Indicative and subjunctive in Spanish; this is the topic that is always present in our Spanish lessons for different levels at Spanishviaskype. When an intermediate level student starts learning the subjunctive, he or she realizes that sometimes the differences between the indicative and subjunctive in Spanish are very fine.
It is possible to find sentences in which the use of both verb modes is correct. So there are no mistakes, right? It is true that we would not make a grammatical error, but we would make a communicative error. This is because the difference between these two verb modes in such sentences is in the intention of the speaker. Today we are going to see some of these examples.
Indicative and Subjunctive in Spanish: aunque
Among the connectors used with indicative and subjunctive in Spanish, aunque is one of the most complicated to understand. This conjunction introduces an obstacle, difficulty or contrast between the main proposition and the subordinate one. When we use indicative, we express that the information we are offering is real, we are sure of it and, furthermore, it is relevant to understand the main proposition:
Aunque el subjuntivo es difícil, no es imposible de aprender.
In this sentence, the teacher is trying to encourage the student, but being realistic: you can learn the subjunctive, but it will be a complicated task.
However, if we use the subjunctive, either we are not sure of the information offered, or we want to play it down, since we put the focus on the main proposition.
Aunque el subjuntivo sea difícil, no es imposible de aprender.
Now the teacher is much more optimistic and wants to downplay the difficulty. The only important thing is that it is not impossible to learn.
Relative pronouns in the indicative and subjunctive moods
Other of the most curious subordinate propositions that are formed with indicative and subjunctive in Spanish are the adjective or relative propositions. These propositions are formed by a relative pronoun (que, quien, cual, cuyo…) and complement a previous word called antecedent.
When the antecedent is real and specific for the speaker, the adjective proposition uses the indicative:
Busco un chalé que tiene jardín y piscina.
This situation, probably in a real estate agency, would have the following response from the agent: Tell me the address and we will invite you to visit it. The client already knows which villa he wants, maybe he has already seen it or has been told about it.
However, if we use the subjunctive, the situation changes completely:
Busco un chalé que tenga jardín y piscina.
In this case, the agent could answer: here is a catalog with three villas that meet these requirements. Which one do you like the most? The client does not have a villa in his mind, only the features he wants.
How to use como: cause and condition
The connector como can also be used with indicative and subjunctive in Spanish. But the use of one or the other mode will totally change the perspective of the sentence.
If we use the indicative, we will express the cause of the main proposition. Therefore, it is a known and real information:
Como mi amigo no tiene dinero, lo ayudaré.
My friend does not have a good financial situation; this is something I know and it is the reason why I am going to help him.
On the other hand, if we use the subjunctive, we include a condition for the main action to be fulfilled. But that condition is something that has not yet been fulfilled in the present, so it is not real information.
Como mi amigo no tenga dinero, lo ayudaré.
I don’t know if my friend has money, but if he doesn’t, I’m going to help him.
As you can see, the indicative and subjunctive in Spanish is not always a matter of correctness or error, but of the intention of the speaker. If your intention is to learn these differences in more depth, don’t hesitate to reserve a trial lesson via Skype: the subjunctive will have no mysteries for you.