Subjunctive changes the worldSooner or later, students of Spanish will crashed into the subjunctive mode of verbs. Plenty of rules to learn, many exercises to do and at the end they always make the same question: could you understand me if I don’t use the subjunctive at all?

The answer for this question is not easy. Of course, you will be able to communicate in Spanish and understand enough to meet the needs. However, is speaking a language just communicating needs? On we think it’s not.

Using the subjunctive, you can express opinions, doubts, wishes, emotions… You must speak as a human being, not like a machine.

Today we’ll learn how the use of indicative or subjunctive mode may change your world.

Firstly, some uses of the subjunctive are very fixed. You only need to learn a rule and aply it. But on the other hand, some expressions allow you the use of both mode. Obviously, depending on your choice, you will cause different reactions in people. Let’s see some examples:

Do you know what you are looking for or not?

Imagine you are in Madrid and go in a bookshop. You need a book about the history of the city. The shop assistant asks you “Buenos días, señor. ¿En qué puedo ayudarle?”. That is easy for you. Full of courage, you can reply:

  1. Busco un libro que trata de la historia de Madrid (I’m looking for a book that is about the history of Madrid). The seller will probably say: “Por supuesto, señor. Dígame el título y se lo traeré enseguida” (Of course, sir. Please, tell me the tittle and I will bring it quickly). What’s wrong with this man? Actually, I don’t know any book about Madrid!
  2. Busco un libro que trate de la historia de Madrid”. Now the answer might be: “Por supuesto, señor. Déjeme enseñarle algunos” (Of course, sir. Let me show you some of them).

Whereas in the first sentence you were talking about a specific book (the indicative verb “trata” in the adjective clause marks that), in the second one, you were referring to any book (the subjunctive verb “trate” indicates it).

Is that important or not really?

Now you are in the doctor’s office. You fell down from your bike while you were enjoying a trip. Your right arm is hurting you like hell. The doctor asks you if you can move your arm. And you reply:

  1. Sí, aunque me duele el brazo, puedo moverlo” (Yes, although my arm hurts, I can move it). After that, you will probably need an X-ray and further examinations. You might think “how well the public health works in Spain”.
  2. “Sí, aunque me duela el brazo, puedo moverlo”. Maybe, the doctor’s call will be prescribing you some painkillers and he will advise you to rest.

What happened here? The subjunctive (duela) made the doctor think that the pain is not so important; but in the first sentence (duele), you are providing a fact with emphasis. Aunque, a pesar de que, por mucho/poco que (although, in spite of, however) transmit this double idea.

Are you feeling sorry or just feeling?

You finish your day in a club and you meet a beautiful woman or man. In the middle of the conversation you ask if he or she has a partner. The answer takes you by surprise: “he/she died some months ago”. You don’t know what to say and try with:

  1. “Siento que haya muerto, de verdad.” (I am really sorry about his/her death). You will probably get “Thanks, you are very kind”.
  2. “Siento que ha muerto, de verdad”. He or she might be upset and reply: you don’t need to feel he’s dead; I’ve just told you!.

The misunderstanding here comes from the verb sentir” (to feel). This is part of a group of verbs that can be followed by a clause in indicative o subjunctive but, of course, with a different meaning: Sentir + indicative clause means “to feel, to sense”. However, sentir + subjunctive clause means “to feel sorry about something”.

You can learn how to avoid these misunderstandings. You just need to reserve some classes of our Spanish for Different Levels Course and you will learn to deal with these grammar issues. But of course, if you want to try it first, you can always book a free trial lesson here. Learning Spanish via Skype was never so easy and convenient.