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Spanish is considered one of the easiest languages to learn.
Its pronunciation is relatively easy, especially with Spanish tongue twisters, grammar doesn't give you a headache, and there are many English words in Spanish so as far as we are concerned, you already have some vocabulary.
But like any other language, in Spanish, too, you can find some quite challenging parts that can take a while while you understand them and use them properly.
That is subjunctive and indicative in Spanish.
Spanish learners usually know what are subjunctive and indicative and when to use them in theory but the problem appears when it comes to practice.
That's why we will explain to you the difference between subjunctive vs. indicative in Spanish and show you examples of how and which one to use in particular situations.
We are more than sure that Spanish tutors will explain all this much better but if you want to impress someone right away keep reading and learning right now.
Let's dive in.
Indicative is a grammatical mood used when we talk about real and objective things. It is used in everyday conversations.
Most tenses in English and Spanish as well are in the indicative mood.
Example: Yo tengo un perro.- I have a dog.
The subjunctive is a grammatical mood that expresses uncertainty, desire, doubts, or any other subjective type of expression.
To understand the subjunctive mood in Spanish, the English equivalent can be helpful.
English has past and present subjunctive moods.
From the example below, let's take a look at the subjunctive:
If I were young again, I’d do things differently.
Since indicative mood is all about true actions and events, it is used in all three tenses, past, present, and future.
Therefore, it is formed the way tenses themselves are formed.
Past tense, indicative mood: hablé, aprendí, vivía
Present tense, indicative mood: hablo, apprendo, vivo
Future tense, indicative mood: hablaré/ voy a hablar, aprenderé/ voy a aprender, viviré/ voy a vivir
Depending on the tense and verbs, the subjunctive mood is conjugated differently.
On the subjunctive stem, we add different endings.
Subjunctive endings of regular verbs:
ar regular verbs
yo e nosotros emos
tú es vosotros éis
usted, él, ella e ustedes, ellos, ellas en
ir regular verbs
yo a nosotros amos
tú as vosotros áis
usted, él, ella a ustedes, ellos, ellas an
Here's the verb 'hablar' (to talk), which is a regular verb but in the present subjunctive is conjugated differently than its regular companions.
Yo hable Nosotros hablemos
Tú hables Vosotros habléis
Usted, él, ella hable Ustedes, Ellos, Ellas hablen
There are also many regular verbs where stem endings change in the subjunctive mood.
Here are several examples:
When the letter -e in the last syllable of the stem changes to -ie or -o to -ue.
Querer (to love)
When the last stem letter -e changes to -i in -ir regular verbs like in the verb ‘pedir.’
Verbs that end in -ger or -gir, change the -g letter to -j, like in the verb 'escoger,' which means ‘to choose.’
Interestingly, the past subjunctive has no irregular verbs.
It is formed of the third person plural in the preterit tense. They mainly end in -ron.
Remove that ending and add the following endings to the verb.
Yo - ra Nosotros -ramos
Tú - ras Vosotros -rais
Él, Ella, Usted - ra Ellos, Ellas, Ustedes -ran
Now that you know the general definitions and meanings of the two moods, as well as how to conjugate them correctly, we can continue to learn about the 5 main differences between indicative and subjunctive, that is, which ones when to use.
The indicative mood is used to express some real actions. Those are verbs we learn from the beginning, the verbs in past, present, or future tenses.
On the other side, there is the subjunctive mood, in which you can't express actions, only to express your thoughts and opinions about those actions.
Indicative: Ellas van al doctor.- They go to the doctor.
Subjunctive: Es importante que ellas vayan al doctor.- It’s important that they go to the doctor.
Like in English, the conditional tense in Spanish is used in the indicative mood.
Therefore, the phrase 'I would...' in English, which is an equivalent for conditionals in Spanish goes with indicative.
Example: Yo haría lo mismo en su situación.- I would do the same in her situation.
The 'If...' sentences are often followed by the subjunctive mood, precisely the past subjunctive. It means that when you want to express things with 'if...' sentences, you use the subjunctive.
Example: Si él tuviera que mudarse, se iría a Madrid.- If he had to move, she’d go to Madrid.
It is essential to mention that in sentences where you want to express something that you want, especially if you have the word 'que' (that), you use the subjunctive mood.
Example: Yo quiero que tú me hables.- I want you to talk to me.
In cases when you talk about actions, it is essential to pay attention to which actions precisely they are. Even though there can be some wishes, if there is an action we are talking about, then you use the indicative.
If you take a look at the following example, it will make more sense.
Yo quiero viajar a Francia.- I want to travel to France.
When you talk about other people's actions, you use subjunctive words like in the following example.
Yo quiero que mi hermana viaje a Francia.- I want my sister to go to France.
There are some cases when we use indicators that aren't really objective situations. If those situations, however, are realistic, the usage of the indicative is justified.
Here's an example:
Si llueve, no iremos a la playa.- If it rains, we won’t go to the beach.
Subjunctive, on the other hand, likes imaginary or even impossible situations, like in the following example:
Si lloviera, no iríamos a la playa.- If it rained, we wouldn’t go to the beach.
Perhaps you won’t see, at first sight, but there is a slight difference between these two examples.
The first example shows the real situation, while the second one shows something we can imagine to happen, which seems like a possibility.
You surely already know that imperative is used for commands. In other words, that is the indicative mood.
Pásame el sal.- Pass me the salt.
Subjunctive, on the other hand, is used for more formal and polite situations, such as in the following example:
Quisiera que me pase el sal.- I would like for you to pass me the salt.
Yes, subjunctive vs. indicative in Spanish, can be challenging to understand, especially when there are slight differences in some situations.
Also, knowing the basics, in this case, what is the purpose of the indicative and the subjunctive moods can also be very helpful in better understanding.
So, that’s why our goal was to make it clear with these main differences once and for all so that when you start speaking with Spanish tutors, you don’t have to feel uncomfortable and insecure about picking the right mood.
Indicative is a grammatical mood used when we talk about real and objective things. It is used in everyday conversations. Most tenses in English and Spanish as well are in the indicative mood. Example: Yo tengo un perro.- I have a dog.
The subjunctive is a grammatical mood that expresses uncertainty, desire, doubts, or any other subjective type of expression. To understand the subjunctive mood in Spanish, the English equivalent can be helpful. English has past and present subjunctive moods. From the example below, let's take a look at the subjunctive: If I were young again, I’d do things differently.
Since indicative mood is all about true actions and events, it is used in all three tenses, past, present, and future. Therefore, it is formed the way tenses themselves are formed. Past tense, indicative mood: hablé, aprendí, vivía Present tense, indicative mood: hablo, apprendo, vivo Future tense, indicative mood: hablaré/ voy a hablar, aprenderé/ voy a aprender, viviré/ voy a vivir
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