Today we are going to take a quick look at another useful construction that is not only easy to learn but also offers us a nice alternative way to express when
Usually we consider “al”
as a contraction between “a + el”.
However, in this context “al”
functions as a preposition in its own right when followed by an infinitive.
This creates a special case construction meaning “upon doing something” or “when doing something”. Of course, that something is dictated by which infinitive we use. Let’s take a look at a few examples:
|Spanish ||Meaning |
|“Al abrir la puerta la vi a ella” ||Upon opening the door I saw her |
|“Al salir de trabajo” ||When leaving work |
|“Ha ocurrido un error al copiar este archivo” ||An error has occured while / when copying this file |
|“Me pongo caliente al correr” ||I get hot while running |
|“Al llegar a casa” ||Upon arriving home / When you get home |
Notice that in the above examples the translations result in using words like “when”, “while”, “upon” or “on” followed by a gerund. These words are largely interchangeable, as they all express the spirit of something when
it is happening.
Of course, we may still make constructions using words like cuando (when)
or mientras (while)
explicitly. For instance, the statement “Me pongo caliente al correr” could be expressed as “Me pongo caliente mientras corro”. However, the “al + infinitive”
construction offers a subtly different way to express more or less the same thing whilst (at times) depersonalising the action.
Remember: For this type of construction, al
must always be followed by an infinitive
even though the resultant translation can act as if we’ve used a gerund. Conclusion | En conclusión
Using the “al + infinitive”
construction offers us an alternative way to express when
actions are happening, which certainly helps us sound a little more natural by giving us more variety in how we might say things. In addition to this, as newcomers to the language, it offers us another way to use new verbs almost immediately without necessarily having to learn all of their conjugated forms.