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Indicative or subjunctive? Spanish Lessons

In the previous lessons, we have gone through the basics of the subjunctive, formations of the present and the imperfect subjunctive and also the formations of present perfect and past perfect tenses.

The topic subjunctive is one of the most challenging topics of Spanish. Especially deciding whether to use indicative and subjunctive can be quite tough. It is therefore a good idea to look for some hints to make the correct decision.

The primary difference between indicative mood and subjunctive mood is that the subjunctive is used when there is uncertainty. Because of this, it is a good idea to pay attention to some phrases which are used with subjunctive or indicative.

Let us first review the situations when it is required to use subjunctive

  • If there is doubt in the expression, use subjunctive.
  • Subjunctive is used to express desires, wishes, suggestions.
  • Subjunctive is used when feelings are expressed. Or when commands and orders are made.  This use is discussed im ore detail in lessons conditional 1 and conditional 2
  • Subjunctive is also used in if clauses when telling things which are not true.

Let us review this topic by some other examples.

  •    Ella habla bien ingles porque es experto. She speaks English well, because she is an expert.

The above sentence is in indicative mood. This is a fact. But when you say, she speaks English as if she is an expert, you will use the subjunctive:

Ella habla como si fuera experta. She speaks English as if she is an expert.

  • Sé que aprobarás el exámen  I know you will pass the exam

In the first example, the speaker is sure that the other person will pass the exam, hence the subjunctive is used. But is you say “I doubt you will pass the exam” : dudo que apruebes el exámen, you should use the subjunctive.

  • Dudo que vengan I doubt that they are coming

The subjunctive is required here because the verb reflects uncertainty (doubt). Recall from the previous lessons that the present subjunctive is used if the action takes place at the same time as the main verb or it will take place in the future.

  • No hables tan rápidamente Don’t talk so fast

Subjunctive is used in the imperative mood as well.

  • Cuando termino la tarea iremos al cine. When I finish the homework, we'll go the movies.            

Subjunctive is used very often with some words like cuando, hasta que etc.


There are some fixed expressions that you should only use with the indicative. As stated in the lesson of the

introduction to subjunctive, indicative mood is used for situations where a certain statement is made. With respect to this point, you might find the information given in lesson introduction to subjunctive.

So, use the following expressions only with the indicative:

no dudar que (to not doubt that)

es verdad que (it is true that)

es cierto que (it is certain that)

es claro que (it is clear that)

es evidente que (it is certain that)

no cabe duda que (there's no doubt that)

es obvio que (it is obvious that)

no hay duda que (there is no doubt that)

estar seguro que (to be sure that)

no es dudoso que (it is not doubtful that)

And there are some typical expressions where you need to use the subjunctive mood. Below  some examples are given. 

dudar que to doubt that

a menos que unless

es dudoso que it is doubtful that

con tal (de) que provided that

cuando when

es imposible que it's impossible that

en caso de que  in case

en cuanto as soon as

es importante que it's important that

es improbable que it's unlikely that

es incierto que it's uncertain that

esperar que to wish that

es probable que it's probable that

mandar que to order that

no creer que not to believe that

no es cierto que it's not certain that

puede ser que it may be that

no pensar que to not think that

Let's Practice

For the following phrases with which mood do you think a possible sentence must be constructed with subjunctive or indicative?

All Exercises