table of content chapter 1616.5 temporal conjunctions

chapter 16: conjunctions

  16.5 temporal conjunctions
  (quando, finché, fin quando, fintantoché, da che, da quando, dopo che, prima che, mentre, intanto che, (non) appena, ogni qual volta, ogni volta che, ora che)

Temporal conjunctions are in general easy because the temporal relationships are easy to describe. An action / event can happen before, at the same time or after another event and it can last until a certain moment or start at certain moment.

We can distinguish two types of temporal conjunctions:

a) Conjunctions which requires always the indicativo
b) Conjunctions which requires always the congiuntivo
b) Conjunctions which requires the congiuntivo depending on the context

As we already know the indicativo is used when the relationship is a real fact and not hypothetical or insecure. Take a look at this sentence.

Solo dopo che uno abbia soddisfatto i propri bisogni, almeno quelli fondamentali, uno può mettersi al servizio degli altri.
  Only after having satisfied one own needs, at least the basic ones, you can dedicate yourself to help other people.  

In English you can use the present perfect to describe an event / action already finished or a hypothetical situation, the meaning must be deduced from the context. In Italian in a hypothetical situation we must use the congiuntivo passato prossimo. In the sentence above we have a hypothetical situation, it is not known when the basic needs will be satisfied and so the congiuntivo passato prossimo is to be used (...abbia soddisfatto...).

The conjunction dopo che is followed by the passato prossimo di congiuntivo if the achievement of the events is only hypothecially assumed, the indicative if the achievement refers to the past, in other words, if it has been really achieved.

The achievement is only hypothetically assumed (congiuntivo di passato prossimo)
  La forza pubblica non può entrarvi, se non per ordine del Presidente e soltanto dopo che sia stata sospesa la seduta.
  The vigilantes are allowed to enter only if asked by the president and only after the session had been cancelled.
  The achievement is a real fact (indicativo di passato prossimo)
  Dopo che ha confessato l'omicidio dei quattro ragazzi e un vecchio tentativo di rapina l'hanno mandato in prigione.
  After he had confessed the murder of four youngsters and a more distant attempt of violation they sent him to jail.

One should see that the congiuntivo passato prossimo refers to the future, the indicativo di passato prossimo to the past.
As we have seen already in the chapter infinite verbforms a temporal clause can be substituted by an infinitive if the main stentence and the subordinate clause shares the same subject.

a) Dopo che aveva finito il suo lavoro, andò a casa.
  b) Dopo aver finito il suo lavoro, andò a casa.
  After having finished his work, he went home.

In the case of a) dopo che is a conjunction and introduces a temporal clause, in the case of b) dopo is a preposition and stands in front of a noun because the infinitive is a substantivated verb. In front of a noun only a preposition is possible, but not a conjunction. We see that more clearly if we substitute the infinitive by a noun, the constructions are the same from a grammatical point of view.

Dopo aver finito il suo lavoro, andò a casa.
  After having finished his work, he went home.
  Dopo il pranzo andò a casa.
  After dinner he went home.

We already know as well that a temporal clause can be substituted by a gerundio (which corresponds to the present participle in English, but not to a gerund). So there is a third possibility.

Avendo finito il suo lavoro, andò a casa.
  Having finished his work, he went home.

It is quite obvious that the possibility to substitute a subordinate clause with an infinitive works only if the conjunctions has a correspondent preposition (dopo che => dopo, prima che => prima).