The Spanish conjunction aunque, whose English translations include "although," "even though," "even if," etc., often appears within the constructions aunque + present indicative and aunque + present subjunctive. Although sentences that include said constructions are often structurally similar, the use of either the indicative or the subjunctive with aunque affects their meaning. Additionally (and as usual in Spanish!), the subjunctive construction is slightly more challenging since the meaning of the same sentence could vary depending upon context. Let's take a closer look.
Aunque + present indicative is used to state facts and is a pretty straight-forward equivalent of similarly truth-stating English sentences with "although" and "even though." Let's see some examples:
aunque terminan en "a", son realmente palabras masculinas.
although they end in "a," they are really masculine words.
Caption 22, Lecciones con Carolina Errores comunes - Part 6Play Caption
Aunque es checa la canción, el tema, eh... en Berlín, en Alemania creen [sic] mucha gente que es alemán.
Although the song, the tune, is Czech, um... in Berlin, in Germany, a lot of people think it's German.
Captions 48-49, Hispanoamericanos en Berlín Manuel y El barrilitoPlay Caption
Bueno, hay que ser optimista, aunque tengo la impresión de que no me van a dar el trabajo.
Well, one has to be optimistic, although I have the impression that they are not going to give me the job.
Captions 4-5, Negocios Empezar en un nuevo trabajo - Part 1Play Caption
These first two instances of aunque + present indicative are quite clear-cut because we know that what the speaker is saying is factual: The words Carolina mentions indeed end in "a," and the song Manuel describes is undoubtedly Czech. In the third example, although the speaker could possibly have different impressions regarding her employment chances, her use of the indicative definitively lets us know the impression she has about it.
In contrast to aunque + present indicative, aunque + present subjunctive conveys different meanings and is used in two different scenarios: 1. In hypothetical situations and 2. When the information being communicated is considered "background information" that the audience already knows.
In order to understand how the use of the subjunctive with aunque changes the meaning of a sentence, let's take the third example of aunque + present indicative and replace it with aunque + present subjunctive:
Bueno, hay que ser optimista, aunque tenga la impresión de que no me van a dar el trabajo.
Well, one has to be optimistic, even if I might have the impression that they are not going to give me the job.
The subjunctive version conveys something different than its indicative counterpart because, rather than explicitly stating her impression after a specific job interview, the speaker says more generally that "even though she might have" a particular impression following an interview, she should remain optimistic. Let's take a look at some additional examples of this use of aunque + present subjunctive from the Yabla Spanish library:
Aunque sea sólo para un fin de semana, para mí, tiene las características esenciales para disfrutar de un viaje,
Even if it's only for a weekend, for me, it has the essential characteristics for enjoying a trip,
Captions 47-49, Lydia de Barcelona Lydia y el festival de cine "Women Mujeres"Play Caption
Here, Lydia is saying to an audience of potential tourists to Barcelona that, hypothetically speaking, a visit would be worth it even if they might only have one free weekend. On the other hand, the indicative "Aunque es sólo para un fin de semana" would be used for someone you knew was only visiting Barcelona for one weekend. This is sometimes confusing for English speakers since the phrase "Even if it's only for a weekend" could refer to either situation and is thus a valid translation for both the indicative and subjunctive versions of the sentence. Let's look at one more example:
Aunque no crean, existe el amor a primera vista.
Believe it or not, love at first sight does exist.Play Caption
While Aunque no crean is the Spanish equivalent of the English idiom "Believe it or not," a more literal translation is "Even though you might not believe it" since we don't know whether or not the audience does.
Now, let's examine a use of aunque + present subjunctive that might initially seem confusing:
Os recuerdo que las islas Canarias, aunque estén en el océano Atlántico y muy cerca de la costa africana,
I remind you that the Canary Islands, although they're in the Atlantic Ocean and very close to the African coast,Play Caption
Since what Silvia is saying is a fact (the Canary Islands are most definitely located in the Atlantic Ocean, close to Africa), why does she use the subjunctive? This is because aunque + present subjunctive is also used when the speaker assumes that their audience already knows the information being stated.
To sum it up: Use the indicative when you want to inform someone about something that you assume is new information for them, and use the subjunctive to say things you believe the receiver already knows. Let's see another example of this use:
Aunque San Sebastián tenga tres playas, yo siempre hago surf en la Zurriola.
Even though San Sebastian has three beaches, I always surf at Zurriola.
Captions 16-17, Clase Aula Azul Información con subjuntivo e indicativo - Part 2Play Caption
As seen here, even if it's a fact that San Sebastián has three beaches, you'd employ the subjunctive tenga for a person you think knows this information and the indicative tiene for a person you believe to be learning it, despite identical English translations. For a detailed explanation of this use of aunque + present subjunctive with a plethora of examples, check out the video series Clase Aula Azul: Información con subjuntivo e indicativo (Aula Azul Class: Information with Subjunctive and Indicative).
Sometimes, the meaning of an aunque + subjunctive sentence is ambiguous and, without context, might be impossible to ascertain. Let's take a look at an example that could be understood in more than one way:
Aunque haga calor, yo voy a usar mi chaqueta nueva.
On its face, this sentence could have two possible meanings:
1. Even though it might be hot (hypothetically on some particular day in the future), I'm going to wear my new jacket.
2. Even though it (really) is hot (and I know you know it's hot), I'm going to wear my new jacket.
In the second scenario, we assume that the person with whom we are speaking already knows the information; perhaps they are sitting there sweating with us, or maybe they called you to complain about the heat: The main point is that we believe that this is shared information. To determine, however, which of the two aforementioned meanings is intended, context is required, and there may be cases where it could seem to go either way.
In conclusion, aunque sea el concepto un poco difícil (although the concept might be a bit difficult), we hope that this lesson has made clear to you when to use the constructions aunque + present indicative and aunque + present subjunctive... and don't forget to send us your suggestions and comments!