¡No puede ser! 10 Common Spanish Expressions of Doubt and Denial
In order to use Spanish expressions of doubt and denial you need to master first how to use the subjunctive mood. Because, in Spanish, doubt and denial are part of the weird realm of the subjunctive.
If you’re not sure about something, or better, you are sure that something is not as it seems, you need to use Spanish expressions of doubt and denial.
In this post I’ll introduce you to 10 of the most common ones, explain the relationship between them and the subjunctive mood, and I will show you the difference between the subjunctive and the indicative in these kinds of situations.
The Realm of the Subjunctive in Spanish
When you’re dealing with WEIRDO stuff in Spanish, you have to use the subjunctive.
WEIRDO is just an acronym that stands for:
Impersonal Expressions (expresiones impersonales)
Doubt and Denial (duda y negación)
For a deeper exploration of the subjunctive mood in Spanish, I strongly recommend you to read our 3-Part Series on the subjunctive.
Here, I’ll focus on the letter D of that acronym: Doubt and Denial.
Expressing Doubt and Denial With the Subjunctive
In Spanish, there are different ways to express doubt and denial, but they all make use of the subjunctive mood. Remember that the subjunctive is the realm of uncertainty, and non-real situations.
When you doubt or deny something, what you’re actually doing is questioning its connection to reality. You’re placing an uncertainty veil over it, a veil that triggers the need for the subjunctive.
Impersonal Expressions of Doubt and Denial
Take a quick look at that acronym above and notice how the letter I stands for “Impersonal Expressions.” Sometimes in Spanish, you use impersonal expressions to express doubt and denial, mixing two of the situations that trigger the subjunctive.
You can express an opinion or uncertainty by using impersonal expressions. Most personal expressions use the following formula:
es + adjective + que
Look for this structure in some of these Spanish expressions of doubt and denial that follow!
10 Common Spanish Expressions of Doubt and Denial
Now, let’s take a look at some of the most common Spanish expressions of doubt and denial. I’ve separated them for you into two categories:
Each expression includes an explanation, examples, and when possible, a comparison between the subjunctive and the indicative.
Spanish Expressions of Doubt
Use these expressions when you’re not sure that something is true.
1. No creo que – I don’t think
This expression uses a formula that you’ll use repeatedly when talking about doubt and denial:
Expression of doubt/denial + que + subjunctive
No creo que el Real Madrid gane mañana.
I don’t think Real Madrid will win tomorrow.
No creo que Miguel venga a la fiesta de cumpleaños.
I don’t think Miguel will come to the birthday party.
Now, let’s compare this Spanish expression of doubt using the subjunctive, with an expression of certainty using the indicative:
No creo que pueda correr más rápido. (subjunctive)
I don’t think I can run faster.
Creo que puedo correr más rápido. (indicative)
I think I can run faster.
2. No estoy seguro de que – I’m not sure that
To be sure of something means not having any doubt that it’s true. In consequence, not being sure about something necessarily takes you to the world of doubt and uncertainty where the subjunctive is king.
No estoy seguro de que esta sea mi mochila.
I’m not sure that this is my backpack.
No estoy seguro de que lleguemos a tiempo.
I’m not sure that we’ll arrive on time.
Subjunctive vs Indicative
No estoy seguro de que haya aprobado el examen de español. (subjunctive)
I’m not sure that I’ve passed the Spanish exam.
Estoy seguro de que he aprobado el examen de español. (indicative)
I’m sure that I’ve passed the Spanish exam.
3. Dudo que – I doubt that
What’s the simpler way to express doubt? Saying “I doubt.”
Dudo que se acuerde de mí.
I doubt she remembers me.
Dudo que quiera verte.
I doubt he wants to see you.
In this case you can’t compare it to the indicative, as the most accurate translation to express certainty in opposition to dudo que would be estoy seguro de que, which we already analyzed in the previous expression.
Strictly speaking, you could say no dudo que or “I don’t doubt that,” but this expression in Spanish still leaves the door open for a certain amount of uncertainty, which is why it remains in the subjunctive.
Dudo que sea feliz. (subjunctive)
I doubt he’s happy.
No dudo que sea feliz. (subjunctive)
I don’t doubt he’s happy. (but there’s a chance that he’s not)
4. No parece que – It doesn’t look like
Although this phrase doesn’t use the verb “to be” in Spanish (ser), it’s an impersonal expression because it lacks a subject.
No parece que haya nadie aquí.
It doesn’t look like there’s anybody here.
No parece que quieras ir.
It doesn’t look like you want to go.
Subjunctive vs Indicative
No parece que vaya a nevar. (subjunctive)
It doesn’t look like it’s going to snow.
Parece que va a nevar. (indicative)
It looks like it’s going to snow.
5. No es probable que – It isn’t probable that
On the other hand, this expression perfectly fits the common formula used to define impersonal expressions of: es (“to be” in third person singular) + adjective + que.
In this case, probable is the adjective.
No es probable que llegue hoy.
It isn’t probable that he arrives today.
No es probable que repruebe el examen.
It isn’t probable that I fail the exam.
Subjunctive vs Indicative
Because the adjective probable is by definition uncertain, the positive version of this expression also uses the subjunctive as I’ll show in the next Spanish expression of doubt.
6. Es probable que – It’s probable that
Also an impersonal expression this one keeps the uncertainty not because of a denying word, but because of the nature of the adjective.
Es probable que hoy gane el Barcelona.
It’s probable that today Barcelona wins.
Es probable que conozcas a mi hermano.
It’s probable that you know my brother.
Spanish Expressions of Denial
Use the following expressions when you need to deny something in Spanish.
7. No es verdad que – It’s not true that
This impersonal expression is one of the most common expressions of denial in Spanish. Change verdad for cierto and you have the exact same meaning.
No es verdad que el presidente pueda hacer lo que quiera.
It’s not true that the president can do whatever he wants.
No es cierto que esté enamorado de Karla.
It’s not true that I’m in love with Karla.
Subjunctive vs Indicative
No es verdad que odie la música. (subjunctive)
It isn’t true that I hate music.
Es verdad que odio la música. (indicative)
It’s true that I hate music.
8. No es posible que – It isn’t possible
With this Spanish expression of doubt and denial happens the same as with es posible and no es posible, it’s an impersonal expression that conveys uncertainty both in affirmative as in negative sentences.
No es posible que termine hoy mi tarea.
It isn’t possible that I finish my homework today.
No es posible que sea invierno otra vez.
It isn’t possible that it’s winter again.
9. Es imposible que – It’s impossible that
Expressing the same idea than the previous impersonal expression, this one is just built in a different way. Thanks to the denial meaning of the imposible adjective you don’t need to add a negative word in the sentence.
Es imposible que le gane una discusión a mi mamá.
It’s impossible that I win an argument with my mom.
Es imposible que lleguemos a tiempo.
It’s impossible that we arrive on time.
10. ¡No puede ser! – It can’t be!
This one might be the most typical Spanish expression of doubt and denial. It conveys a sense of disbelief, but also of straight denial.
¡No puede ser que haya ganado el Real Madrid otra vez!
It can’t be that Real Madrid won again!
¡No puede ser que sea viernes ya!
It can’t be Friday already!
Practice Your Spanish Expressions of Doubt
While the subjunctive may have a bad reputation—in reality, it’s your friend! It allows you to express so many things outside of the “real world,” such as Spanish expressions of doubt and denial. Practice these expressions in real life conversations, and master the ability to discuss doubt and denial in Spanish.
Sign up for a free class with a certified teacher from Guatemala and impress them with your use of the subjunctive and your wide array of Spanish expressions of doubt and denial.
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