Spanish expressions: En cuanto…

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En cuanto is one of the most used phrases in Spanish. It is common thanks to the different ways we can use it. En cuanto works as a conjunctive locution and as a prepositional locution. For some Spanish learners, using en cuanto seems a bit complicated. So, they prefer to replace it with, respecto a, sobre, acerca de, and other alternatives. Replacing en cuanto isn’t always the best choice as this Spanish phrase enhances your speaking and helps you attract your audience’s attention. In this brief explanation, you will learn the uses of en cuanto and how you can make out the most of it in an easy and fast way.


What is en cuanto?


If you want to understand where this phrase comes from, you first need to know the meaning of “cuanto”. In Spanish, cuanto works as an adjective or as a pronoun. We can use it when we want to state the totality of expressed elements. Besides, you can also use it to introduce a sentence that indicates a quantity that depends on another. Spanish speakers often to ask for something’s price/value by asking “Cuanto cuesta?” (How much is it?)


With the meaning of cuanto in mind, let’s talk about the phrase en cuanto. En cuanto is a conjunctive phrase or locution. This sentence introduces a fact to state that something happens immediately afterward. Or, that it occurs simultaneously with something else. For example,


Él hizo una fiesta en cuanto se marcharon sus padres de viaje.

He threw a party as soon as his parents left on their trip.


¿Puedes chequear al bebé en cuanto puedas? Por favor.

Can you check on the baby as soon as you can? Please.


En cuanto is the Spanish equivalent to the English “as soon as”. One thing to avoid when using this phrase is the word “que”, followed by cuanto. Using keep will add a temporal value to the expression. As a result, we would have the expression “en cuanto que”.


En cuanto indicates that something or someone is, or acts, in the condition previously mentioned. For example,


Yo solo lo conozco en cuanto amigo o persona, quisiera saber tu opinión en cuanto médico. / I only know him as a friend or person, I would like to know your opinion as a doctor.


How to use en cuanto


In Spanish, we can use the phrase en cuanto as a temporary conjunctive locution or a causal conjunctive locution. When we want to refer to the temporal conjunctive, this can mean tan pronto como, which in English is like “as soon as”. On the contrary, when we can refer to the causal conjunctive, this is like porque. This is like “because” in English.


Here are some examples of each case.


En cuanto salga de aquí, voy a visitar a mi novia para hacerle compañía.

As soon as I get out of here, I’m going to visit my girlfriend to keep her company.


Ellos se volvieron exitosos en cuanto grabaron sencillos con letras muy originales.

They became successful as soon as they recorded singles with very original lyrics.


En cuanto also works as a preposition, and when we put it in front of a noun without a certain one, It has the meaning of como or en calidad de. For example,


Si la cirugía es tan peligrosa, en cuanto para poner en riesgo su vida, es mejor que no se haga.  If the surgery is so dangerous as to put your life at risk, it is better not to have it done.


In these cases, it can also appear followed by the conjunction que. For example,


El asunto le preocupa bastante, lo normal en cuanto que abogado.

The matter worries him a lot, which is normal as a lawyer.


Finally, you can use en cuanto as a prepositional phrase. This means, that we could use it as an alternative to “por lo que se refiere a” and “en lo que respecta a.” Let’s see the following example.


En cuanto a la tarea, debe ser entregada máximo el día viernes. / As for homework, it must be handed in no later than Friday.


En cuanto and en tanto


Spanish-speaking people often use the phrase en tanto as equal to the meaning of “en calidad de”. Over time, we were able to show that this meaning is incorrect. However, en tanto is a construction whose meaning varies according to the meaning of the sentence. Therefore, the correct meaning for en tanto would be “mientras que”.


Now, let’s see an example with en tanto,


En tanto permitamos esto, seguirán llegando tarde al trabajo sin excusa alguna. / As long as we allow this, they will continue to be late for work without any excuse.


Anyhow, this is not the only way we can use en tanto. We can use it as meaning or equal of como. Here is an example,


Nosotros delegamos nuestro poder, en tanto pueblo, a nuestro gobierno. / We delegate our power, as a people, to our government.


As you can see, the expression en tanto can mean en el aspecto en que, mientras, como. On the other hand, en cuanto can mean, mientras, al punto que, tan pronto como. However, as much as we use both of them in different ways, we can use both in a single sentence, one after the other.


When we speak of en tanto en cuanto as a single sentence, we speak of a conjunctive locution. This has its meaning, the extent to which or how much, and we use it to introduce a reason that justifies a statement. For example,


Una ley tiene fuerza en tanto en cuanto es justa. / A law has force as long as it is just.


Esa mujer será dócil en tanto en cuanto nadie la humille. / That woman will be docile as long as no one humiliates her.


Please note that Although using en tanto en cuanto is possible, it’s not common at all. Generally, you will hear this structure from pretty well-spoken people. These days, native speakers don’t use it frequently at all.


Generally speaking, you can use verbs in the subjunctive and the indicative with en cuanto. When the main clause is a command or in the potential future, en cuanto requires the subjunctive. Whereas, when the action in the subordinate clause is habitual or in the past, it takes an indicative. Therefore, en cuanto is a phrase that we cannot conjugate, it does not depend on gender or number. So, it will be easier for you to learn, you just have to keep in mind what you have learned and start practicing.



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