How can we express the idea of "maybe" or "perhaps" in Spanish? Although a lo mejor, quizá(s), and tal vez are often used interchangeably, let's take a look at some of the nuances of each as well as exploring some additional options.
Despite its literal translation ("at the best"), the Spanish expression a lo mejor is used colloquially to express the idea of "perhaps" or "maybe." A lo mejor can fall anywhere in a sentence, and the verb that follows it is always conjugated in the indicative rather than the subjunctive. Let's take a look:
He pensado que como tú tienes más experiencia en estos temas,
I've thought that since you have more experience in these matters,
a lo mejor me puedes ayudar.
maybe you can help me.
Captions 7-8, Raquel y Marisa - Español Para Negocios - Nuestro perfil profesional en la redPlay Caption
a lo mejor a partir de ahora confías un poquito más en ella.
Maybe from now on, you'll trust it a little bit more.
Caption 72, Club de las ideas - IntuiciónPlay Caption
Tal vez is more typically (but not always) placed at the beginning of a sentence and can be used with either the indicative or the subjunctive.
Tal vez cure el tiempo las heridas
Perhaps time will cure the wounds
que dejaste en mi vida y que marcaste en mi alma
that you left in my life and you marked on my soul
Captions 20-21, Reik - No desapareceráPlay Caption
Y ahora, en tiempos de pandemia,
And now, in this period of pandemic,
tal vez es mejor
perhaps it's better
tenerla tapada para cualquier tipo de contacto con otras personas.
to keep it covered for any type of contact with other people.
Captions 80-82, Ana Carolina - GérmenesPlay Caption
In the first example, the verb curar (to heal) has been conjugated in the subjunctive, while in the second passage, ser (to be) is in the indicative. Although the use of either the subjunctive or the indicative in a sentence may or may not affect its translation into English, the subjunctive gives the idea of additional doubt. For example, the substitution of the indicative form cura in the first example would convey greater hope on the part of the speaker about the prospect of time healing his wounds whereas the use of the subjunctive form, sea, in the second example would convey less certainty on Ana Carolina's part.
Quizá(s) also tends to fall at the beginning of a sentence and can be used in either the indicative or subjunctive, also depending upon the degree of doubt. Let's look a couple of examples, with the first one in indicative and the second one in subjunctive:
Quizás esa persona ya sabe
Perhaps that person already knows
que en San Sebastián hay tres playas,
that there are three beaches in San Sebastian,
Captions 80-81, Clase Aula Azul - Información con subjuntivo e indicativoPlay Caption
Este... y... y quizás me atropelle un carro, ¿verdad?
Um... and... and maybe I could be hit by a car, right?
Caption 13, Seva Vive - 5. La historia se da cuentaPlay Caption
Y tal vez me atropelle un carro, ¿verdad?And maybe I could be hit by a car, right?Y a lo mejor me atropella un carro, ¿verdad?And maybe I could be hit by a car, right?
Note that while the translations for all three sentences are identical, with the substitution of tal vez, the sentence is otherwise unaltered. In order to employ a lo mejor correctly, on the other hand, the sentence's verb must be changed to indicative
Yet another Spanish expression, puede ser, can also be used in lieu of quizá(s) and tal vez. While this literally means "it can be," alternative translations include "it could be," "it's possible" and even "perhaps" or "maybe."
Probablemente tengas gripe. Puede ser.
You probably have the flu. It's possible.
Captions 21-22, Ariana - Cita médicaPlay Caption
Alternatively, the construction puede ser que employs the subjunctive to introduce a possibility in a similar way to the English idea of "might":
Hasta puede ser que entonces podamos entender a Joan.
We might even be able to then understand Joan.
Caption 55, Con ánimo de lucro - CortometrajePlay Caption
Acaso also means "perhaps" or "maybe" and can be used with either the indicative or the subjunctive. Let's see an example with the verb creer (to think) in the indicative mood:
¿O acaso usted cree que las azafatas somos millonarias?
Or maybe you think that we flight attendants are millionaires?
Caption 43, Confidencial: El rey de la estafa - Capítulo 2Play Caption
Armed with these possibilities for expressing the idea of "maybe" in Spanish, a lo mejor (perhaps) it's time to say goodbye for the time being. Don't hesitate to contact us with your suggestions and comments.