…
    • mientras que in Latin America.

Now, let’s see explanations and remarks of these five options.

1. ‘MIENTRAS’ + verb in INDICATIVO

Example 1 (present): Mientras tú cocinas, yo preparo las bebidas, ¿vale?

Example 2 (past): Mientras tú cocinabas, yo preparaba las bebidas.

When mientras is followed by indicativo we are using “mientras” as a conjunction with temporal aspect which could be translated to English as whileLet’s see the translations:

Example 1: While you cook I (‘ll) prepare the drinks, ok?

Example 2: While you were cooking I prepared (was preparing) the drinks.

–> german_flag In German, the translation would be während.

 

2. ‘MIENTRAS’ + verb in SUBJUNTIVO

Example 1 (present): Los jóvenes pueden entrar gratis al museo mientras presenten su carnet de estudiante.

Example 2 (past): En aquel tiempo, los jóvenes podían entrar gratis al museo mientras presentaran su carnet de estudiante.

When mientras is followed by subjuntivo we are using “mientras” as a conjunction with conditional aspect which could be translated to English as as long asLet’s see the translations:

Example 1: Young people can enter the museum for free as long as they show their student card / upon presentation of their student card.

Example 2: At that time, young people could enter the museum for free as long as they showed their student card / upon presentation of their student card.

–> german_flag In German, the translation would be solange.
–> You can also say “siempre que + subjuntivo” with the same meaning: Los jóvenes pueden entrar gratis al museo siempre que presenten su carnet de estudiante.

 

3. ‘MIENTRAS’ when used alone, between punctuation

Example 1 (present): María estudia. Mientras, Laura escucha música.

Example 2 (past): María estudiaba. Mientras, Laura escuchaba música.

When mientras is used between punctuation we are using “mientras” as an adverb which could be translated to English as meanwhileLet’s see the translations:

Example 1: Maria studies. Meanwhile, Laura listens to music.

Example 2: Maria was studying. Meanwhile, Laura was listening to music.

–> german_flag In German, the translation would be mittlerweile or währenddessen.
–> You can also say “mientras tanto” with the same meaning: María estudia. Mientras tanto, Laura escucha música.

 

4. ‘MIENTRAS QUE’

Example: Mis asignaturas favoritas son inglés y español, mientras que las tuyas son Geografía e Historia.

We use mientras que for contrasting two things. It is semantically similar to “by contrast” or “while” in English. Let’s see the translation from the given example.

Example: My favourite subjects are English and Spanish, while yours are Geography and History.

The same way we can use, in English, “by contrast” and “while” for this situation, in Spanish we can use not only “mientras que” but also “mientras” (Dear reader, please, do not desperate!) So it would be also correct to say: Mis asignaturas favoritas son inglés y español, mientras que las tuyas son Geografía e Historia.

–> german_flag In German, a valid translation would be dagegen.
–> You can also say “en cambio,” with the same meaning: Mis asignaturas favoritas son inglés y español. En cambio, las tuyas son Geografía e Historia.

5. OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

5.1.  In Spanish, to express “the more he has, the more he wants” we can say it using ‘mientras’. Also, and only in this case we can use ‘cuanto’ instead of ‘mientras’. Both ‘cuanto’ and ‘mientras’ are correct but ‘cuanto’ is a little less formal than ‘mientras’.

Mientras más tiene, más desea.

Cuanto más tiene, más desea.

5.2. Although as expressed in section 4, ‘mientras que’ has only a contrastive aspect, in American Spanish you can use “mientras que” also for temporal purposes. This means that in Spain this is not correct:

*Mientras que tú cocinas, yo preparo las bebidas, ¿vale?

But it is accepted in American Spanish.

I hope this was useful. As a compact summary, we could say that…

…you should always use “mientras” unless you want to express “while” with an aspect of CONTRAST, where you can choose between “mientras” or “mientras que”.

🙂

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‘desde’ VS. ‘desde hace’

Hello!

Do you know when to use “desde” and “desde hace” when you talk about time?

Let’s think that we are in December and that we want to translate into Spanish the following two sentences:

  • I haven’t seen Maria since October.
  • I haven’t seen Maria for the last two months.

In English, as you can see, we can choose between giving an specific point of time as a reference (October) or providing a period of time (two months). In English, you use [“since”+specific point of time] and [“for”+period of time]. Right?

In Spanish, we also have both options. When you decide to go for the specific point of time, you will have to use “desde”. Instead, if you prefer to provide a period of time as a reference, you will have to use “desde hace”.

  • I haven’t seen Maria since October. –> No he visto a María desde octubre.
  • I haven’t seen Maria for the last two months. –> No he visto a María desde hace dos meses.
–> german_flag In German, we use the word “seit” in both cases (seit Oktober, seit 2 Monate).

More examples in Spanish:

– Soy vegetariana. No como carne desde 2004.

– Soy vegetariana. No como carne desde hace 15 años.

 

– Vivo en Londres desde enero.

– Vivo en Londres desde hace 3 meses.

 

– No voy al cine desde Navidad.

– No voy al cine desde hace medio año.

 

BESIDES, if you want to say “ago” in Spanish, then you will have to use “hace”. Let’s see an example:

  • I saw Maria two months ago. –> Vi a María hace dos meses.
–> german_flag In German, we use the word “vor” in this case (vor 2 Monate).

I hope this post was useful and helped you to understand the difference between “desde” and “desde hace” while talking about time. Do not hesitate to ask me any question!

‘Me alegra’ VS. ‘me alegro’

Hello there!

Many students ask me about the difference in Spanish language between ‘me alegra’ and ‘me alegro’. I am going to give you -I hope- a very easy explanation using some analogies.

  • ‘Me alegra’ works like ‘me gusta’: It works just the same way than “GUSTAR”, “ENCANTAR”, “FALTAR”, etc.

Example: Me alegra tu visita.

Something makes me happy. In this case, your visit MAKES me happy. It also works with plural if that something that makes me happy is plural: Tus canciones me alegran (Your songs make me happy).

–> Of course you can use it for all persons: (a mí) me alegra(n), (a tí) te alegra(n), (a él/ella/usted) le alegra(n), (a nosotros) nos alegra(n), (a vosotros) os alegra(n), (a ellos/ellas/ustedes) les alegra(n).
–> german_flag In German, the translation would be: Es freut mich.(Etwas produziert Freude auf mich). The example would be translated as “Deine Lieder freuen mich“.
–> Grammar: in the example “Tus canciones me alegran” we can see that “tus canciones” is the subject, and “alegrar” is working as a transitive verb.
  • ‘Me alegro’ works like ‘Me llamo’: the verb is simply reflexive.

Example: A conversation between two friends:

–  (Amigo 1) ¡He conseguido trabajo!

– (Amigo 2) ¡Me alegro!¡Yuhu!

The infinitive is “alegrarse”, just the same way as “llamarse”, so we need to use it with the reflexive pronoun (me, te, se, nos, os, se) + conjugation of the other part of the verb (alegro, alegras, alegra, alegramos, alegráis, alegran), so we will have:

–> Me alegro, te alegras, se alegra, nos alegramos, os alegráis, se alegran.
–> You can add extra information after “Me alegro” to explain why you are happy about: Me alegro por + sustantivo (Me alegro por tu nuevo trabajo), o Me alegro de que + frase subordinada (Me alegro de que tengas un nuevo trabajo).
–> german_flag In German, the translation would be: Ich freue mich (auch reflexiv auf Deutsch, oder?)
–> Grammar: as I said before, in this case we are having a reflexive use of the verb.

I hope this was useful. If you have any questions, let me know.

🙂

Double consonants in Spanish

Unlike other languages, in Spanish only 4 consonants can appear doubled up: C, R, L, N. You can remember it using the word “CaRoLiNa“.

Examples:

  • With CC: elección, dirección, acción, protección, diccionario.
  • With RR: perro, carretera, correo, barrio.
  • With LL: llave, silla, collar, amarillo.
  • With NN: connotación, perenne.

Other words like pizza or puzzle don’t attend this rule because they are loan words.

I will take advantage of this post to share with you a very famous Spanish song: CAROLINA. Band: M Clan (from Madrid, Spain). I am not a fan of this band but I think it could help you to remember about the use of double consonants in Spanish. Have fun!