Variable Subjunctive

Variable Spanish subjunctive
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Subjuntivo variable

Obviousness, knowledge, and certainty are considered real – at least to the speaker – and therefore do not call for the Spanish subjunctive. Using these verbs and expressions in the negative or interrogative, however, indicates doubt: thus the subjunctive is required.

Por ejemplo …

¿Crees que él sea triste? Do you believe he’s sad?
Sí, creo que es triste. Yes, I believe he’s sad.
No, no creo que sea triste. No, I don’t believe he’s sad.

These are the Spanish verbs and phrases that may or may not be followed by the subjunctive, depending on how they’re used:

conocer (a alguien) que to know (someone) who
creer que to believe that
decir que to say that
es cierto que it is certain that
es claro que it’s clear that
es evidente que it is obvious that
es seguro que it is certain that
es una realidad it’s a fact that
es un hecho it’s a fact that
es verdad que it is true that
estar cierto que to be certain that
estar seguro de que to be sure that
pensar que to think that
saber que to know that

 In contrast, the verbs dudar (to doubt) and negar (to deny) take the subjunctive when they are affirmative, but not when they are negative.

Dudo que venga. I doubt he’ll come.
No dudo que viene. I don’t doubt that he’ll come.

Other verbs and expressions that don’t normally call for the subjunctive can also fall into this affirmative vs negative/interrogative pattern.

Hay un libro que es interesante. There’s a book that’s interesting.
¿Hay un libro que sea interesante? Is there a book that is interesting?
No hay ningún libro que sea interesante. There is no book that is interesting.
Tengo un profesor que vive en Madrid. I have a teacher who lives in Madrid.
¿Tienes un profesor que viva en Madrid? Do you have a teacher that lives in Madrid?
No tengo un profesor que viva en Madrid. I don’t have a teacher that lives in Madrid.

 More Spanish subjunctive



Spanish Subjunctive Tenses

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Spanish subjunctive

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