Spanish words: “Mientras…”

mientras spanish words 1

Learning how to use the Spanish word “mientras” is always a bit of a challenge for Spanish learners. It’s because even though we use “mientras” as an equivalent to “while” very often, it has many other different uses.

The way we use “mientras” will depend on the structure of sentences and the Spanish tense we use to build them.

At this point, you probably only know Spanish indicative conjugations. However, we can also conjugate verbs in the subjunctive form.

In this article, we will explain many uses of  “mientras” and we will give you a short introduction to conjugations in the subjunctive form.

Simultaneous events using “mientras”

Frequently, we use “mientras” to talk about simultaneous events. After all, that’s how you use “while” in English. When we talk about actions that happen simultaneously, they can be in the past tense, present tense, or a combination of future and present tenses.

If you want to talk about two events that happened at the same time in the past, you have to use the following formula:

Past continuous + “mientras” + past continuous.

In some situations, we can also use the simple past tense to build sentences using “mientras”. Yet, native speakers frequently use the formula we showed above.

Since we need to use the past continuous tense, you can’t forget to use the gerund.

Here are some examples:

Sofía estaba hablando por telefono mientras estaba conduciendo.

Sofía was talking on the phone while she was driving.

Ví a Ana mientras tomaba una cerveza en Barcelona.

I saw Ana while having a beer in Barcelona.

If you want to express that two events happen simultaneously in the present time, you have to use the formula shown below:

Simple present + “mientras” + simple present

In this case, we generally use the simple present tense but we can also conjugate verbs in the present progressive tense. Still, using the present progressive tense isn’t that common.

Let’s have a look at the following examples:

Carolina escucha música mientras cocina

Carolina listens to music while cooking.

Rafael está jugando fútbol mientras yo espero en el parque.

Rafael is playing soccer while I wait in the park.

Yo voy a comprar algo de tomar mientras tu haces la cola para entrar al concierto.

I’m going to buy something to drink while you stand in line to enter the concert.

Finally, we can mix the future tense and the simple present tense to build sentences using “mientras”. In this scenario, we express that something will happen in the near future while another thing is happening right now.

Let’s see how we should do it by looking at the examples below:

Iré al baño mientras tú me esperas aquí.

I’ll go to the bathroom while you wait for me here.

Vigilaré tu bolso mientras tú hablas con el director.

I’ll watch your bag while you talk to the director.

“Mientras” to express a condition

“Mientras” is also helpful to express conditions. Nevertheless, here’s when subjunctive conjugations come to play.

In this context, you have to use the following formula to get the job done:

Simple future + mientras + Simple present subjuntive.

You should know that we can also conjugate Spanish verbs in the present, imperfect past, and simple future tenses using the subjunctive form. Yet, with “mientras”, we only use the present tense.

Here are some examples:

Saldré mientras haga un buen clima.

I’ll go out while the weather is good.

No aprobarás el examen mientras no estudies lo suficiente.

You will not pass the exam until you study hard enough.

Aceptaré tu oferta mientras me pagues lo que prometes.

I will accept your offer as long as you pay me what you promise.

Placing “mientras” in a sentence

In most cases, we place “mientras” in the middle of the sentences. Above all, we use it as a connection word.

Placing “mientras” in the middle is indeed common, but we can also begin the sentence using “mientras”. The only thing you must keep in mind is that if you start a sentence using “mientras”, using a comma will be necessary.

We will place the comma right after the sentence following “mientras”.

Consequently, each formula would look like this:

“Mientras” + past continuous + comma + past continuous.

“Mientras” + simple present + comma + simple present.

“Mientras” + Simple present subjunctive + comma + Simple future.

Let’s see some other examples:

Mientras yo pueda salir con mis amigas, tú puedes salir con tus amigos.

As long as I can go out with my friends, you can go out with your friends.

Mientras tú estudias, yo trabajo.

While you study, I work.

Mientras Carla y Tomás estaban de fiesta, yo estaba estudiando para mi examen final.

While Carla and Tomás were partying, I was studying for my final exam.

Spanish important words

Generally speaking, we can say that “mientras” will always be equivalent to “while” unless you use it to express a condition.

If you want to express conditions, “mientras” will be equivalent to “as long as”, “unless”, or “only if”.

Also, keep in mind that conjugations in the indicative form and the subjunctive form are different. Thus, conjugating verbs properly is key to making the best out of “mientras”.

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