5 Main Differences of Subjunctive Vs Indicative in Spanish (+ Conjugations)

5 Main Differences of Subjunctive Vs Indicative in Spanish (+ Conjugations)

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.

Let's dive in.

What is Indicative?

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.

What is Subjunctive?

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.

How is Indicative Conjugated?

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

Subjunctive Mood Conjugation

Depending on the tense and verbs, the subjunctive mood is conjugated differently.

Present Subjunctive Endings 

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

Exceptions

Here's the verb 'hablar' (to talk), which is a regular verb but in the present subjunctive is conjugated differently than its regular companions.

Hablar

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)

Quiera Queráis

Queramos Quiera

Quieras Quieran

  • When the last stem letter -e changes to -i in -ir regular verbs like in the verb ‘pedir.’

Pida Pidáis

Pidamos Pida

Pidas Pidan

  • Verbs that end in -ger or -gir, change the -g letter to -j, like in the verb 'escoger,' which means ‘to choose.’

Escoja Escojáis

Escojamos Escoja

Escojas Escoja

Past Subjunctive Endings

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

Subjunctive Vs. Indicative: 5 Main Differences

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.

Indicative is Used For Actions, Subjunctive For Thoughts

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.

Indicative Goes with ‘I Would’ And Subjunctive With ‘I Want’

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.

Indicative Are Your Actions And Subjunctive Are Other People’s Actions

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.

Indicative is Realistic While Subjunctive is Imaginative

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.

Indicative is Direct And Subjunctive is Polite

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

 What is Indicative?

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.

What is Subjunctive?

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.

How is Indicative Conjugated?

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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