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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. 

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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):
 

Entonces, a pesar de que pueda estar un lugar a cinco o diez kilómetros, lo medimos dependiendo del tiempo que tarde uno en llegar allí.

So, even though a place might be five or ten kilometers away, 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. A la sombra. -Aunque estemos a la sombra.

We're here at thirty-nine degrees. 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 - Part 4

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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

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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. Cuando quieras y en donde quieras, princesa.

You are going to pay me for that. Whenever you want and wherever you want, princess.

Captions 35-36, Muñeca Brava - 36 La pesquisa - Part 9

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Drop That Article

Articles are used before nouns to indicate a subject's number or gender. Sometimes, however, the use of an article before a noun is not required. This happens with both indefinite and definite articles, in Spanish, in English and in many other languages as well. In fact, generally speaking, articles are used the same way in Spanish and English. There are many cases in which the same rules apply for both languages. For example, you don't use definite articles before days of the week or months following the verb ser (to be):

 

Hoy es viernes. Son las siete de la tarde

Today is Friday. It's seven in the evening

Caption 4, Los Reporteros - Crecen los robos en tiendas - Part 2

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or following the preposition de (from):

 

Trabajo de lunes a sábado.

I work from Monday to Saturday.

Caption 28, Fonda Mi Lupita - Encargado - Part 2

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It's not very common, and even unnecessary, but you could use indefinite articles in both cases. The meaning is slightly different and this happens both in Spanish and English:

Hoy es un miércoles / Hoy es miércoles
Today is a Wednesday / Today is Wednesday
Es la misma rutina de un lunes a un viernes / Es la misma rutina de lunes a viernes.
It's the same routine from a Monday to a Friday / It's the same routine from Monday to Friday.

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However, there are a few cases in which we wouldn't use "a" or "an" in English, but we would in Spanish and vice versa. For example, in Spanish you can use a definite article before days and say Los lunes no trabajo (I don't work on Mondays) or Estoy esperando desde el lunes (I've been waiting since Monday). These you need to learn, so let's explore some examples.

In Spanish, you can drop indefinite articles when the noun is preceded by words like tal[es] (such), otro/a (other), and qué (what). Compare with the English translation in the following examples:

 

Qué lástima que no llegaste al partido; estuvo joya.

What a pity that you didn't come to the game; it was awesome.

Caption 36, Muñeca Brava - 33 El partido - Part 12

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...de cierta manera... con ciertos defectos, ¿no?

...in a certain way... with certain defects, right?

Caption 35, Nortec Collective - Bostich+Fussible

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In the previous example English drops the article when using the plural only, while Spanish drops it in both singular and plural. And yet, saying de una cierta manera in Spanish is also correct.

Spanish doesn't use definite articles before numerals that express titles of rulers:

 

El edificio data del siglo dieciocho, en tiempos de Felipe Quinto.

The building dates from the eighteenth century, during the time period of Philip the Fifth.

Caption 22, Madrid - Un recorrido por la capital de España

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In Spanish you usually drop definite and indefinite articles before nouns in apposition (when a noun explains another). But you don't necessary want to do it every single time. For example, in Spanish you can say Ankara, capital de Turquía, es una bella ciudad  (Ankara, the capital of Turkey, is a beautiful city.) However, it's still correct to say Ankara, la capital del Turquía, es una bella ciudad. Obviously, in this case you can't use the definite article. You can't say Ankara, una capital de Turquía—that doesn't make sense either in Spanish or English since cities have, by definition, only one capital.

But check out this example: Juanita, una tía de Raquel, vino de visita (Juanita, one of Raquel's aunts, came to visit).Saying Juanita, tía de Raquel, vino de visita (Juanita, Raquel's aunt, came to visit) is also correct. And Juanita, la tía de Raquel, vino de visita is correct too. The translation in English is the same: Juanita, Raquel's aunt, came to visit. The only difference is that the definite article la (the) confers some sense of specificity to the expression. Maybe it means that Juanita is the only aunt Raquel has, or that she is particularly close or somehow special, she is not just any aunt but la tía (the aunt). 

In Spanish you usually drop indefinite articles before unmodified nouns when stating nationality, profession, and religious or political affiliation. You can't always do the same in English. For example:

El Señor Chong es mexicano. Es burócrata. Es Secretario de Gobernación. Es católico. Es priísta.
Mr. Chong is Mexican. He is a bureaucrat. He is Secretary of State. He is a Catholic. He's an affiliate of the PRI party.

Here is another example from our catalog:

 

Y ¿tu marido es agricultor o algo?

And your husband is a farmer or something?

Caption 55, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa - Part 18

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That doesn't mean that saying mi marido es un agricultor (my husband is a farmer) is wrong. It's just not the way you usually state professions. On the other hand, when the noun is modified (usually by an adjective or a subordinate clause), you have to use an article. For example, you must say: mi marido es el agricultor famoso (my husband is the famous farmer) or mi marido es un agricultor que se preocupa por el medio ambiente (my husband is farmer who cares about the environment).

What is really incorrect is not using articles before the names of languages. When talking about languages, English usually drops the articles, but Spanish doesn't:

 

El español es un idioma muy bonito.

Spanish is a very nice language.

Caption 57, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana - Crista Pérez

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There's an exception. You can drop the article when the language is used directly after a verb as its complement:

 

Como... como yo hablo árabe.

Since... since I speak Arabic.

Caption 8, Taimur - Taimur habla

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Finally, don't drop the article when telling the time in Spanish. You will always use the feminine definite article la or its plural las, since it refers to la hora (the hour) or las horas (the hours). 

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Salí a las siete y media... y voy llegando a la una.

I went out at seven thirty... and I'm arriving at one.

Captions 77-78, Calle 13 - La Perla

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Articles

Flexible Positions

Because there is no hard and fast rule to absolutely determine the gender of a noun by looking at it, you may recall that we recently advised you to always learn a noun with its article (el, la). Yet you still need to be careful, as some nouns can take either article.
 

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Many Spanish nouns that end in ente or ante use the same form for masculine and feminine. These include el/la dibujante (the draftsman), el/la asistente (the assistant), el/la estudiante (the student), el/la paciente (the patient), el/la amante (the lover), el/la cliente (the client). See how Crista and David, who we interviewed on separate occasions in Mexico City, both introduce themselves as estudiante:
 

Mi nombre es Crista Pérez... y soy estudiante de economía.

My name is Crista Perez... and I am a student of economics.

Captions 1-2, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana - Crista Pérez

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Mi nombre es David del Valle. Tengo veintiún años y soy estudiante de negocios internacionales.

My name is David del Valle. I'm twenty-one years old and I'm a student of international business.

Captions 1-2, Amigos D.F. - Consejos para la calle

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Some of these nouns have recently accepted a feminine form ending in enta or anta, so you can say la presidenta (the female president), la clienta (the female client) and la sirvienta (the maid). This is not possible in all cases; for example you can never say “la estudianta,” “la pacienta,” or “la asistenta."

 

Yo ya sé que Andrea es una tonta por estar celosa de una sirvienta.

I know that Andrea is silly for being jealous of a maid.

Caption 54, Muñeca Brava - 41 La Fiesta - Part 7

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The same is true for nouns for roles or professions that end in a: el/la contrabandista (the smuggler), el/la policía (the police officer), el/la turista (the tourist), el/la baterista (the drummer), el/la artista (the artist). Notice how both circus artist Francisco Javier and Colombian TV star Natalia Oreiro refer to themselves as artista, but change the article based on their respective genders.

 

Sí, tú sabes que con el tiempo uno llega a ser un artista completo.

Yes, you know that with time you become a complete artist.

Caption 26, Circo Infantil de Nicaragua - Learning the Trade

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...porque yo ya me creía una artista de verdad.

...since I believed myself to be a real artist.

Caption 75, Biografía - Natalia Oreiro - Part 4

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You can read more lessons about gender in Spanish:
Lo: The Neuter G
Gender Reversals: "El Alma" and more

 

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