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Questions about the Subjunctive.

0
votes

In the following sentence why is the past subjunctive used for the verb apartar.

Fernanda , que no retiraba el tazón de mis labios por mucho que yo me APARTASE, hizo una mueca que quería ser una sonrisa.

And in the following why is the past subjunctive used for the verb ser.

Tampco Pedro era un dechado de simpatía, así que no resultaba extraño que el fruto de aquel desgraciado matrimonio FUERA esta chiquilla seria, enlutada y tan dulce como el aceite de ricino.

Thank You

18142 views
updated SEP 13, 2009
posted by jasondi64

39 Answers

1
vote

Natasha said:

English speakers, unless they're grammar teachers who like to parse sentences, aren't used to think of the clauses of their sentences separately like this. Sigh . . .

Try without the jargon then:

I think it is true.

Should I need the subjunctive for the verb "to be"? Let's see:
*
It is true, I think.*

"It is true" was declared / announced, so I need indicative. Now in a negative one:

I don't think it is true.
It is true, I don't think. ''''

There wasn't any declaration / announcement, so I need subjunctive.
See'

updated JUL 23, 2010
posted by lazarus1907
I think the problem boils down to meaning of declarative. In English, we declarative to mean any sentence that is not a question, not certainity of what the speaker is saying Otherwise I understand your point. - BellaMargarita, SEP 13, 2009
1
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Marco said:

Hi james, have a question here. When search in the conjugation on this site, there are two different options for subjunctive past tense forms. One is called "subjuntivo pretérito" and another one is called "subjuntivo pretérito #2". What is the difference between these two? Why were the "apartase" used in the first sentence from subjuntivo pretérito #2 option and "fuera" used in the second sentence from subjuntivo pretérito option? When should I use the subjunctive conjugated forms from the first option, when from the second option?

Subjuntivo pretérito #2? First time I hear this in my life!

They are both interchangeable... provided that you use them in typical subjunctive sentences. The imperfect subjunctive in -ra can also do other things that the form in -se can't.

The historial explanation is this: the -ra form comes from the pluperfect indicative in Latin, and the -se form form the pluperfect subjunctive in Latin. Eventually the -ra form began to adopt the usual subjunctive functions of the -se one, but without losing its indicative ones, until both were used for subjunctive alike. Nowadays the -ra form is generally more popular in most countries, but in others like Spain they are both equally used. The -ra form can be used for sentences like "Quisiera...", which is one of its old indicative functions, but we can't say "Quisiese...", because the -se form has always been a subjunctive one.

updated SEP 18, 2009
posted by lazarus1907
0
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Natasha said:

lazarus1907 said:

jasondi64 said:

when she writes por mucho que yo me apartase she didn´t really try hard to get away she is just uessing that if she had tried to move away more then fernanda would not have moved the bowl?

That's exactly the idea, except for the part where you say that she was not trying hard, which is not implied here from the subjunctive. Regardless of how hard she tried, Fernanda was going to continue being a pain in the neck. In indicative it would have been a plain declaration about the attempts of moving away, so the subjunctive makes it a lot more expressive and gives the whole description more lively.This declaration / no declaration rule is the best rule about the use of the subjunctive.

Declaro que no me gusta el subjuntivo. En inglés, declaramos todo, aunque no sea verdad. Por ejemplo:

I would like it if he comes today.

I want to get the job so that I will earn more money.

Ya sé, en el inglés de antepasado, no sería bien hablar así. Pero ahora todos hablan de esta manera, y es muy difícil pensar de otro modo.


Well many/most maybe but I number everal people in my acquaintance who would find both of those sentences objectionable; precisely because of the failure to use the subjunctive.

updated SEP 8, 2009
posted by samdie
The above English sentences would be in the subjuntive if worded as follows: - ocbizlaw, SEP 8, 2009
0
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Natasha said:

No one's trying to prove you wrong, Lazarus. This discussion is just generating a lot of interest because the subjunctive is such a stumbling block for English speakers. But farbeit from me to step between you & James . . . I am out of my league grin

The problem is that I can understand James' and other people's reservations about this idea, and the argument they are using, but it all proves that I clearly haven't made my point clear at all, because I used to be the foremost representative of the "yellow pages" approach, and I knew all these absurd rules to the point of obsession... until I came across this new perspective. The funny thing is that this new approach was initiated in a way by non-natives (check books by Bull, for example), and their argument was that, although morphologically Spanish and English are different, the concept and its usage is esentially the same, and that subjunctive is logical. Well... I better stop before I make things worse.

updated AGO 20, 2008
posted by lazarus1907
0
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lazarus1907 said:

James said:

I think that was probably more due to the students and their study habits and talents than to the use of your rule. Again, I understand exactly what you are saying, but my point is that a beginner English speaker isn't going to understand why the following aren't declarations.

Ok, let me say two things: the results used to be a lot worse when the same teachers who use those rules now, used to teach the typical yellow pages approach. Either students coincidentally became smarter after introducing the new approach, or it works a lot better (and students ask less questions about "exceptions").Secondly: the way I was taught to teach was by using Spanish all the time; no English. Maybe "declaration" in English doesn't make sense, but students can be taught how to recognize a "declaración" in our terms fairly quickly... in a classroom; I've done it myself. Maybe I shouldn't be trying to give this rules without a proper "live" introduction to it.In any case, the so-called "declaración" is not an overall declaration one, but only about the contents of the subordinate, term that we avoid most of the time anyway. I think people are interpreting my words in a way quite different from the one I had in mind, and I am probably making everyone confused for trying to do through short messages what it has to be done properly in class, but believe me: the rule is quite powerful (I was quite impressed the first time I saw it, when I was the kind of the yellow pages, and I have an article I wrote to prove it). I'll give you more details if you are interested, but I prefer not to extend this debate endlessly if you just want to prove me wrong. Don't take it bad, please.

No one's trying to prove you wrong, Lazarus. This discussion is just generating a lot of interest because the subjunctive is such a stumbling block for English speakers. But farbeit from me to step between you & James . . . I am out of my league grin

updated AGO 20, 2008
posted by Natasha
0
votes

James said:

I think that was probably more due to the students and their study habits and talents than to the use of your rule. Again, I understand exactly what you are saying, but my point is that a beginner English speaker isn't going to understand why the following aren't declarations.

Ok, let me say two things: the results used to be a lot worse when the same teachers who use those rules now, used to teach the typical yellow pages approach. Either students coincidentally became smarter after introducing the new approach, or it works a lot better (and students ask less questions about "exceptions").

Secondly: the way I was taught to teach was by using Spanish all the time; no English. Maybe "declaration" in English doesn't make sense, but students can be taught how to recognize a "declaración" in our terms fairly quickly... in a classroom; I've done it myself. Maybe I shouldn't be trying to give this rules without a proper "live" introduction to it.

In any case, the so-called "declaración" is not an overall declaration one, but only about the contents of the subordinate, term that we avoid most of the time anyway. I think people are interpreting my words in a way quite different from the one I had in mind, and I am probably making everyone confused for trying to do through short messages what it has to be done properly in class, but believe me: the rule is quite powerful (I was quite impressed the first time I saw it, when I was the kind of the yellow pages, and I have an article I wrote to prove it). I'll give you more details if you are interested, but I prefer not to extend this debate endlessly if you just want to prove me wrong. Don't take it bad, please.

updated AGO 20, 2008
posted by lazarus1907
0
votes

Well, in my opinion, Lazarus' rule is clearer than the other 'rule' I know:

The subjunctive is used for what is contrary to fact or does not (yet) exist.

updated AGO 20, 2008
posted by Natasha
0
votes

The discussion has wandered into what one might call the "philosophy of language". On one level one can always respond to the question "Why do you say..." with the answer "Because we do." That's one of the main reasons why children have a much easier time learning foreign languages; they're used to being told by adults "Because that's the way it is!" Adult learners, on the other hand, find this unsatisfactory. They want to map new information onto OLD patterns of thinking. That is the crux of the problem. Languages develop differently and, even if the same patterns develop, they are likely to develop at different rates. You can find many threads in this forum in which someone says (approximately) "I had to go back and relearn English grammar ...". In learning Spanish, it's an advantage to have studied Latin. Not only because Spanish is a Romance language but because in the study of Latin one is (or, at least, used to be) exposed to a large number of grammatical constructs that have mostly disappeared from modern English but persist in Spanish. Much the same can be said of the teaching of English grammar (or the resultant literature) of the 17th..19th centuries
when English grammar was largely treated as a debased form of Latin grammar.

So what are you to do if you weren't (un)fortunate enough to have studied Latin/English fifty (or so) years ago? Either you need to acquire a knowledge of concepts/terminology that are basically "foreign" to you (i.e. to your understanding of English) so that you can relate to English usage or you need to do as children do and just accept it as "that's the way it's said".

updated AGO 20, 2008
posted by samdie
0
votes

Believe me: I've seen foreigners who were taught this rule, and they were using the subjunctive nearly perfectly within six months of starting Spanish from zero.

I think that was probably more due to the students and their study habits and talents than to the use of your rule. Again, I understand exactly what you are saying, but my point is that a beginner English speaker isn't going to understand why the following aren't declarations.

I did it so that we would have enough food.
Lo hice a fin de que tuviéramos suficiente comida.
It's too bad that you can't come.
Es una lastima que no puedas ir.
I hope you feel better.
Espero que te sientas mejor.

I would bet that almost all English speakers would consider the above to be declarations. Of course, if you spend a lot of time explaining your rule by giving examples, any smart person is going to catch on, but the same can be said about the other rules (that is, the set of conditions that have to be met).

I just don't think there is any simple, easy way to explain to an English speaker how to use the subjunctive in Spanish. It all comes down to absorption through exposure, which is, after all, how you yourself learned it.

updated AGO 20, 2008
posted by 00bacfba
0
votes

lazarus1907 said:

James said:

Sorry, but to English speakers that rule doesn't make sense. No creo que sea real = I don't think it is real. To us, the above is a declaration; we are declaring that we think it is not real. So while I completely understand what you are saying, I think your rule would be even more confusing to beginners.

Possibly, but this rule has to be explained with examples to understand the concept of "declaration", and not just through a few words here. But let me explain to you why in your sentence there is no declaration:

Your subordinate clause says "it is real" (ser real). Is that what you are declaring? Of course not! That's why you require subjunctive. Try this inversion:

Creo que es real.

Es real, creo.

Because you are declaring that something is real, you can take it out of the clause, and express it independently. Try now with a negative:

No creo que sea real.

Es real, no creo ''''?

Because it wasn't declared, it cannot be stated in isolation.

Believe me: I've seen foreigners who were taught this rule, and they were using the subjunctive nearly perfectly within six months of starting Spanish from zero.


Yes. "I doubt that it be real/true." Perfectly good English (albeit, somewhat old-fashioned) that preserves the subjunctive.

updated AGO 20, 2008
posted by samdie
0
votes

lazarus1907 said:

James said:

Sorry, but to English speakers that rule doesn't make sense. No creo que sea real = I don't think it is real. To us, the above is a declaration; we are declaring that we think it is not real. So while I completely understand what you are saying, I think your rule would be even more confusing to beginners.

Possibly, but this rule has to be explained with examples to understand the concept of "declaration", and not just through a few words here. But let me explain to you why in your sentence there is no declaration:Your subordinate clause says "it is real" (ser real). Is that what you are declaring? Of course not! That's why you require subjunctive. Try this inversion:Creo que es real.Es real, creo.Because you are declaring that something is real, you can take it out of the clause, and express it independently. Try now with a negative:No creo que sea real.Es real, no creo '''''Because it wasn't declared, it cannot be stated in isolation.

English speakers, unless they're grammar teachers who like to parse sentences, aren't used to think of the clauses of their sentences separately like this. Sigh . . .

updated AGO 20, 2008
posted by Natasha
0
votes

samdie said:

Many of these problems stem from the fact that the subjunctive is used far less in modern English than it used to be (even a few generations ago). i.e. Mood distinctions that are still alive an well in Spanish have disappeared from common English usage. Such simplification may (or may not) be a good thing for English (it probably is for people trying to LEARN English) but it certainly causes problem for English speakers trying to learn a language that still embraces the subjunctive.Being somewhat old fashioned, I would be inclined to render "Fernanda, que no..." as"Fernanda, who did not remove the mug from my lips no matter how much I might draw away ...".For what it's worth, this is called the concessive subjunctive" if you're studying Latin.

samdie has a good point. Sometimes, when the subjunctive is used in Spanish, the English sounds OK if it is reworded as above (using "might", "would", etc.) even though we don't normally talk that way. However, as James alludes to, I find it extremely difficult to go the other direction and construct a Spanish sentence with the correct use of the indicative vs. subjunctive.

I would like it if he were to come today.
I want to get the job so that I could make more money.

updated AGO 20, 2008
posted by Natasha
0
votes

James said:

Sorry, but to English speakers that rule doesn't make sense. No creo que sea real = I don't think it is real. To us, the above is a declaration; we are declaring that we think it is not real. So while I completely understand what you are saying, I think your rule would be even more confusing to beginners.

Possibly, but this rule has to be explained with examples to understand the concept of "declaration", and not just through a few words here. But let me explain to you why in your sentence there is no declaration:

Your subordinate clause says "it is real" (ser real). Is that what you are declaring? Of course not! That's why you require subjunctive. Try this inversion:

Creo que es real.
Es real, creo.

Because you are declaring that something is real, you can take it out of the clause, and express it independently. Try now with a negative:

No creo que sea real.
Es real, no creo ''''?

Because it wasn't declared, it cannot be stated in isolation.

Believe me: I've seen foreigners who were taught this rule, and they were using the subjunctive nearly perfectly within six months of starting Spanish from zero.

updated AGO 20, 2008
posted by lazarus1907
0
votes

The rule is: "if you declare, use indicative; if you don't, subjunctive". That's it.

Sorry, but to English speakers that rule doesn't make sense.

No creo que sea real = I don't think it is real.

To us, the above is a declaration; we are declaring that we think it is not real. So while I completely understand what you are saying, I think your rule would be even more confusing to beginners.

updated AGO 20, 2008
posted by 00bacfba
0
votes

Many of these problems stem from the fact that the subjunctive is used far less in modern English than it used to be (even a few generations ago). i.e. Mood distinctions that are still alive an well in Spanish have disappeared from common English usage. Such simplification may (or may not) be a good thing for English (it probably is for people trying to LEARN English) but it certainly causes problem for English speakers trying to learn a language that still embraces the subjunctive.
Being somewhat old fashioned, I would be inclined to render "Fernanda, que no..." as
"Fernanda, who did not remove the mug from my lips no matter how much I might draw away ...".
For what it's worth, this is called the concessive subjunctive" if you're studying Latin.

updated AGO 20, 2008
posted by samdie
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