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Spanish Lessons on the Subjunctive--In Plain English (Part II)

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Christian Food for Thought:


It was rebellion against God approximately 10,000 years ago that resulted in the destruction of a one-world language--consequences that still endure to this day. "And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language. And this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down and there confound their language that they may not understand one another's speech" (KJV, Gen. 11:5-6). It takes much time and dedication for man to learn just one foreign language; but, his Creator knows them all!

In part I of "Spanish Lessons on the Subjunctive--In Plain English," we focused on the need to use this verb tense when dealing with verbs that express expectations, doubt, the giving of advice or the making of suggestions, facts that are negated, skepticism, uncertainty, desire, need, and demands. We now move on to other times with the Spanish subjunctive should be used.

States of Mind, Bias, and Attitudes



Verbs that express a state of mind, bias or attitude against or in support of something or someone should raise a flag that the Spanish subjunctive might be needed. Some of those verbs include: alegrarse de, gustar, sorprender, temer, tener miedo de, extrañar, sentir (regret). Observe the use of this verb tense in the sample translations below:

Sentence: We are happy that you are visiting our country.
Translation: Nos alegramos (de) que Uds. visiten nuestro país.

Sentence: He's afraid his application won't be approved.
Translation: Teme que su solicitud no sea aprobada.

Remember, verbs aren't the only parts of sentences that can express a state of mind or attitude towards something. We can say things like, "It's a shame that...," or "It's useless to...." This is best demonstrated in the examples below:

Sentence: It's useless for us to try to fix the engine.
Translation: Es inútil que tratemos de reparar el motor.

Sentence: It's a pity/shame that nobody helped him.
Translation: Es una lástima que nadie le haya ayudado.

Sentence: We had better go.
Translation: Más vale que vayamos.

The Spanish Subjunctive and the Negative



Some verbs and expressions require the use of the subjunctive in Spanish only when they are negative. They include: no es verdad que, no es evidente que, no es cierto que, and no es obvio que. Again, examples are the best teachers:

Sentence: It's not true that he paid the money.
Translate: No es verdad que haya pagado.

Sentence: It's not obvious that he's deceiving the people.
Translate: No es obvio que esté engañando a la gente.

Be Careful with Creer, Pensar, and Tal Vez



These verbs sometimes fall into those gray areas, times when you don't know whether you should use the Spanish subjunctive or the indicative because it really depends on the idea you want to convey. All depends on how close to reality you want to suggest that something is. For example, if you wanted to say, "I don't think he knows the answer," you could express it as, "No creo que sabe la respuesta" or "No creo que sepa la respuesta." What is the difference? Use of the Spanish subjunctive in this case indicates that you really aren't sure whether he knows the answer or not; use of the indicative, on the other hand, indicates that, though you're not sure he knows the answer, you're pretty sure he doesn't know it.

Other Verbs and Expressions



There are quite a few other verbs and expressions that should alert you when you probably should be using the subjunctive. The include: Recomendar, prohibir, permitir, es preciso que, es importante que, no es/está seguro que, tal vez, quizá/s, es peor que, es malo que, es mejor que, es bueno que, etc.

Cheating the Spanish Subjunctive



There are quite a few times when you can "cheat" the Spanish subjunctive by taking the easy way--avoiding its use. Instead of saying, "Es inútil que tratemos de reparar el motor" you can say, "Es inútil tratar de reparar el motor."
©2011 Ana Kirk
Spanish Lessons on the Subjunctive--In Plain English (Part I)


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