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Why do I not need subjunctive to say, "I decided to see if a car passed by"?

SteveB1Kwiziq community member

Why do I not need subjunctive to say, "I decided to see if a car passed by"?

I was doing one of the writing exercises and the sentence given was, "I decided to wait and see if a car passed by to call for help." I figured the translation of "passed by" would be "pasera" (past subjunctive), but the answer given was "pasaba." Why wouldn't we need to use subjunctive here since it's uncertain whether a car will actually pass by?

Asked 4 days ago
SilviaKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hola Steve

Great question! In Spanish, the decision to use the subjunctive or indicative mood depends on how the speaker views the action or event. In the sentence 'I decided to wait and see if a car passed by', the use of the indicative mood ("pasaba") rather than the subjunctive ("pasara") is due to the context of the sentence.

Here, "pasaba" is used in the past imperfect indicative form, which is appropriate because the action (a car passing by) is viewed as a potential, yet real occurrence in the past within the narrative context. The speaker is recounting a decision made based on observing an event that could regularly or naturally happen.

The subjunctive mood, which you mentioned ("pasara"), would typically be used to express uncertainty, doubt, or non-reality. However, in this specific case, the action of waiting to see if a car passed by suggests that the speaker considers the event as a possible, realistic occurrence rather than a doubtful or hypothetical one. Essentially, the speaker is not expressing doubt about the occurrence but is rather observing or waiting for a likely event.

So, the use of "pasaba" indicates a perspective where the speaker is considering the passing of the car as a part of a habitual or ongoing condition in the past, which fits the narrative of waiting to see if something usual happens.

I hope this explanation helps clarify the use of the indicative mood in your sentence! If you have any more questions about Spanish grammar or any other topic, feel free to ask.

Happy learning!

 
Silvia 
 
SilviaKwiziq team memberCorrect answer

Hola de nuevo, Steve

The use of the subjunctive can indeed be tricky. In the example from the "cuando" article, the subjunctive is used because the future action is seen as probable but not certain. However, in your sentence, 'I decided to wait and see if a car passed by', the use of the imperfect indicative "pasaba" reflects an expected or habitual event in the past. The speaker is recounting their wait for something they viewed as a realistic possibility rather than a hypothetical one.

Hope this helps clarify things!

Buen finde

Silvia

MarcosC1 Kwiziq Q&A super contributor

Maybe a clearer English translation would be “I decided to see if a car would pass by”. Then the use of the Spanish imperfect tense would seem a little more natural to English speakers, but I must admit that we don’t think like that.  There are so many translations that just come down to different ways of thinking.

SteveB1Kwiziq community member

Thanks Silvia and Marcos for the replies! I appreciate it. I am still a bit confused, however, because for example, in the Kwiziq article about cuando and the subjunctive, it points out there are cases where the speaker thinks a future event is quite probable and that triggers the subjunctive. e.g. "We might stop for a rest *when we arrive in Toledo*." Here, the article says, "the speaker sees the action as something with more probability to happen. The level of certainty is higher." Thanks, Steve

p.s. Link to cuando article here: Cuando + the imperfect subjunctive

Why do I not need subjunctive to say, "I decided to see if a car passed by"?

I was doing one of the writing exercises and the sentence given was, "I decided to wait and see if a car passed by to call for help." I figured the translation of "passed by" would be "pasera" (past subjunctive), but the answer given was "pasaba." Why wouldn't we need to use subjunctive here since it's uncertain whether a car will actually pass by?

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