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Using Subjunctive After Conjunctions of Condition

Our last two lessons focused on how to use conjunctions (conjunctive phrases to be exact) to identify when we have to use the subjunctive. The first lesson in the series focused on conjunctions of time, and the second one on conjunctions of provision. Now we'll focus on conjunctions of condition. 


These types of conjunctions will always be followed by the subjunctive provided one condition: that you are talking about hypothetical, or unknown circumstances at the moment. The conjunctions that are used to express condition in Spanish are a pesar de que, como, aunque, según, and donde. Let's start with the examples.

A pesar de que means "despite that," "even though" or "in spite of." Study the following example. Our friend Crista is talking about a hypothetical situation (that a place might be five or ten km away):

A pesar de que pueda estar un lugar a cinco o diez kilómetros,

Even though a place might be five or ten kilometers away,

lo medimos dependiendo del tiempo que tarde uno en llegar allí.

we measure it depending upon the time it takes someone to get there.

Captions 53-54, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana - Crista Pérez

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That doesn't mean that you can't use indicative after a pesar de que. If, like our friend Beatriz,  you are talking about a fact (the fact that there are variations), you use a verb in indicative (tenemos) and not subjunctive (tengamos) after a pesar de que:

La cultura es una a pesar de que tenemos variaciones.

Culture is one in spite of the fact that we have variations.

Caption 39, Beatriz Noguera - Exposición de Arte

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So, the difference between la cultura es una a pesar de que tenemos variaciones (culture is one in spite of the fact that we have variations) and la cultura es una a pesar de que tengamos variaciones (Culture is one in spite of the fact that we might have variations) is very subtle.

Let's continue. Aunque means "although" or "even if":

Estamos aquí a treinta y nueve grados.

We're here at thirty-nine degrees.

A la sombra. -Aunque estemos a la sombra.

In the shade. -Although we're in the shade.

Captions 98-99, Burgos - Caminando

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A more exact translation of aunque estemos a la sombra is, in fact, "although we may be in the shade," but since the person speaking is actually in the shade at the moment using "we're" makes more sense in English. In Spanish using the subjunctive allows to make a very subtle distinction between estemos (we may be) and the indicative estamos (we are): the indicative aunque estamos can only be used when the person speaking is presently and actually in the shade, while using the subjunctive aunque estemos makes the whole assertion a little more vague and general (we could just be talking about being in the shade as an hypothesis). They're slightly different expressions but neither is incorrect.

Como (as, in any way, whatever), según (as, in any way, depending) and donde (where, wherever) are less commonly used conjunctions. It's important to note that como and donde must be written without tilde (the orthographical accent). 

Como and según mean the same thing, are used in the same way and are thus interchangeable. Como is perhaps more common and it's used in two phrases that you want to learn: como quieras (as you want) and como sea (however it might be, translations vary):

Sabe bien, sabe mal, como sea pero es tan real

It tastes good, it tastes bad, however it might be, but it's so real

Caption 11, Enrique Iglesias - Escapar

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Como quieras ¿eh?

Whatever you want, right?

Caption 52, Animales en familia - Un día en Bioparc: Microchip para Nacahué

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Want to see examples of the use of como without subjunctive? It's very simple: whenever you are not talking about hypothetical situations you must use the indicative:

Tómame como soy

Take me as I am

Caption 9, Shakira - Gitana

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Yo te trato como quiero porque para eso sos mi hija.

I treat you how I want because for that [reason], you are my daughter.

Caption 2, Muñeca Brava - 2 Venganza

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 Would you like to know how the previous example would translate if you use the subjunctive instead? For the first example there's a big difference:

Tómame como sea
Take me in any way


Not so much for the second one:

Yo te trato como quiera porque para eso sos mi hija.
I treat you how I want because for that [reason], you are my daughter.

Let's see examples for según meaning "as," "depending on," or "in any way," which is less common:

Puedes elegir hacerlo según quieras
You can choose to do it in any way you want

Finally, an example of donde meaning "wherever." Plus another example of cuando(whenever), a conjunction of time:

Esa me la vas a pagar.

You are going to pay me for that.

Cuando quieras y en donde quieras, princesa.

Whenever you want and wherever you want, princess.

Captions 35-36, Muñeca Brava - 36 La pesquisa

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