Spanish time expressions: en, durante, desde…

spanish time expressions

Expressing when was the time that something happened can be really important. For example, imagine talking about a past event and don’t say when did it happen.

Another situation could be if you’re at school speaking to your parents and you want to go home. If you do not tell them that you want to go home now, you’ll probably have to wait a lot.

In Spanish, we have several time expressions.

One of the most typical expressions are time prepositions. These are just words like desde”, “en”, and durante”, which help you express when something happened.

Also, they can be quite helpful if you want to say how long an event lasted. Time expressions are among the top 5 things you need to learn if you seek to speak Spanish.

Keep reading this article if you want to improve your Spanish skills and learn how to use them.

What is a time preposition?

A time preposition or “preposición de tiempo” is just a word that helps us express the temporary location of an action or event.

These words are called prepositions because they, generally, go before the sentence you want to introduce. And, they are non-variable words that establish a dependency relationship.

For example, if you say “Estaré en casa mañana en la tarde” = (I’ll be at home tomorrow afternoon) the word “en” plays a key role in expressing when you’re going to be at home.

You can use time prepositions for many purposes. For example, if you want to talk about hours, time of the day, years, months, and even a season of the year, they can help you get the job done.

Let’s see some sample sentences so you can get a better idea of how we use these words in Spanish:

En verano, solemos hacer muchas excursiones.

In summer, we usually do a lot of excursions.

Durante veinte minutos, esperé un taxi.

For twenty minutes, I waited for a taxi.

Vivo aquí desde 1997.

I live here since 1997.

How to build sentences using time prepositions

Now you have an idea of what a time preposition is, it’s time to learn how to build sentences.

Below, we have listed some time prepositions that Spanish speakers use during their everyday lives.

Antes de

This preposition helps us express anteriority.

There are two ways to use this expression. First, with a verb in the infinitive form, and second, with a verb in the indicative form. However, if you want to use a verb in the indicative form, you’ll have to use the expression “Antes que” instead.

Let’s see the formulas and some examples below:

  • Antes de + infinitive/noun

Antes de salir de casa, desayuno.

Before leaving home, I have breakfast.

Antes de las comidas, leo el periódico.

Before meals, I read the newspaper.

  • Antes que + indicative

Antes que vengas, me bañaré.

Before you come, I’ll take a bath.

Después de

This preposition follows similar rules to the one we explained previously. The only difference is that we use “despues de” to express posteriority.

Let’s look at the formulas and a few examples below:

  • Después de + infinitive/noun

Después de cocinar, pongo la mesa.

After cooking, I set the table

Después de las clases, voy a jugar al tenis.

After classes, I’m going to play tennis.

  • Después que + indicative

Llegaremos a Cancún después que tomemos ese avion.

We will arrive in Cancun after we take that plane.


Frequently, we use the word “durante” to talk about time periods, holidays, or seasons of the year. The English equivalent word for “durante” is “during”.

The formula for durante” is shown below:

  • Durante + noun

Durante el verano, toco el piano.

During the summer, I play the piano.

Fui muy feliz durante mi infancia.

I was very happy during my childhood.

 Alrededor de

 We often use the expression “alrededor de” to provide information about an approximate time.

For example, if you say “estaré en la oficina alrededor de las 10:00 am” = (I’ll be at the office around 10:00 AM), the listener would not expect you to be at the office at 10 o’clock. Instead, the expectation would be after 10 o’clock or before.

We only use this preposition with seconds, minutes, or hours.

Please, see the formula and examples below:

  • Alrededor de + seconds/minutes/hours.

El agua tarda alrededor de 30 segundos en hervir.

Water takes around 30 minutes to boil.

Estuve en la cabina telefónica alrededor de 2 minutos.

I was at the phone booth for around 2 minutes.

Ellos vuelven a casa alrededor de las 4:00 PM.

They return home at around 4:00 PM.


We usually use this preposition with dates. But, there are other word combinations you can use to express time quantity or to introduce a time phrase.

Let’s see the formulas and examples below:

  • Desde + date

Desde 1950, mi abuela vive en Italia.

Since 1950, my grandmother lives in Italy

  • Desde que + time phrase/expression

Conozco a María desde que eramos pequeños.

I have known Maria since we were little.

  • Desde hace + “total” time quantity

Juego baloncesto desde hace 7 meses.

I have been playing basketball for 7 months.


This is the last preposition we are going to learn today.

The word “en” helps us when we want to provide information about time periods, seasons of the year, or holidays. Its use and formula is similar to the word “durante”.

Let’s check it out:

  • En + noun

No salgo mucho en invierno.

I don’t go out much in winter

No me gusta viajar en navidad, siempre hay mucho tráfico.

I don’t like to travel at Christmas time, there’s always a lot of traffic.

Please note that when we have a compound sentence and start the clause with a time preposition, we have to use a comma. On the other hand, if we start the clause with the main sentence, a comma isn’t necessary

You can practice with some activities, click here!

Spanish prepositions

In summary, using time prepositions isn’t a challenge. Of course, there are many more expressions, but now is your turn to be proactive.

Sometimes, you can also use the preposition “en” to describe a time period. For example, when we say “En 5 minutos voy” = (I’ll go in 5 minutes).

When using time prepositions, pay attention to what you’re trying to say. Keep in mind that they have several purposes and using the wrong expression might lead to a misunderstanding.

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