Navigating Subjunctive and Indicative Moods: A Detailed Analysis for Language Learners

Grover Laughton8 min
Created: Oct 12, 2023Last updated: Mar 1, 2024
Indicative vs Subjunctive Spanish

Whether you’re just beginning your journey into the Spanish language or you’ve been exploring its intricacies for some time, grasping the subjunctive vs indicative case is a crucial milestone in your language-learning adventure. In this comprehensive guide, we aim to unravel the complexities of these two grammatical moods, providing information that will benefit learners of all levels. So buckle up, and let’s dive right into it.

Indicative vs Subjunctive Spanish: General Information

Before learning the differences between these two important moods, it is essential to discuss each of them separately. Below, you will find all the details about subjunctive and indicative moods in Spanish, with their definitions and examples.

What is the Indicative in Spanish and When to Use It

The Spanish indicative is the most common grammatical mood used to express certainties, objective information, and straightforward statements. It is used in contexts where the action or situation is presented as a known fact or reality. 

The indicative mood is employed in independent clauses, where the information is treated as certain and factual. Verbs in the indicative mood are conjugated according to tense and subject, following standard rules. It serves as the default mood for conveying objective information, making statements, asking questions, and reporting events in everyday communication. Here is when you need to use indicative in Spanish:

  • When expressing concrete information or stating facts that are known or believed to be true. 

El sol sale por la mañana. (The sun rises in the morning.)

La Tierra gira alrededor del sol. (The Earth orbits around the sun.)

Los humanos necesitan agua para sobrevivir. (Humans need water to survive.)

  • When narrating events, describing actions, or conveying information.

Ayer fui al mercado y compré frutas. (Yesterday, I went to the market and bought fruits.)

Ella trabaja en una oficina y visita a clientes todos los días. (She works in an office and visits clients every day.)

Los estudiantes estudian para sus exámenes durante la semana. (The students study for their exams during the week.)

  • When talking about habitual actions, routines, or repeated events.

Siempre estudio por la tarde. (I always study in the afternoon.)

Todos los domingos, mi familia come juntos. (Every Sunday, my family eats together.)

Cada mañana, él corre en el parque. (Every morning, he runs in the park.)

Spanish verbs have various tenses in the indicative mood, each conveying a different time frame. Here are some indicative Spanish examples:

  • Present Indicative (Presente Indicativo) – used for actions happening in the present or expressing general truths.

Ella trabaja en una oficina. (She works in an office.)

Ella estudia español todos los días. (She studies Spanish every day.)

Ellos viven en una casa grande. (They live in a big house.)

  • Past Indicative (Pretérito Indefinido) – conveys completed actions in the past, often with specific time references.

Ayer comí pizza. (Yesterday, I ate pizza.)

Él compró un regalo para su hermana. (He bought a gift for his sister.)

Visitamos París el verano pasado. (We visited Paris last summer.)

  • Imperfect Indicative (Pretérito Imperfecto) – describes ongoing or habitual actions in the past, providing context or background information.

Cuando era niño, jugaba en el parque. (When I was a child, I used to play in the park.)

Mientras estudiaba, mi hermano miraba televisión. (While I was studying, my brother was watching TV.)

Siempre íbamos de vacaciones a la playa. (We used to always go on vacation to the beach.)

  • Future Indicative (Futuro Indicativo) – expresses actions that will happen in the future.

Mañana viajaré a Madrid. (Tomorrow, I will travel to Madrid.)

Ellos estudiarán medicina en la universidad. (They will study medicine at the university.)

En diez años, tendré mi propia empresa. (In ten years, I will have my own company.)


What is the Subjunctive in Spanish and When to Use It

The Spanish subjunctive is a grammatical mood that expresses various degrees of subjectivity, uncertainty, doubt, desire, necessity, and hypothetical situations. It is characterized by its use in contexts where the action or situation is not presented as a fact or certainty but rather as a subjective or speculative concept. 

The subjunctive mood often appears in dependent clauses, introduced by certain conjunctionsverbs, or expressions that trigger its use. In contrast to the indicative mood, which deals with objective facts, the subjunctive conveys the speaker’s emotions, intentions, and the subtleties of interpersonal communication. Here are the main situations when you need to use subjunctive words Spanish:

  • When the speaker wants to convey a sense of doubt, uncertainty, or subjectivity.

Dudo que él venga. (I doubt that he is coming.)

No estoy seguro de que ella lo sepa. (I’m not sure if she knows it.)

Es posible que llueva mañana. (It’s possible that it will rain tomorrow.)

  • When expressing desires, hopes, or wishes.

Quiero que tú seas feliz. (I want you to be happy.)

Quiero que tú vengas a la fiesta. (I want you to come to the party.)

Ojalá que tengamos un buen viaje. (I hope we have a good trip.)

  • When indicating necessity, obligation, or requirement.

Es necesario que estudies para el examen. (It’s necessary that you study for the exam.)

Ella debe que llegar a tiempo. (She must arrive on time.)

Es importante que todos sigan las reglas. (It’s important for everyone to follow the rules.)

  • In if-clauses and hypothetical scenarios.

Si yo fuera rico, viajaría por el mundo. (If I were rich, I would travel the world.)

Aunque llueva, iremos al parque. (Even if it rains, we will go to the park.)

Si tuviera más tiempo, aprendería otro idioma. (If I had more time, I would learn another language.)

The subjunctive mood is primarily found in dependent clauses, which rely on an independent clause to form a complete thought. Subjunctive-dependent clauses are commonly introduced by phrases or conjunctions that trigger the subjunctive. Common triggers include verbs of desire, doubt, necessity, and certain conjunctions like “que” (that).

Tips for Understanding the Difference Between Subjunctive and Indicative

As you can see, both of these grammar moods serve different purposes and vary depending on many factors. However, it might still be difficult to distinguish them in real-life situations. Therefore, we’ve created a list of useful tips that will help you easily choose between indicative or subjunctive.

  • You will typically use the indicative mood in simple sentences with only one verb because there is no need to express doubt or uncertainty.

Él come pizza. (He eats pizza.)

Ella estudia español todos los días. (She studies Spanish every day.)

Él vive en Madrid. (He lives in Madrid.)

  • When both verbs in a sentence refer to the same subject, you will generally use the indicative mood.

Yo quiero estudiar español. (I want to study Spanish.)

Nosotros viajamos y exploramos diferentes países. (We travel and explore different countries.)

Él trabaja en la oficina y luego va al gimnasio. (He works in the office and then goes to the gym.)

  • When two verbs appear in a sentence separated by “que,” and the first verb expresses emotion or desire, use the indicative for the first verb and the subjunctive Spanish examples for the second.

Me alegra que tú vengas. (I’m glad that you are coming.)

Espero que ellos lleguen a tiempo. (I hope that they arrive on time.)

Me entristece que ella no pueda venir. (It saddens me that she can’t come.)

  • If the first verb expresses certainty or a factual statement, use the indicative mood for both verbs.

Sé que tú hablas español. (I know that you speak Spanish.)

Afirmo que él llegó temprano. (I affirm that he arrived early.)

Es cierto que ellos tienen razón. (It’s true that they are right.)

  • When the first verb conveys doubt, uncertainty, or desire, use the subjunctive for the second verb to indicate the hypothetical nature of the action.

Dudo que él venga. (I doubt that he is coming.)

No estoy seguro de que ellos aprueben el examen. (I’m not sure that they will pass the exam.)

Dudo que ella venga a la fiesta. (I doubt that she will come to the party.)

These tips, when combined with practice and exposure to various sentence structures, will help you make more accurate choices between the subjunctive and indicative moods in Spanish. 

Deciphering Subjunctive and Indicative Moods with Promova

Learning grammar moods in any language is quite a challenging topic. Therefore, it is essential to have access to various resources that can simplify this task. If you struggle to find one that suits you best, don’t worry; we’ve got you covered. The Promova app is a perfect solution for those aiming to learn a new language. Why should you give it a try?

  1. To access engaging interactive lessons created by true language professionals.
  2. To enjoy learning English, Spanish, French, German, Korean, and other languages.
  3. To track your progress and follow your goals.
  4. To study anywhere and anytime you want. 

The Promova application is available for both iOS and Android devices, and you can install it in a matter of seconds. But remember that practice makes perfect – only a few minutes every day can significantly impact your learning. Install the Promova app today and start your path toward your language-learning goals!


And that’s it for today! We hope that after reading this article, you’ve not only learned when to use indicative or subjunctive Spanish but also understood the key differences between these two moods. This information will be helpful in your future studies. Now, please write your thoughts about today’s article in the comments section. And don’t forget to use the Spanish subjunctive mood!


What are some common mistakes Spanish learners make when it comes to subjunctive and indicative moods?

Spanish learners often encounter common challenges and make mistakes when distinguishing between subjunctive and indicative moods. It includes overusing the indicative, incorrect use of subjunctive triggers, using subjunctive for statements of fact, and using wrong tenses in specific contexts.

Are there any specific rules for conjugating verbs in the subjunctive mood?

Conjugating verbs in the subjunctive mood involves different endings than in the indicative mood. While there are regular patterns, there are also many irregular verbs. It is essential to keep that in mind for proper usage of the subjunctive mood.

Can you provide examples of sentences where the choice between subjunctive or indicative changes the meaning?

Sure! Take a look at these two sentences:

  • Sé que él va a la fiesta. (I know that he is going to the party.)
  • Dudo que él vaya a la fiesta. (I doubt that he is going to the party.)

In the first case, we see the example of indicative mood. This sentence states a fact; the speaker knows for sure. In the second sentence, the subjunctive mood indicates doubt; the speaker is uncertain.

Are there any specific expressions or trigger words that signal the need for the subjunctive mood?

Certain words, phrases, and expressions often signal the need for the subjunctive mood. These include “espero que” (I hope that), “dudo que” (I doubt that), “ojalá que” (I hope that, I wish that), “a menos que” (unless), “aunque” (although, even if), and other similar expressions.


Luca MayNov 7th, 2023
This article is a lifesaver for anyone struggling with indicative and subjunctive moods in Spanish. Very clear explanations!