I'm trying to express the following with the verb laugh:

Given a certain condition (that has not been met yet), I will be happy.


When she laugh, I'll be happy.

However, I'm unsure if the verb goes like above or with the "s", as in "laughs"? I feel like "laughs" suits this sentence:

When she laughs, I'm happy.

But that is not the meaning I want to convey.

I know that many times, there's more than one answer, so I'm happy to hear all opinions regarding informal and formal conjugations. If it helps in any way, this is what I'm trying to say in Spanish:

Cuando (ella) ría, seré feliz.

  • 1
    English no longer uses subjunctive that way. The present subjunctive form is now identical to the infinitive form, and only occurs in idiomatic fixed phrases, or with a small set of verbs. One way we do this in English is to say If she smiles, I'll be happy; using if prevents the repetitive reading of when that means whenever she smiles; and it also implies she hasn't smiled yet. Not really subjunctive, but then English doesn't really have anytning like the number of subjunctive forms and uses that Spanish does. Feb 22, 2014 at 17:58
  • Archaic usage: Did she laugh, I were happy. ("Had she laughed, I would have been happy.")
    – Robusto
    Feb 22, 2014 at 18:07
  • Modern aphorism: If she laughs, you live. Feb 22, 2014 at 20:44
  • 2
    Are you perhaps thinking of the subjunctive, expressed as: 'Were she to laugh, I would be happy'?
    – WS2
    Feb 22, 2014 at 21:12

1 Answer 1

When she laughs, I'll be happy.

describes something that will happen in the future. You're waiting for her to laugh, and then you will become happy. Also, the use of when rather than if suggests an expectation that it will happen; if is used when you're unsure of whether it's likely. E.g. you would say when the sun rises, but if it rains.

When she laughs, I'm happy.

describes an ongoing, general condition. Whenever she has laughed in the past, or will laugh in the future, you have been or will be happy as a result.

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