At this point I understand pretty well I guess the classical example of the subjunctive (indicative verb+que+subjunctive verb). My question is how common is the subjunctive outside of this construction. For example, would I say "Tal vez pueda ayudarte" or "Tal vez puedo ayudarte"?

  • Posted Jan 1, 2011
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  • remember that your example also needs a change of subject :) - Kiwi-Girl Jan 1, 2011

8 Answers



Hi, Squib. Welcome to the forum.

I very often hear the subjunctive after "tal vez" and "quizás."

I found this online:

Quizás or, as it is also spelled, quizá is typically used with verbs in the subjunctive mood, although it isn't unusual to hear it used with a verb in the indicative mood. Quizá(s) can be used interchangeably with talvez, also spelled tal vez.

Quizás te cases, o quizás no. Perhaps you will get married, or perhaps not.

Quizá en otra vida tú y yo fuimos amantes. Perhaps in another life you and I were lovers.

Quizás más tarde. Perhaps later.

Quizá no venga nadie. Maybe nobody will come.

Talvez yo te pueda ayudar. Perhaps I can yelp you.

Tal vez mañana sea solo un recuerdo. Perhaps tomorrow it will be only a memory.

Tal vez no pensaron en esto. Maybe they didn't think about it.

  • Jan 1, 2011
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  • Marianne with great respect do you really need the word 'it' in the eaxmple about tomorrow being a memory? Surely it would read better as : Perhaps tomorrow will only be a memory :) - FELIZ77 Jan 1, 2011
  • Only if she meant to say that "tomorrow" will be only a memory and not referring to some other "it". - 0074b507 Jan 1, 2011
  • Are you trying to say that in the Spanish version that the "it" needs to be represented? ... mañana esto sea.....?? - 0074b507 Jan 1, 2011
  • I don't think that is what he's trying to say, gfreed. Rather, that sentence (in Spanish) can be taken 2 ways (like you mentioned) but without context, it can be difficult to determine which meaning. - Goldie_Miel Jan 1, 2011


Squib asked:

For example, would I say "Tal vez pueda ayudarte" or "Tal vez puedo ayudarte"?

Lazarus answered:

Both, although the subjunctive one is more common.

This suggests to me that the subjunctive is often used after "quizás" and "tal vez" even when the situation is not doubtful, improbable, or unlikely. Specifically, one wouldn't say "Maybe I can help you" when it was doubtful that he would, in fact, help you.

  • Rather than think of it expressing the possibility that you have the ability to help (obviously u wdn't offer if u didn't think you cd) perhaps you could look at it as expressing the possibility that the person even wants to be helped? Just an idea :) - Kiwi-Girl Jan 1, 2011


Adverbs that express doubt or possibility such as quizá(s), tal vez, acaso, posiblemente, probablemente, a lo/la mejor can each take either the indicative or subjunctive depending on certain factors.

Indicative Only

If the verb precedes the adverb or if it is separated from it by a pause then only the indicative is possible. For example, notice that the subjunctive is not accepted in the following constructions:

Adverb Preceded by the Verb*

• Oyó quizás la conversación
Oyera quizás la conversación
• Vio tal vez una oportunidad para vengarse.
Viera tal vez una oportunidad para vengarse.

Adverb Separated from Verb by a Pause:

• Es, tal vez, su mayor aporte a la ciencia
Sea, tal vez, su mayor aporte a la ciencia
• Es, quizás, su obra más conocida.
Sea quizás su obra más conocida.
• Probablemente, vendrá a la fiesta.
• Probablemente, venga a la fiesta.

*Note: Text marked in red results in ungrammaticality

Indicative or Subjunctive

When the verb follows the adverb of doubt/possibility and is not separated by a pause then either the subjunctive or the indicative is possible. For example:

• Quizás oyó la conversación.
• Quizás oyera la conversación.
• Tal vez vio una oportunidad para vengarse.
• Tal vez viera una oportunidad para vengarse.

When either mood is possible, the choice depends largely on the way in which the phrase is taken/interpreted, on the degree of certainty that is expressed.


(1). Tal vez se sintió prisionero de las fuerzas contradictorias que, como Perón, había convocado para construir su poder: la burocracia sindical y el progresismo peronista (Fidanza. La Nación).
(2). No lo sé; tal vez pensaste que yo era demasiado inmadura, que no tenía suficiente experiencia real en el ministerio. O tal vez simplemente no pensabas en mí en, tú sabes, en esos términos. Términos de atención. (Ramiréz. El Reino, La Victoria Final)
(3). Tal vez en su infancia ella fue despreciada por los niños que a ella le gustaban o a lo mejor alguno jugó con sus sentimientos y por eso se comportaba así. (Quintal. Lo desconocido del amor)


(4). Tal vez solo sea únicamente una quimera la Navidad ideal. (de Ramsey. El Telégrafo)
(5). Si se reconoce usted positivamente en todas estas afirmaciones tal vez sea hora de plantearse que puede ser un adicto a las compras. (Valerio. El Mundo)
(6).Tal vez venga luego

In the examples above, the information in the first three sentences is being expressed almost as if it were a stated opinion or belief, in that the information is being introduced as a plausible or likely explanation for the event being described:

(1). Perhaps he felt himself a prisoner to the conflicting forces that, like Perón, had come together to....
(2). I don't know. Maybe he thought that I was too immature....Or maybe he just didn't think of me, you know, in those terms.
(3). Maybe in her childhood she was looked over by the kids she liked or maybe some boy played with her feelings and that is the reason that she acted the way she did.

On the other hand, in the second set of examples, the information is presented as though it were less certain, as though it could be just one of many possible explanations. In other words, the expression does not introduce any new or concrete information (i.e. it does not add any novel information which could not have already been derived from the contextual or situational cues). In English, the semantic value can often be identified by the fact that the verb is preceded by a modal auxiliary or in the fact that the statement lends itself to such phrases as "or maybe not" or "Who knows."

(4). (Who knows,) Maybe the ideal Christmas is simply a fantasy
(5). If you identify with each of these statements, perhaps it might be time to consider the fact that maybe you are a shop-o-holic.
(6). Maybe he will come later (or maybe not).

  • Thank you so much for this, Ira! - --Mariana-- Jan 2, 2011


For example, would I say "Tal vez pueda ayudarte" or "Tal vez puedo ayudarte"?

Both, although the subjunctive one is more common.

  • Jan 1, 2011
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In the link that you provided it says that:

Words meaning “perhaps” (tal vez, quizá, and quizás) may be followed by the subjunctive to suggest that the action or state is improbable, or doubtful....

I hear the subjunctive following "quizás" very often with situations that are probable and don't express a lot of doubt.

Hopefully, someone can come along and clear up this confusion?

  • Jan 1, 2011
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  • There have been several threads here about this. I think people use the subjunctive in certain situations out of force of habit, even though grammatically it is incorrect in some particular instances. - lorenzo9 Jan 1, 2011


The correct sentence is "Tal vez pueda ayudarte". It exrpess a possibility, I am thinking that I can help you, so I´m, in some way, asking for your permission to try to help.

  • Jan 1, 2011
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Looking at it from another perspective, the RAE (Nueva gramática de la lengua española) asserts that the subjunctive is usually preferred if the information introduced lacks (linguistic) focality.

From this viewpoint, the sentence in the subjunctive heaps its focus instead on the uncertainty of the statement. That is, the statement does not make any sort of tacit declaration or place any emphasis on the actuality of the information which follows the adverb of possibility/doubt:

(1). Tal vez se sintiera prisionero de las fuerzas contradictorias

Meanwhile, the sentence in the indicative lends itself to the presentation of new or novel information that was not available from the situational cues. Focus, in this sense, refers to the stress that is placed on the new information that is presented.

(2). Tal vez se sintió prisionero de las fuerzas contradictorias.

Maybe he felt imprisoned by conflicting forces.

tacit declaration of how he felt.
►Strong implication (emphasis on the idea) that trapped or like a prisoner is how he felt

(3). Tal vez se sintió prisionero de las fuerzas contradictorias

Maybe he felt imprisoned by conflicting forces.

tacit declaration of what he felt imprisoned by.
►Strong implication (emphasis on the idea) that the conflicting forces made him feel this way.

Tal vez se sintió prisionero de las fuerzas contradictorias.

Maybe he felt imprisoned by conflicting forces.

tacit declaration of how and what he felt.
►Strong implication (emphasis on the idea) that he did indeed feel this way

  • Very interesting viewpoint. - 0074b507 Jan 1, 2011
  • Thank you, again! - --Mariana-- Jan 2, 2011



  • Jan 1, 2011
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