Indicative or Subjunctive in Spanish Grammar

Introduction

Spanish learners have to master the difference between the indicative mood and the subjunctive mood. The indicative expresses facts and the truth. The subjunctive follows specific verbs and expressions that express wishes, hopes, personal opinions and feelings.

Learn Spanish grammar with Lingolia. In this section, you will find a comparison of the Spanish indicative and subjunctive mood. In the exercises, you can practice the difference between the indicative and the subjunctive.

Usage

Indicative

  • to express something that is true, or a fact
    Example:
    María se alegra.Maria is happy.
  • after verbs of speech and thought in their positive form
    Example:
    Creo que María se alegra.I believe that Maria is happy.
  • after the expressions cuando, mientras, hasta que, tan pronto como…, if the action has already taken place or takes place regularly.
    Example:
    Esperé hasta que viniste.I waited until you came.
    Estoy muy a gusto cuando hablo contigo.I feel truly at ease when I speak with you.
  • to describe someone or something specific
    Example:
    Busco a una persona que habla español.I’m looking for a person who speaks Spanish.

    Someone told me earlier that there’s someone here who speaks Spanish. I’m looking for this exact person.

Subjunctive

  • after certain words that indicate wishes, hopes, doubts, or feelings
    Example:
    Ojalá María se alegre.Hopefully Maria will be happy.
    Quiero que María se alegre.I want Maria to be happy.
  • after verbs of speech and thought in their negative forms
    Example:
    No creo que María se alegre.I don’t think Maria is happy.
  • after the expressions cuando, mientras, hasta que, tan pronto como…, if the action has not yet taken place.
    Example:
    Esperaré hasta que hayas venido.I will wait until you arrive.
  • to describe an unspecified person or thing
    Example:
    Busco a una persona que hable español.I’m looking for a person who speaks Spanish.

    I need someone who knows Spanish – anyone at all who can speak Spanish.

  • imperative for the 3rd person singular/plural in the positive form, as well as for all persons in the negative form
    Example:
    Juegue/Jueguen a la lotería.Play the lottery!
    No juegues con fuego.Don’t play with fire!
  • in subjunctive expressions
    Example:
    Cueste lo que cueste.Cost what it may.
    Como tú quieras.As you wish.
    Lo que tú decidasWhatever you decide.
  • after certain expressions (see list)
    Example:
    Llama antes para que no pierdas el tiempo en la sala de espera.Call me first, so that you won’t waste any time in the waiting room.

To Note

There are certain verbs and expressions after which we have to use the subjunctive. We’ve summarised them in the following lists:

Conjugation of Verbs in Spanish Indicative or Subjunctive Mood

In the Indicative Tenses and Subjunctive Tenses sections of the website, you can find detailed information about how the tenses are conjugated in both the indicative and the subjunctive.

Converting Indicative to Subjunctive

Sentences can be written in either the indicative or the subjunctive in Spanish. However, there are not as many tenses in the subjunctive as there are in the indicative. Therefore, one subjunctive tense always corresponds to multiple indicative tenses. For example, sentences in the present or future indicative would both be expressed using the present subjunctive. Information that would normally be expressed by the verb tense in the indicative is expressed by time specifications, such as dates or adverbs of time.

Example:
Creo que María se alegra. (indicative, present)I think María is pleased
belief about the present
No creo que María se alegre. (subjunctive, present):I don’t think María is pleased.
belief about what might happen in the future
Creo que María vendrá mañana. (indicative, future)I think María will come tomorrow.
belief about the future
No creo que María venga mañana. (subjunctive, present)I don’t think María will come tomorrow.
belief about the future

The following table shows which tenses to convert and how.

example indicative subjunctive example

Creo que María se alegra.I think María is pleased.

present present

No creo que María se alegre.I don’t think María is pleased.

Creo que María vendrá mañana.I think María will come tomorrow.

future

No creo que María venga mañana.I don’t think María will come tomorrow.

Creo que María llegó ayer.I think María came yesterday.

preterite imperfect

No creo que María llegara ayer.I don’t think María came yesterday.

Creo que María siempre llegaba puntual.I think María always came on time.

imperfect

No creo que María siempre llegara puntual.I don’t think María always came on time.

Pensé que María llegaría hoy.I thought María would come today.

conditional

No pensé que María llegara hoy.I didn’t think María would come today.

Creo que María ya ha acabado.I think María is already done.

perfect

perfect

No creo que María ya haya acabado. I don’t think María is already done.

Creo que María habrá acabado a las diez.I think María will be done at 10 o’clock.

future perfect

No creo que María haya acabado a las diez.I don’t think María will be done at 10 o’clock.

Creí que María ya había llegado. I thought María had already arrived.

past perfect past perfect

No creí que María ya hubiera llegado.I didn’t think María had already arrived.

Creo que María habría venido a las diez.I think María would have come at 10 o’clock.

conditional perfect

No creo que María hubiera llegado a las diez.I don’t think María would have come at 10 o’clock.