Subjunctive vs Indicative in Spanish: Learn How To Use Them!
Knowing how to use the indicative vs. subjunctive grammar mood is one of the most important issues in Spanish grammar.
To understand it properly, it’s not enough to learn the rules. The key is to change the way you perceive reality, the world around you.
If you already understand the difference between ser and estar or the fact that objects have a gender, you know that changing your traditional way of perceiving grammar concepts is not that difficult.
Today, I will cover what a mood is and the difference between two Spanish moods: the indicative vs subjunctive. I’ll explain the rules you need to follow to use them properly.
What Is a Mood?
A mood is an interesting grammar concept that doesn’t refer to a specific moment but how you feel and how you want your listener to feel about what you say. Still cryptic? The mood indicates for example if you feel secure about what you’re saying or you still doubt it.
There are three moods in Spanish:
1. indicative mood
2. subjunctive mood
3. imperative mood
This article focuses on indicative vs. subjunctive. Read about How to Form the Imperative Mood in Spanish.
Indicative vs. Subjunctive
The indicative mood in Spanish talks about things that are certain and objective. You’ll use it to talk about objective facts, descriptions, and other things that cannot be doubted.
In contrast, the subjunctive mood is subjective. You use it to express things that you’re not 100% sure if they’re true, real, or will ever happen. You’ll use it to talk about doubts, wishes, likelihood, and more.
Look at the following sentences:
|Indicative Mood Spanish||Subjunctive Mood Spanish|
|Tom habla español.|
Tom speaks Spanish.
|Es posible que Tom hable español. |
It’s possible that Tom speaks Spanish.
|Estoy seguro que Tom habla español.|
I’m sure that Tom speaks Spanish.
|No creo que Tom hable español. |
I don’t think that Tom speaks Spanish.
Can you spot the difference in the speaker’s attitude between the two columns?
In the subjunctive column, the speaker doubts the fact that Tom speaks Spanish. It seems possible to them, but they’re not completely sure.
In the indicative mood column, the speaker feels that the information they give is true. Although they might be wrong, this is how they feel about it.
Spanish Grammar – Subjunctive Rules
To better understand the difference between indicative vs. subjunctive, let me show you some basic subjunctive rules. If at least four of them apply, use the subjunctive mood.
1. Two Subjects
The subjunctive mood usually appears in the subordinate clause and if the subject in this clause is different from the subject in the main clause.
Yo no creo que Tom hable español.
I don’t think Tom speaks Spanish.
There are two subjects in this sentence, Yo (I) and Tom. Tom is the subject of the subordinate clause. Therefore, the subjunctive mood follows.
2. Two Verbs
Another rule that you might apply is that the sentence should have two verbs, one in each clause, but they don’t need to be different. It’s enough if the subjects are different. The verb in the main clause is in the indicative mood, and the one in the subordinate clause comes in the subjunctive mood.
Yo no creo que Tom crea en los ovni.
I don’t think Tom believes in UFOs.
3. Relative Pronoun Que or Quien
Another thing to check is whether there’s a relative pronoun que (which, that) or quien (who, that) before the subordinate clause.
No creo que Tom sea quien hable español.
I don’t think that Tom is the one that speaks Spanish.
Quiero casarme con alguien que sepa hacer pasteles.
I want to get married to someone who knows how to bake cakes.
Another rule to check is if the verb in the main clause is one of the WEIRDO verbs. WEIRDO stands for: wishes, emotions, impersonal expressions, recommendations, doubt/denial, and ojalá.
Let’s see other verbs that can be the WEIRDO verbs:
Quiero que vengas conmigo. (wish)
I want you to come with me.
Me entristece que tengas que irte. (emotions)
It saddens me that you have to leave.
No creo que Tom hable español. (doubt/denial)
I don’t think that Tom speaks Spanish.
Es bueno que sepas español. (impersonal expressions)
It’s good that you know Spanish.
Te recomiendo que veas esta película. (recommendations)
I recommend you watch this movie.
Ojalá pueda descansar el fin de semana. (Ojalá)
I hope I can rest for the weekend.
Let’s take a look at all the “weirdo” verbs that trigger the subjunctive mood.
|to ask for||pedir|
|to feel sorry||sentir|
|to get angry||enojarse|
|it is important that||es importante que|
|it is strange that||es extraño que|
|it’s easy to||es fácil que|
|it’s fantastic that||es fantástico que|
Doubts / Denial
|to not understand||no comprender|
|to not believe||no creer|
|to not be sure||no estar seguro|
|to not seem||no parecer|
|to not think||no pensar|
- hopefully – ojalá
See also: An Easy Guide to the WEIRDO Subjunctive
5. Subjunctive With Conjunctions
Certain conjunctions always trigger the subjunctive. For example:
- a fin de que – so that
- para que – so that
- cuando – when (if referring to an uncertain or future situation)
Viaja para que conozcas el mundo.
Travel so that you get to know the world.
Llámame cuando termines.
Call me when you finish.
Hand-picked for you: 9 Types of Subordinating Conjunctions in Spanish That Will Supercharge your Fluency.
When To Use the Indicative vs. Subjunctive
Remember, the indicative mood expresses things that are sure, certain, and (believed to be) true.
The subjunctive mood is all about uncertainty and doubt. It’s also not sure if the subject in the subordinate clause will complete the action.
Ask yourself the following questions to know when to use indicative vs. subjunctive rules:
- Are there two different subjects?
- Are there two verbs?
- Is the first verb a WEIRDO verb?
- Is the second clause introduced by a relative pronoun?
- Is the second clause introduced by conjunction?
Practice Indicative vs. Subjunctive Mood
Well done! The next step is to try using indicative vs. subjunctive in a conversation! Remember to practice as often as you can. This way, you’re not only becoming bilingual, step by step, you’re also working on your cognition and decision-making abilities.
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