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Published on: Grammar Bites

When should I use the indicative or the subjunctive?

When should we use the indicative or the subjunctive? Do they follow certain phrases or verbs?

Let’s take a look at some general uses of the indicative and the subjunctive:

We use the indicative to talk about actions, events, states which are believed to be facts or true. It is a rather objective mood. On the other hand, we use the subjunctive mood to talk about wishes, emotions, doubts, and hypothetical situations. It is a rather subjective mood.


a) Facts vs hopes and doubts:

[row][one-third]Él está triste. (He is sad.)[/one-third][two-thirds]Dudo que esté triste. (I doubt he is sad.)[/two-thirds][/row]

[row][one-third]Ella estudia español. (She studies Spanish.)[/one-third][two-thirds]Ojalá que estudie español. (I hope she studies Spanish.)[/two-thirds][/row]


b) Verbs of opinion: if our statement is affirmative, we use the indicative; if it’s negative, we use the subjunctive. (Click here to learn more about this  use.):

[row][one-third]Creo que la película es interesante. (I think the movie is interesting.)[/one-third][two-thirds]No creo que la película sea interesante. (I don’t think the movie is interesting.)[/two-thirds][/row]

[row][one-third]Me parece que tenemos tiempo suficiente. (I think we have enough time.)[/one-third][two-thirds]No me parece que tengamos tiempo suficiente. (I don’t think we will have enough time.)[/two-thirds][/row]


c) After “cuando”, “mientras”, “hasta que”, “tan pronto como”: we use the indicative when the action has taken place already or it happens regularly; we use the subjunctive when the action has not taken place yet:

[row][one-third]Nos gusta dormir la siesta cuando llueve. (We like to nap when it rains.)[/one-third][two-thirds]Me gustaría dormir la siesta cuando llueva. (I would like to nap when it rains.)[/two-thirds][/row]

[row][one-third]Vemos las noticias mientras comemos. (We watch the news while we eat.)[/one-third][two-thirds]Veremos las noticias mientras comamos. (We will watch the news while we eat.)[/two-thirds][/row]


d) Descriptions: we use the indicative to talk about specific people or things, and we use the subjunctive to talk them in general terms.

[row][one-third]Llama al profesor que sabe español. (Call the teacher who knows Spanish.)[/one-third][two-thirds]Llama a un profesor que sepa español. (Call any teacher who knows Spanish.)[/two-thirds][/row]

[row][one-third]Nuestra casa tiene vista al mar. (Our house has an ocean view.)[/one-third][two-thirds]Queremos una casa que tenga vista al mar. (We want a house that has an ocean view.)[/two-thirds][/row]