Using Spanish verb temer(se) with indicative or subjunctive

The verb temer in Spanish is often used to express a fear of something happening as well as a belief; depending on what we want to convey we will use it with the indicative or the subjunctive.

Spanish verb temer with the subjunctive

Generally, we use temer with the subjunctive to express that we are afraid a specific event will happen in a certain way. Although you can use the verb pronominally or non-pronominally here, it's a lot more common to use it as a non-pronominal verb (temer, not temerse) in this case. For example:

Temo que los albañiles no terminen la extensión a tiempo.I fear that the builders won't finish the extension on time.

Temo que el día de la boda Miguel se eche atrás.I fear that Miguel will back out on our wedding day.

Los usuarios temían que las tarifas subieran considerablemente.Users feared that the tariffs would go up considerably.

The actions expressed after que are actions that might happen in the future and the subject expresses their fear of that action happening. 

The equivalent and more colloquial way of saying the same would be "tener miedo de que...":

Los usuarios tenían miedo de que las tarifas subieran considerablemente.Users feared that the tariffs would go up considerably.

Spanish verb temer(se) with the indicative

Generally, we use temerse (a lot more commonly used pronominally) with the indicative if what we express is a belief or suspicion.  It is also implicit that there is some kind of regret. Here are some examples:

Me estoy temiendo que no voy a llegar a fin de mes.I'm suspecting I won't be able to make ends meet.

Me temo que el vuelo se cancelará por falta de pasajeros.I believe/suspect that the flight will be cancelled due to lack of passengers.

Me temo que nos van a echar del restaurante; estamos haciendo mucho ruido.I suspect they are going to kick us out of the restaurant; we are making a lot of noise.

This is different to the previous use of "fear" with the subjunctive because here we could easily substitute the verb temer with "I believe.../I think..." which would trigger the indicative. 

The same idea is conveyed with verbs like creer o sospechar:

Creo que el vuelo se cancelará por falta de pasajeros.I believe the flight will be cancelled due to lack of passengers.

Sospecho que nos van a echar del restaurante; estamos haciendo mucho ruido.I suspect/believe that they are going to kick us out of the restaurant; we're making a lot of noise.

 

Note that with this same nuance we give answers like:

- ¿Crees que Carlota va a suspender? - Me temo que sí.- Do you think Carlota will fail? - I'm afraid so (I suspect she will, I believe she will).

- ¿Entonces, crees que subirá el precio de la gasolina otra vez? - Eso me temo.- So, do you believe the price of petrol will go up again? - That's what I think.

 

Look at these contrasting examples: two nearly identical sentences, one using the subjunctive and another using the indicative. Notice how they convey different ideas:

  • Here she is expressing what she believes it's going to happen.
Me temo que los chicos llegarán empapados al campamento. Está diluviando. (indicative)I suspect the boys will be soaking wet when they return to the campsite. It's pouring with rain.
  • Here she is expressing her concern and fear that, based on the circumstances (the pouring rain), as to the state in which they will arrive. 
(Me) Temo que los chicos lleguen empapados al campamento. Está diluviando. (subjunctive)I fear that the boys will be soaking wet when they return to the campsite. It's pouring with rain.

Temerse que to express an apology

Sometimes the use of me temo que is a formula used to express some kind of apology before giving some bad news, like the English use of "I'm afraid...". With this specific meaning the indicative is used.

Me temo que su habitación aún no está lista. Estará disponible en media hora.I'm afraid your room is not ready yet. It'll be available in half an hour.

Me temo que no podré aplicarle el descuento porque ya se ha pasado la fecha.I'm afraid I won't be able to apply the discount because the offer has expired.

With this last meaning the use of temer is always pronominal: me temo que...

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Examples and resources

Me estoy temiendo que no voy a llegar a fin de mes.I'm suspecting I won't be able to make ends meet.
Me temo que el vuelo se cancelará por falta de pasajeros.I believe/suspect that the flight will be cancelled due to lack of passengers.
Me temo que su habitación aún no está lista. Estará disponible en media hora.I'm afraid your room is not ready yet. It'll be available in half an hour.
Me temo que no podré aplicarle el descuento porque ya se ha pasado la fecha.I'm afraid I won't be able to apply the discount because the offer has expired.
Los usuarios temían que las tarifas subieran considerablemente.Users feared that the tariffs would go up considerably.
Temo que el día de la boda Miguel se eche atrás.I fear that Miguel will back out on our wedding day.
Temo que no llegues a tiempo a tu entrevista.I fear that you will not arrive on time to your interview.
Me temo que los chicos llegarán empapados al campamento. Está diluviando. (indicative)I suspect the boys will be soaking wet when they return to the campsite. It's pouring with rain.
Temo que los albañiles no terminen la extensión a tiempo.I fear that the builders won't finish the extension on time.
Sospecho que nos van a echar del restaurante; estamos haciendo mucho ruido.I suspect/believe that they are going to kick us out of the restaurant; we're making a lot of noise.
- ¿Entonces, crees que subirá el precio de la gasolina otra vez? - Eso me temo.- So, do you believe the price of petrol will go up again? - That's what I think.
(Me) Temo que los chicos lleguen empapados al campamento. Está diluviando. (subjunctive)I fear that the boys will be soaking wet when they return to the campsite. It's pouring with rain.
Creo que el vuelo se cancelará por falta de pasajeros.I believe the flight will be cancelled due to lack of passengers.
Me temo que nos van a echar del restaurante; estamos haciendo mucho ruido.I suspect they are going to kick us out of the restaurant; we are making a lot of noise.
- ¿Crees que Carlota va a suspender? - Me temo que sí.- Do you think Carlota will fail? - I'm afraid so (I suspect she will, I believe she will).
Los usuarios tenían miedo de que las tarifas subieran considerablemente.Users feared that the tariffs would go up considerably.
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