Hola, amigos de “Andrés Aprendes”! Today, we’re diving into an exciting aspect of Spanish grammar that often confuses even advanced learners: the difference between using indicative and subjunctive moods in relative clauses. If you still don’t know the conjugations of subjunctive mood, make sure you check out Conjugating the Present Subjunctive in Spanish. Understanding this distinction can significantly enhance your fluency and help you communicate more precisely. So, grab your notes, and let’s clear up the confusion together!

Understanding Indicative and Subjunctive in Relative Clauses

Relative clauses in Spanish allow us to provide additional information about a noun, and choosing between the indicative and subjunctive moods depends on the certainty or reality of the situation we are describing. For example: El vestido que llevabas era muy elegante. In this sentence, “que llevabas” is a relative clause that add information to specify what dress.

Indicative in Relative Clauses

As in the previous example, “llevabas” is conjugated in indicative mood. We use this indicative mood when talking about known, certain, or definite situations. It’s your go-to mood when the existence or identity of the noun you are referring to is not in question.

  • Example: “Busco un hotel que tiene piscina.” (I am looking for a hotel that has a pool.)
    Here, the speaker knows such a hotel exists or has specific hotels in mind.

Subjunctive in Relative Clauses

In contrast, the subjunctive is used when the situation is uncertain, hypothetical, or not yet realized. This mood is typically used when the speaker is talking about a non-specific entity or one whose existence is in doubt.

  • Example: “Busco un hotel que tenga piscina.” (I am looking for a hotel that has a pool.)
    This implies the speaker does not have a specific hotel in mind and is uncertain whether such a hotel exists.

When to Use Indicative vs. Subjunctive

The choice between these moods can be tricky, but here’s a simple guideline:

Indicative: Use it when the noun you are describing is definite or specific.

Subjunctive: Use it when the noun is indefinite, unknown, or part of a broader, non-specific search or wish.

More Examples

Indicative: “Quiero comprar la casa que tiene un jardín grande.” (I want to buy the house that has a large garden.)

The house is known and specific, and its existence is certain.

Subjunctive: “Quiero comprar una casa que tenga un jardín grande.” (I want to buy a house that has a large garden.)
The house is not specified, and its existence as described is uncertain.

Why Understanding This Matters

Mastering the use of indicative and subjunctive in relative clauses not only improves your grammar but also enhances your ability to express nuances in wishes, needs, and descriptions. It’s about painting a more detailed picture of your thoughts and intentions, which is a hallmark of advanced language proficiency.

So there you have it! With practice, you’ll start to feel more comfortable distinguishing between scenarios that call for indicative versus those that require the subjunctive. Keep practicing, keep learning, and as always, enjoy the beautiful journey of mastering Spanish. ¡Hasta la próxima, amigos!


Elige el modo verbal correcto en cada situación.

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