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I translate 'whenever' using subjunctive; ie. 'whenever you want' I would translate as 'cuando quieras'. I think this is correct, possibly it isn't.

I also use subjunctive for 'do y at the specified time in the future when x becomes true'. An example is 'let me know when you are ready', which I would translate as 'díme cuando estés listo'. I also think this is correct, again possibly it's not.

However this poses a problem for me when I want to say 'do y at the specific time in the future when you want to' (ie. for the condition 'x' I now use the verb querer). An example is 'let me know when you want to go', which using the same grammar as above I translate as 'díme cuando quieras ir'. But then using my translation for 'whenever', then this means more like 'let me know whenever you want go', which I feel like has a bit of a different meaning.

Can someone explain this to me? Perhaps these two translations really mean the same thing pretty much in English and I'm just over-thinking it

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If you want to express

Tell me at what time you want to go.

you can say:

Dime cuándo quieres ir.

Note that cuándo takes an accent mark in this case because it's an interrogative clause, it will be the stressed word when pronouncing the sentence. Also, the verb is in indicative mood because we already established that you want to go, just don't know the time.

If you want to express:

The moment you want to go, tell me

you can say:

Dime cuando quieras ir

No accent in cuando. This can be more clearly stated as:

Cuando quieras ir, dime.

EDIT:

whenever you want can have different different translations, according to its meaning, for instance:

  • Cuando quieras.
  • Cuando sea que quieras.
  • Cada vez que quieras.
  • Todas las veces que quieras.

So it will "clash" with the translation for when you want only when they mean more or less the same. If you want to stress the "I don't mind when" aspect of whenever, you can use cuando sea.

Note also that whenever not always implies subjunctive. When it means every time, the subordinated sentence may be in indicative if you are not talking about the future. For instance, I searched for whenever on this site and found the following phrases:

  • Whenever I go to a restaurant I see a Libro de Reclamaciones.
  • Whenever I try to say words like perro or arroyo, I sound like I'm telling a pirate joke.

Which translate as:

  • Siempre que voy a un restaurante, veo un Libro de Reclamaciones.
  • Cada vez que trato de decir palabras como perro o arroyo, parece que estoy contando un chiste de piratas.
  • OK thank you, this agrees with my current understanding (and I didn't realise I should have tilde on the cuando with indicative so thanks) But it doesn't quite answer my question; is it true that a good translation for 'whenever you want' is 'cuando quieres'? And if so, does this usage not clash with 'dime cuando quieras ir', which I could then translate as 'tell me whenever you want to go', so a bit like 'I don't mind when we go, just tell me whenever'? – Joe May 15 '16 at 18:35
  • @Joe It's often phrased as cuando quieras. – Alejandro May 15 '16 at 18:56
  • @Joe I added more about whenever. Note also that it's not that cuándo has tilde with indicative, but when it's an interrogative clause. You can have cuando without tilde with indicative, for instance: Cuando quieres algo, lo consigues. – rsanchez May 15 '16 at 19:55
  • Thanks for the edit, you've made it very clear to me now Yes sorry I didn't mean that I thought that you should always use a tilde with cuando + indicative, I just meant to differentiate between the two cases that we had above, one with indicative and one with subjunctive – Joe May 16 '16 at 10:39
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  • when + subjunctive is used for an action you want to be done, in a certain future:

    Dime cuando estés listo para salir = You're not ready, but as soon as you are, we'll go out.

  • when + indicativo is used for a visible action in the present:

    Cuando tienes hijos ... = I have children ... (present situation)

    Notice how the meaning changes if we replace tienes by tengas:

    Cuando tengas hijos ... = I don't have them. I could have children, but I don't know.

Basically, use the subjunctive when the situation is not true in the present. Use the indicative when there's present evidence where the situation is true.

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