Shortened Dependent Clauses in Spanish Grammar

Just here for the exercises? Click here.

What is a shortened dependent clause?

Shortened dependent clauses (abreviación de oraciones) can be formed using a verb in the infinitive, gerund or participle form.

Learn how to abbreviate dependent clauses in Spanish grammar with Lingolia, then practise in the interactive exercises.


Ayer vi varias ovejas pastando en una pradera.

Estaban muy entretenidas comiendo hierba y moviendo las colitas.

Al acercarme, tres ovejas vinieron hacia mí. Después de mirarme un rato, se pusieron a comer hierba otra vez.

Cansadas de comer, se echaron en la hierba todas a la vez.


Certain types of dependent clauses can be shortened by using a preposition and an infinitive.

Cuando me acerqué, tres ovejas vinieron hacia mí.
Al acercarme, tres ovejas vinieron hacia mí.As I approached, three sheep came towards me. (subject clause)
type of dependent clause dependent clause with… short form
temporal antes de quebefore antes de + infinitive
hasta queuntil por
cuandowhen al
después de queafter después de
modal sin quewithout sin
comosince, because al
final para quein order to para
a fin de quefor the purpose of a fin de
con el fin de quefor the purpose of con el fin de
causal porquesince, because por
puesto quesince, due to por
ya quenow that, since por
conditional en caso de quein the case that en caso de
siempre queevery time that con
a no ser queunless de
concessive a pesar de quealthough a pesar de
aunquealthough a pesar de


We can use the gerund (gerundio) to construct dependent clauses when the subject is the same in both the main clause and the dependent clause, and when the action in the dependent clause happens at the same time as or as a result of the action in the main clause.

Las ovejas estaban ocupadas comiendo hierba y moviendo las colitas. The sheep were busy eating grass and wagging their tails.

After verbs of perception or description (ver, describir, representar...), however, the gerund can also refer to the object.

Ayer vi varias ovejas pastando en una pradera. Yesterday I saw several sheep grazing in a meadow.

I wasn’t grazing in the meadow; the sheep were.

Spanish has many expressions and phrases that can be used with an elliptical clause (a shortened clause with a gerund), for example:

Spanish English
Considerando que… Considering that…
Suponiendo que… Supposing that…
Cambiando de tema,… Changing the subject, …
Fuimos a Madrid pasando por Zaragoza. We drove to Madrid by way of Zaragoza.
Pensándolo bien … On second thought…
Aun sabiendo… Even knowing that…
Salió corriendo. He/she left at a run.


We use the participle to express anteriority – one action happening before another. In this case, that means the action in the elliptical clause took place before the action in the main clause. The participle is variable (it agrees in number and gender with the word it’s referring to).

Cansadas de comer, las ovejas se echaron a la hierba.Tired from eating, the sheep lay down in the grass.

See also

For more information on usage and construction, see Infinitive and Participle/Gerund in the verbs section of the site.