Using the Present Subjunctive to Express Doubt or Negation in Spanish

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  • 0:02 Doubt, Disbelief & Denial
  • 0:42 Verbs of Doubt
  • 3:26 Verbs of Certainty
  • 5:33 Practice
  • 7:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Pablo Serna

Pablo has taught college Spanish at the University of Missouri and Central Methodist University, and has a master's degree in Spanish literature.

In this lesson we will learn how to use the present subjunctive in Spanish having verbs of doubt, disbelief and denial. Also, we will learn to identify some verbs and expressions of certainty that always trigger the indicative mood.

Subjunctive with Doubt, Disbelief & Denial

In this lesson we will discuss some verbs and expressions of doubt, disbelief and denial in the main clauses that always trigger the present subjunctive in Spanish in the subordinate clauses. Some other verbs and expressions point toward the indicative mood instead of subjunctive because of the certainty they express.

Let's take a look at this sentence:

Dudo que todos los equipos de Suramérica vayan a la segunda parte del mundial de fútbol.

What I am saying is that I doubt all the South American teams will go to the second round of the World Cup.

Verbs of Doubt, Disbelief & Denial

Let's take a look at verbs and expressions that indicate that there is uncertainty or non-existence that, when put together with all the other requirements needed for the use of subjunctive:

  1. The word 'que'
  2. Two clauses
  3. Two subjects
  4. The trigger (verb or expression that tells us subjunctive is needed)

These are those verbs and expressions that require subjunctive:

Dudar (to doubt) Yo dudo que…
Ser dudoso (to be doubtful) Es dudoso que...
No ser cierto (not being true) No es cierto que…
Negar (to deny) Niegas que…
No ser verdad (not being true) No es verdad que…
No creer (not to believe) No creo que…
No pensar (not to think) No pienso que…
Ser probable (to be probable) Es probable que…
Ser posible (to be possible) Es posible que…
No ser probable (not to be probable) No es probable que…
No es posible (not to be possible) No es posible que…
Ser imposible (to be impossible) Es imposible que…
Ser improbable (to be improbable) Es improbable que…

When we use impersonal expressions, the verb ser is conjugated in the third person singular. 'It' in English does not have an equivalence in Spanish. For example, Es probable que el congreso no escriba más leyes este año. (It is probable that the congress won't write more laws this year.)

Let's look at some examples of doubt, denial and disbelief:

1. No es cierto que España no tenga un Rey.
(It is not true that Spain doesn't have a king.)

2. No creo que Ecuador sea una dictadura.
(I don't believe that Ecuador has a dictatorship.)

3. Es posible que el Presidente de España tenga un gabinete.
(It is possible that the President of Spain has a cabinet.)

4. No es probable que el ministro vaya a renunciar.
(It is not probable that the minister is going to quit.)

Verbs & Expressions of Certainty

There are some verbs and expressions that specify that the indicative mood is required because of the certainty they provide:

No dudar (not to doubt) No dudo que…
No caber duda (not to have room for doubt) No cabe duda de que…
No haber duda (not to have doubt) No hay duda de que…
No negar (not to deny) No negamos que…
Estar seguro (to be sure) Estoy seguro de que…
Creer (to believe) Creo que…
Pensar (to think) Piensan que…
Ser cierto (to be true) Es cierto que…
Ser seguro (to be sure) Es seguro que…
Ser verdad (to be true) Es verdad que…
Ser obvio (to be obvious) Es obvio que…

Note: Pensar (to think) and creer (to believe) in Spanish provide certainty unlike in English, and that's why we use the indicative mood.

Let's look at some examples of certainty:

1. No dudo que los senadores son honestos.
(I don't doubt that the senators are honest.)

2. Creo que la democracia es muy popular en América.
(I believe that democracy is very popular in America- the continent.)

3. Ella piensa que la diplomacia es una buena herramienta para la paz.
(She thinks that diplomacy is a good tool for peace.)

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