How to reply? Subjunctive vs. Indicative?

How and when to use the subjunctive in Spanish

How do you use the subjunctive in Spanish? The transcript for this videopodcast is here.

This might be an issue when learning about subjunctive mood vs. indicative mood. So far you have been using the indicative mood, right? «It was not so bad after all, Carmen». Yes, this is what students think when they bump into subjunctive. “The sub… what?” “Is this really a tense you use in every Spanish-speaking country?” Classic question from my students to see if there is a chance they can skip it. “Is this maybe a formal thing?”


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No. First of all, it is not a type of tense, it is a type of mood. Spanish has three moods: Indicative, subjunctive, and imperative. Inside of them, there are tenses. The fact you think the indicative was not so bad after all is just an unrealistic thought. Deep inside you know it was a bit of a nightmare with all the irregular verbs in the pretérito indefinido, right? Come on! 

Let me refresh your mind.
The indicative mood has irregular verbs, yes, but you have been learning them, and feeling more a more confident with those irregular ones. Indicative is your «comfort» zone. «No, Carmen, not so comfortable» hahaha. Now you are starting to remember! Suddenly, you realize there is another mood that is not the indicative mood, the useful Subjunctive mood in Spanish Grammar. In fact, let me ask you this: had you ever known you were learning only the indicative tenses all the way here? Probably no.

When you study Spanish, you all start with just the indicative mood. It contains the present, pretérito imperfecto, pretérito perfecto simple, pretérito indefinido, … yes, all that crazy past tenses are there.

In this video, I am going to give you rules about when to use it in a specific context related to when you answer someone’s question. In this context, your tendency will always be indicative, unless you know this valuable piece of information. 

The use of the present subjunctive here is the key to being generous, and polite. The difference between indicative and subjunctive here changes what you mean, and I know you want to mean right. Although, I will also explain the tone, which is also essential here. Check it out!