Subjunctive conjugation in Spanish
This is a bit embarrassing, but even though I'm at level 21 (and I used to have a 274 day streak until a while ago), I have still not figured out the subjunctive form fully. It still trips me up quite a bit, and it'd be great and really helpful if someone could give a rather detailed explanation.
For example, almost all Spanish resource websites introduce the subjunctive with "watch out for certain terms (markers) like 'dudar', 'es posible que', 'es bueno que'" etc., or to be on the look out to see "expressions of doubt" or "opinions" in the sentences, but it's not always that straightforward as it is made out to be... As an example, I've seen the sentence "¿Piensas que ella vaya a ganar?" Here, none of the "markers" above exist, yet the use of "vaya" is in subjunctive form. How is the previous sentence different from "¿Piensas que ella va a ganar?"? And what are the situations where one would use the subjunctive form without any of the obvious "markers" being present in the sentence?
Grammar wise.... Pensar que or Creer que always go with indicative... But in your example (piensas que ella vaya a ganar), it is a "question", that expressed a feeling of doubt or uncertainty ... This is where subjunctive goes.
Now its also possible that when i say.... Piensas que ella va a ganar... is still correct (but not a question).. because the way I say it, is that I am expressing something here with confidence....
You can learn subjunctive at a slow pace or one at a time. But us, as a students of spanish, we will start to learn it by following the subjunctive GRAMMAR rules, meaning we are BY THE BOOK.
When to use subjunctives still depends on the situation or it depends how the person expresses himself. So most of the times, you will wonder why the rules are not followed especially by the natives.
When you talk to natives, observe how they use it. While in reading articles, subjunctives are used normally by following the grammar rules (antes de que, aunque, a menus que etc etc...)
I suppose that's the best way to figure it out: talking to the natives. I'm not much of a grammar book person, unless I want a quick remedy for insomnia. :P But, do you mean to say that subjunctives almost always are followed by the so-called markers (antes de que, dudar que etc.), and the one example I gave above is an exception?
Also, what exactly does the sentence above with "vaya" convey? That the speaker wishes or hopes that "ella will win", or s/he is unsure if "ella will win"?
Yes... talking about grammar rules subjunctives are followed by the so called markers... you will notice those especially when reading an article. But when communicating, do not ever depend on grammar rules instead observe how the natives express themselves when saying it.... (I say it again cause thats how I learn it one step at a time)
Te compras un libro acerca de "Español Subjuntivo" cuando tengas dinero (Cuando)
Cada vez que vea a tu enemigo, lo de un punetazo (Cada vez)
Quizas nos conozcamos pronto (Quizas)
No te rindas!, lo lograras pronto. (Command that starts with "NO")
Read the above sentences to your friend and with feeling and you will know what I mean... (lol but seriously)
The answer to your 2nd question is .... she/he is unsure if "ella will win"
Don't worry if the subjunctive trips you. There are many books about the subjunctive in Spanish. Honestly I never heard of the subjunctive until I started to learn Spanish grammar. So I've been basically using it in English, reading and writing using many tenses without being consciously aware of the subjunctive. So while I may pay attention to the past, conditional and the future. I'll just use the perfect present, perfect past, etc. but I won't study them. There are many grammatical terms that I never heard of until I began learning Spanish. I've come to the realization that learning grammar, is a different endeavor.
I know that doesn't particularly answer your question but . . . here's a link that may help. The Spanish Subjunctive Explained + W.E.I.R.D.O System (awesome little mnemonic device for dealing with the subjunctive in Spanish) Also note, you may find more for questions like this on wordreference.com. Try to ask the question en español si puede
You're totally right about learning grammar being a completely different endavour. While English is not my native tongue, since I've almost always spoken in English from my childhood, all the English grammar rules have been "programmed" into my head, and I just know how to string together the right words that make sense. I had a passive knowledge about a few grammatical terms in English, but I only really started to understand them in an academic way when I started learning Spanish (!!!).
And thank you for the link, that rule is something I've never come across before! So, if I were to ask a girl out in my awkward, yet weirdly charming (but subjunctive-impoverished) Español, should it be: "¿Quieres salir conmigo?" or "¿Quieras salir conmigo?"? Does the latter express "recommendation/desire/wish", or do social factors also play into the equation, like "there is doubt being expressed in the sentence, therefore he is not a confident person and probably not worth dating"? These are the kind of questions on the subjunctive that keep me up at night. :P
Subjunctive needs a change in subject and 'que'. So your example of "Quieres salir conmigo" (You want to go out with me) does not use the subjunctive. However, the sentence "Quiero que (tú) salgas conmigo" (I want that you go out with me or I want you to go out with me) will use the subjunctive.
(Notice one one side of the 'que' the subject is I and on the other side the subject changes to you.)
If you are asking a girl out, please use "¿Quieres salir conmigo?" or "¿Querés salir conmigo?".
"¿Quieras salir conmigo? is not well formed but you could say "¿Quisieras salir conmigo?"
At last "¿Quiero que salgas conmigo?" may sound a little bossy.
Of course you can correct me or improve my english
I personally would have picked ¿Quieres...? because it it the conjugation I am most familiar with. What conjugation is Querés? I'm not familiar with it, but am guessing it may be conjugated for vos? (Indicative present?)
I agree with you on ¿Quiero que salgas conmigo? - I want you to go out with me - it sounds bossy in English too.
BTW, your English is great. I wouldn't have noticed that you were non-native if you didn't say anything. But since you asked, I would have used "Finally" instead of "At last". It is a slightly better word choice, but there is nothing wrong with what you wrote.
I think it's possible to get too weighed down by the details. It's more important to recognize the subjunctive when you see/hear it than to know exactly when to use it when writing/speaking. (In real life, that is. Exams and academia are another matter.) There are multiple "right" ways to say the same thing--or at least multiple ways that native speakers will understand and use themselves.
Compare these two sentences, for instance: "We will understand if he says it that way." and "We would understand if he said it that way." The first is future tense and present, the second conditional and subjunctive. Both are acceptable in everyday speech and most native English speakers would be hard pressed to tell the difference.
To use your example, "Piensas que ella vaya a ganar?" (I'm pretty sure) would be "Do you think she shall win?" while "Piensas que ella va a ganar?" would be "Do you think she will win?" Can you explain in English the difference between "shall win" and "will win"? I can't--I know that there is a difference and in some formal writing I would use "shall win", but I couldn't offhand tell you when or why.
Yeah, you're absolutely right! It's probably very easy to overthink it; it's about the only thing that consistently keeps tripping me up in Spanish. While I can recognise the subjunctive, I almost always mix it up when I try to use it in a sentence myself.
Your example of everyday speech gave me a bit of relief! My current goal in Spanish is to just attain a level at which I can carry on a conversation with natives (without sounding like a bumbling idiot), I'm not looking too far ahead into going down the academic/grammar route.
But, in my example... because there is an absence of the usual markers (wish/desire/doubt), how are we supposed to interpret the mood of the speaker? That s/he wishes/desires for "ella" to win, or s/he is not sure if "ella" will win?
I think that "Piensas que ella vaya a ganar?" expresses desire or doubt, either on the speaker's part or asking about desire/doubt on the part of the person being questioned. "Piensas que ella va a ganar?" is only asking about fact, or rather a prediction of fact. I did a web search on "piensas que ella vaya" and "piensas que vaya" (without the pronoun) and while there aren't many examples at least one seems to express doubt, if not scorn, and another desire.
The use of "markers" is helpful but possibly misleading. The presence of a marker is useful, but the absence doesn't necessarily mean anything given the tendency of natural language to imply rather than state things. "If" is a marker for the conditional in English, but "I would die for my country" is still conditional even though the marker is absent. "If it were necessary" is implied, not stated.
"The Spanish Subjunctive Up Close" by Eric Vogt. One of the books in the McGraw-Hill Practice Makes Perfect series. Worth every dime I spent at Barnes & Noble.
Something interesting about pensar and crear is that in the positive they usually take the indicative, but in the negative they usually take the subjunctive. If I were presented with the sentence "pienso que....", I would normally follow it up by the indicative.
Memorization is not an efficient means of understanding a language. Every construction in every language has a particular purpose, and if you understand that purpose, you understand the construction even when you see it in a situation that you did not memorize, e.g., without one of the particular markers you learned as a list. This point is particularly emphasized in Language Transfer YouTube series that I absolutely recommend you to check out, since it covers subjunctive very extensively.
Subjunctive describes feelings. Indicative describes facts, or things treated as facts. That is actually all there is to it. Whenever you see a subjunctive form, you have to think "there is an emotion attached to this statement".
¿Piensas que ella va a ganar? is a question about an objective fact, very much a "yes-or-no" situation.
¿Piensas que ella vaya a ganar? is an expression of doubt, weakly tied to a question. The actual answer is probably not even all that important to the speaker, they just want to express their uncertainty about her being able to win.