"Then" is one of those words that can be particularly tricky to translate to Spanish. Its meaning at times is quite vague, and Spanish makes some distinctions that English does not with time sequences. Entonces is certainly the most common translation for "then," but it isn't the only one you should use.
Here, then, are some of the most common ways that the idea of "then" can be rendered in Spanish:
When 'Then' Means 'at That Time'
The typical translation is entonces when "then" is the equivalent of "at that time."
- Later we visited the school. Then (meaning "at that time") we went to eat. Más tarde visitamos la escuela. Entonces nos fuimos a comer.
- I arrived home and then I felt something strange. Llegué a la casa y entonces sentí algo extraño.
- If I buy a house, then I will be able to keep my car in the garage. Si compro una casa, entonces podré guardar el coche en la cochera.
- If we select this hotel, then we will eat outside. Si elegimos este hotel entonces iremos a cenar fuera.
When 'Then' Means Later'
The distinction between "then" meaning "at that time and "later" or "next" isn't always distinct, but the latter is often translated as luego. So while a sentence such as "I'll do it then" could be translated as either "Lo haré entonces" or "Lo haré luego," the former suggests it will be done at a specific time, while the later suggests a later, more indefinite time.
- Then (meaning "later" or "next") we are going to the mountain region and visiting the monastery. Luego vamos a la región montañosa y visitamos el monasterio.
- The driver took us to the hotel, and then we went to the ruins of a nearby city. Nos llevó al hotel, y luego fuimos a las ruinas de una ciudad que estaba cercada.
- First we will pratice yoga, and then we will study different meditation techniques. Primero practicaremos el yoga, y luego vamos a estudiar y practicar diferentes técnicas de meditación.
'Then' Meaning 'Therefore' or 'in That Case'
Entonces is a common translation for "therefore" or phrases with similar meanings, although you can sometimes use various phrases of causation as well.
- When there is jealousy among those who profess to be religious, then there is a huge need for revival. Cuando hay celos entre los que profesan ser religiosos, entonces hay gran necesidad de un avivamiento.
- Good, then we'll leave early in the morning. Bueno, entonces salgamos temprano en la mañana.
- If an activity is dangerous, then we have to do something. Si una actividad es peligroso entonces tenemos hacer algo.
'Then' as an Adjective
When "then" is used as an adjective to refer to something that used to be, entonces can be used.
The then president, Fidel Castro, began to persecute political dissidents. El entonces presidente, Fidel Castro, lanzó una persecución de disidentes políticos.
The Bible verses refer to the then city of Babylon. Los versículos biblicos refieren a la entonces ciudad de Babilonia.
'Then' as a Filler Word or Intensifier
"Then" is often used in English sentences where it adds no substantial meaning, or sometimes for mere emphasis. If it can be omitted from the sentence, there may be no need to translate it. For example, in a sentence such as "What do you want, then?" "then" doesn't really need to be translated, as you could indicate your attitude through tone of voice. Or you could use the word pues as a similar word: Pues ¿qué quieres? Or, entonces can be used as indicated above when it means "therefore": Entonces ¿qué quieres?
'Then' in Various Phrases
Like other words that appear in idioms, "then" often isn't translated directly when it appears in a phrase, but the phrase itself is translated:
- From then on, I have been very afraid. Desde entonces tengo mucho miedo.
- Now and then it's good to pamper yourself. De vez en cuando es bueno mimarse un poco.
- It is known that the first victim of wars is truth. Then again, it is very difficult for a military authority to allow a journalist to work in its territory. Se sabe que la primera víctima de las guerras es la verdad.
- Por otra parte, es muy difícil que un mando militar deje a un periodista trabajar en su territorio.
- Back then, there were giants on the Earth. En aquellos días había gigantes en la Tierra.