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Spanish Lesson Intermediate 11 Relative Clauses Posted by on Jan 26, 2011 in Spanish Culture, Spanish Grammar, Spanish Vocabulary, Videos

¡Hola a todos!

¿Qué tal la semana?

Hoy vamos a practicar el Presente de Subjuntivo en frases de relativo – Present Subjuntive in Relative Clauses. We will first discuss exactly what a Relative Clause is and afterwards we will see when and when not to use the Present Subjunctive in such cases.

When you find a “Defining Relative Clause” in a sentence it is there to provide essential information about the noun or noun phrase it modifies. Without the Defining Relative Clause that sentence would not make sense as we would be unable to identify the noun in the sentence. For example, with the sentence: “El libro que estoy leyendo no está mal” (the book I am reading is not bad) the part “que estoy leyendo” tells us the book that is being referred to.

Let´s see more examples of this type of sentence:

Tengo un amigo que vive en Londres: I have a friend who lives in London. Here the relative clause is “que vive en Londres”.
Necesito un coche que tenga un maletero grande: I need a car that has a big boot/trunk. Here the relative clause is “que tenga un maletero grande”.

As you can see, with relative clauses sometimes we use Indicative and sometimes we use Subjunctive. ¿When do we use one or the other?

When something or someone is known: Indicative

When something or someone is unknown: Subjunctive

For example:

Busco un hotel que tiene piscina: I am looking for a hotel that has a swimming pool (a known hotel)
Busco un hotel que tenga piscina: I am looking for a hotel that has a swimming pool (an unknown hotel)

Queremos ir a una tienda donde venden tarjetas: We want to go to a shop where they sell cards (a known shop)
Queremos ir a una tienda donde vendan tarjetas: We want to go to a shop where they sell cards (an unknown shop)

Necesito la chaqueta que tiene rayas negras: I need the jacket that has black stripes (a known jacket)
Necesito una chaqueta que tenga rayas negras: I need a jacket that has black stripes (an unknown jacket)

What happens with negative sentences and questions? In negative sentences the verb in the relative clause is always in subjunctive, but with questions it could be in indicative or subjunctive.

For example:

Conozco a alguien que habla francés: I know someone who speaks French (this person exists)
No conozco a nadie que hable francés: I don’t know anyone who speaks French (this person doesn’t exist)
¿Conoces a alquien que hable francés?: Do you know anyone who speaks French? (we don’t know if this person exists)
Tengo un profesor que vive en Madrid: I have a teacher who lives in Madrid (this person exists)
No tengo un profesor que viva en Madrid: I don’t have a teacher that lives in Madrid (this person doesn’t exist)
¿Tienes un profesor que vive en Madrid?: Do you have a teacher that lives in Madrid? (when we ask this question we believe the person exists and are double checking, expecting a “yes” answer, so we use the indicative)

Bueno, esto es todo por hoy. All the examples we have seen are in the Present Tense, but of course you can make sentences with Relative Clauses in the Past Tense, but as we haven´t seen the Past Subjunctive yet, I recommend that you start practicing sentences in the Present Tense for now. We will look at the other tenses in future classes and by that time you will be well practiced and fully confident.

Que tengáis una fantástica semana y nos vemos pronto.


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About the Author: Laura & Adam

Laura & Adam have been blogging and creating online Spanish courses for Transparent Language since 2010. Laura is from Bilbao in northern Spain and Adam is from Devon in the south of England. They lived together in Spain for over 10 years, where their 2 daughters were born, and now they live in Scotland. Both Laura & Adam qualified as foreign language teachers in 2004 and since have been teaching Spanish in Spain, the UK, and online.


  1. Charly:

    We were just talking about subjuntivo vs. indicativo in relative clauses in my Spanish class.
    So thanks, that was the perfect way to recap in 5 minutes! 🙂