One of the uses of the Subjunctive: vague or indefinite antecedent.

June 19, 2014

Today we are going to learn one of the uses of the subjunctive mood but it´s sometimes forgotten in Spanish grammar books: vague or indefinite antecedent.

 

If the object or person of the main clause is not known to actually exist (this is referred to as an indefinite antecedent) or is negated, the subjunctive is required in the subordinate clause.

We can see the difference between a definite antecedent and indefinite antecedent in the following sentences.

 

DEFINITE ANTECEDENT    

Tengo un perro que no ladra. I have a dog that doesn`t bark.

Utilizo una silla que es muy cómoda. I use a chair that`s very comfortable.

Tengo una amiga que habla español. I have a friend who can speak Spanish.

Hay personas aquí que me conocen. There are people here who know me.

 

However, if the noun of the main clause is not identified or is negated, the verb of the subordinate clause appears in the subjunctive.

 

INDEFINITE ANTECEDENT

Quiero un perro que no ladre. I want a dog that doesn`t bark.

Necesito una silla que sea muy cómoda. I use a chair that`s very comfortable.

Quiero una amiga que hable español. I want a friend who can speak Spanish.

No hay personas aquí que me conozcan. There aren`t people here who know me.

 

Note: with verbs of desire, the personal a (used for people and pets) is not used when the person may not exist.

 

The subjunctive is therefore used after no hay nada que, no hay nadie que, and no hay ningún/ninguna+noun que.

 

No hay nada que te guste. There’s nothing that you like.

No hay nadie aquí que pueda ayudarte.There isn’t anyone here who can help you.

No hay ninguna tienda que cierre después de las 8pm. There’s no store that closes after 8pm.

 

However,

 

Hay algo que te gusta. There’s something that you like.

Hay alguien aquí que puede ayudarte. There’s someone here who can help you.

Hay alguna tienda que cierra después de las 8pm. There´s some store that closes after 8pm.

 

Also, the subjunctive is usually used after hay algo/alguien/algún/alguna in questions because the antecedent is not identified.

 

¿Hay algo que te guste? Is there something you like?

¿Hay alguien aquí que pueda ayudarte? Is there someone here who can help you?

¿Hay alguna tienda que cierre después de las 8pm? Is there any store that closes today?

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