A conjunction joins two phrases (basically two sentences) together. The most common conjunctions are discussed in this section. In some cases, an explanation is necessary because English conjunctions don't always have exact Spanish equivalents.
Pero and mas
The conjunction pero joins two independent clauses and means “but” (as in “however”):
- Quieren asistir al concierto de Orishas pero no pueden viajar a Francia.
- They want to attend the Orishas concert but they can't travel to France.
The conjunction mas means “but” (as in “other than”). Mas is a synonym of pero. However, when the word “but” is used to indicate an exception to the norm, the word mas que is used:
- No compraría un nuevo coche mas lo necesito tanto.
- I wouldn't buy a new car but I need it so much.
- Nadie mas que Luis quiere asistir al concierto de Ranchero.
- Nobody but Luis wants to attend the Ranchero concert.
The conjunction sino means “but rather” and is only used when the first part of the sentence is negative and the second part contradicts the first:
- Shakira no canta su nueva canción en inglés sino en español.
- Shakira doesn't sing her new song in English but rather in Spanish.
If a verb immediately follows sino, it must be in the infinitive form:
- No queremos trabajar sino escaparnos a la playa.
- We don't want to work but rather escape to the beach.
If a clause that includes a subject and a conjugated verb follows sino, you must use sino que:
- Tú no hiciste tus quehaceres sino que jugaste juegos de video.
- You didn't do your chores but rather you played video games.
Another time sino is necessary is in the Spanish equivalent of the expression “not only … but also,” which is no solamente … sino también:
- No solamente los niños sino también los padres querrán ver la nueva película de Disney.
Not only the kids but also the parents will want to see the new Disney flick.
O and y
The conjunction o means “or” and is used to join two singular nouns; the subject (made up of the two nouns) is considered singular, and the verb is in singular form:
- Juan o Carlos baila el flamenco hoy.
- Juan or Carlos dances the flamenco today.
Above, the verb baila is in the él form because only one of the possible subjects is doing the action of the verb. If the nouns joined by o are both plural, however, the plural form of the verb is used:
- Mis vecinos o mis amigos cuidan a mis perros cuando viajo.
- My neighbors or my friends care for my dogs when I travel.
O changes to u when it precedes a word that begins with o or ho:
No sé si su vuelo llega a Miami u Orlando.
- I don't know if his flight arrives in Miami or Orlando.
- ¿Debo decir buenos días u hola?
- Should I say good morning or hello?
The conjunction y means “and.” It is used to create a compound subject; thus, the verb is in a plural form.
- Memo y Amberina bailan bien la salsa.
- Memo and Amberina dance the salsa well.
Above, the verb bailan is in the ellos form because the conjunction y creates a compound verb.
Y changes to e when it precedes a word that begins with i or hi:
- Lilia e Ignacio se casan este junio.
- Lilia and Ignacio are getting married this June.
- No hay nada mejor que agua e hielo cuando tiene sed.
- There is nothing better than water and ice when you're thirsty.
In a negative sentence, the conjunction ni is used as the translation for the English words “neither” and “nor.” Contrary to the English rule, in Spanish the verb with two subjects joined by ni … ni requires the plural conjugation.
- Ni Julia ni Manolo entienden la lección.
Neither Julia nor Manolo understands the lesson.
Subordinate conjunctions are followed by a dependent clause. Some common subordinate conjunctions include the following:
a condición que (under the condition that)
como si (as if [followed by past subjunctive])
con tal (de) que (provided that)
en caso de que (in case that)
por más que (no matter how much that)
Some conjunctions are always followed by the indicative because their meaning indicates a certainty of the occurrence of the verb that follows:
debido a que (due to the fact that)
desde que (since [a time when something happened])
puesto que (since [because])
The following subordinate conjunctions may be followed by either the indicative or subjunctive:
a pesar de que (in spite of the fact that)
aun cuando (even if, although)
siempre que (provided that)
tan pronto como (as soon as)
When followed by the subjunctive, the conjunction aunque is translated as “even if” because there is no certainty that the clause that follows will occur:
- La amará para siempre aunque ella se case con otro hombre.
- He will love her forever even if she marries another man.
When followed by the indicative, aunque is translated as “even though” because the indication is that the clause that follows will definitely occur:
- J.Lo no se casará con él aunque él escribió esa canción sobre ella.
- J.Lo will not marry him even though he wrote that song about her.
The conjunctions así que, de modo que, and de manera que mean “so that” and may be followed by either the indicative or the subjunctive. If the action of the main clause has not yet occurred, the verb of the second clause is in the subjunctive. The first two examples that follow show the indicative tense. The third example shows the subjunctive.
- Enviamos muchas cartas así que recibiremos algo en el correo.
- We send many letters so that we'll receive something in the mail.
- Ahorran su dinero ahora de modo que tendrán una jubilación con muchas opciones.
- They save their money now so that they'll have a retirement with many opportunities.
- Alberto rompió la carta de manera que nunca pudiera arreglarla.
- Alberto tore the letter so that he could never fix it.
The conjunction como means “in the same way as,” “like,” “as,” or “since”:
- Te amo como amo a mi hermano.
- I love you in the same way as my brother.
- Él se comporta como el diablo.
- Queremos un carro grande de manera que todos quepamos.
- We want a big car so that we can all fit.
- Como tienes 15 años, ya puedes conducir con la licencia en este estado.
Since you're 15 years old, you can drive with a driver's license in this state.
When the second clause expresses the purpose for the action of the first clause, use the conjunction para que. The verb following para que is in the subjunctive:
- Ana estudia mucho para que sus padres se sientan orgullosos de ella.
- Ana studies a lot so that her parents are proud of her.
When the second clause indicates the reason behind the first clause, use the conjunction porque. If a question includes the words por qué, the answer uses the conjunction porque:
- ¿Por qué trajiste esa maleta contigo? La traje porque tengo que salir para Chicago.
- Why did you bring that suitcase with you? I brought it because I have to leave for Chicago.
In Spanish, there are several ways to indicate an underlying reason in the way English does with the word “since.” Puesto que is generally used between two clauses when the second clause provides a reason for the first:
- No vamos al parque puesto que llueve mucho.
- We're not going to the park since it's raining so much.
Ya que can precede an introductory clause that provides the reason for the second clause. When ya que is between two clauses, the second one provides the reason for the first. Notice in the examples below that a comma is necessary when the conjunction precedes the introductory clause:
Ya que llegaste temprano, podemos tomar el próximo autobús .
- Since you arrived early, we can take the next bus.
- Podemos tomar el próximo autobús ya que llegaste temprano.
- We can take the next bus since you arrived early.
Correlative conjunctions are used together surrounding other words in a sentence. The correlative conjunctions in Spanish include:
ya … ya (whether … or [sometimes … sometimes])
no sólo … sino también (not only … but also)
no bien … cuando (no sooner … than)
tanto … como (as much … as)
apenas … cuando (scarcely … when)
Here are some other conjunctive phrases:
sin embargo (nevertheless)
entretanto que (meanwhile)
mas bien que (rather than)
mientras tanto (meanwhile)
no obstante (not withstanding)