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Common Adverbial Clauses & the Subjunctive in Spanish

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Ashley Zehel

Ashley has a M.A. in Spanish as well as a B.S. in Foreign Language Education. She has taught K-12 and now teaches college level.

Many adverbial clauses in Spanish require the use of the subjunctive, while others depend on the tense of the main clause. This lesson explores how to tell when to use the subjunctive or indicative with adverbial clauses.

Subjunctive & Adverbial Clauses

Just how adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs, adverbial clauses are clauses that modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs. They describe when, where, why, or how something happens. These clauses are often followed by a verb in the subjunctive, but there are some instances where the indicative is used. We'll explore the conjunctions that indicate the use of adverbial clauses and their meanings.

While the subjunctive can be used to indicate wishes, emotions, opinions, doubts, and requests, in this lesson, we'll be focusing on using the subjunctive in cases where something is not certain to happen, like talking about hypothetical situations.

Conjunctions in Adverbial Clauses

All of these conjunctions require the verb that follows them (in the adverbial clause) to be in the subjunctive mood. They all indicate uncertainty or hypothetical situations.

  • a menos que - unless

Voy a pedir pizza a menos que no haya hongos hoy. I am going to order pizza unless they don't have mushrooms today.

  • antes de que - before

Come la pizza antes de que salgas a jugar. Eat your pizza before you go out to play.

  • con tal de que - provided that

La pizza solamente va a costar cinco pesos con tal de que acepten el cupón. The pizza is only going to cost 5 pesos provided that they accept my coupon.

  • en caso de que - in the event that

Vamos a otra pizzería en caso de que no acepten el cupón. We're going to another pizzeria in the event that they don't accept my coupon.

  • para que - so that

Llama a la pizzería para que empiecen a hacer la pizza. Call the pizzeria so that they start making the pizza.

More Conjunctions

The next set of conjunctions may use the subjunctive or the indicative for the verb in the adverbial clause. There's a pretty simple way to break this down:

If the action in the main clause hasn't happened yet, use the subjunctive. How will you know if it hasn't happened yet? If a future tense is used in the main clause! This could be the simple future or the construction ir+a+infinitive. The action hasn't yet occurred, so you're communicating about a hypothetical situation.

If the action in the main clause has happened or happens regularly, use the indicative. To recognize if something has already happened or happens habitually, see if in the past or present tense is used in the main clause. Since talking about actions that are known to happen or to have happened, you're not speaking about a hypothetical situation.

Let's recap these rules:

  • Future tense in the main clause: use the subjunctive in the adverbial clause.
  • Past or present tense in the main clause: use the indicative in the adverbial clause.

Now let's review some examples:

  • a pesar de que - despite the fact that

Future tense / subjunctive: Vas a comer la pizza a pesar de que no tenga hongos. You are going to eat the pizza despite the fact that it doesn't have mushrooms.

Past tense / indicative: Comiste la pizza a pesar de que no tenía hongos. You ate the pizza despite the fact that it didn't have mushrooms.

  • aunque- although

Future tense / subjunctive: Ella recogerá la pizza aunque no vaya a comerla. She will pick up the pizza although she's not going to eat any.

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