Using the Subjunctive in Pending Action Clauses
Aside from using the subjunctive to express a wish, desire, need, recommendation, emotional reaction, denial or doubt on the part of one subject about another, it can also be used in clauses of pending action.
By pending action, I mean, in clauses in which the outcome of one action relies on another action.
Ex: I will call you as soon as my mom gets home.
The phone call cannot be made until something else happens first: as soon as this person’s mother gets home.
The action of telephoning is relying upon another action, a pending action. If one action cannot be completed until another action occurs, then you have a pending action clause.
Some key words or phrases which indicate pending action are:
Cuando – when
Tan pronto como – as soon as
Hasta que – until
Después de que – after
Any action that is pending, or has yet to occur MUST be indicated using the subjunctive mood. Be aware that your key word or key phrase will always be followed by the subjunctive.
Cuando volvamos a casa, te llamaremos.
When we get home/ return home, we will call you.
(obviously, if we are not home we cannot call!)
Me acostaré tan pronto como termine corregir las tareas de mis estudiantes.
I will go to bed as soon as I finish correcting my students’ homeworks.
(if I haven’t gone to bed yet, then I haven’t finished correcting!)
Ellos no saldrán hasta que estén listos.
They will not leave/are not going to leave until they are ready.
(if they haven’t left yet, then they are not ready!)
Después de que abra el restaurante, nos reuniremos allí.
After the restaurant opens we will meet there/ We’ll meet there after the restaurant opens.
(if we have not met yet, then the restaurant has not yet opened)
Vamos a estudiar mucho antes de que llegue la fecha del examen final.
We’re going to study a lot before the final exam date arrives/ before it is time to take the final.
(the day of the final isn’t here yet, and we haven’t studied, but we plan to study before it does get here)