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Table of contents Chapter 20 20.7 tener que and deber in conjuntivo

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Chapter 20: Modal verbs (Auxiliaries)

  20.7 tener que and deber in conjuntivo

We have noticed that the English rather use the "softer" conjunctive form of shall (= should). In Spanish there are some rules to be taken into account when to use the conjuntivo.

  When conjuntivo can be used in Spanish?
1. If tener que expresses something that has no alternative, the conjuntivo cannot be used (as it is not in English)

The car was broken so we had to leave the car.

correct: El coche estuvo estropeado, así que tuvimos que dejarlo.
incorrect: El coche estuvo estropeado, así que tuvieramos que dejarlo.

2.

When the speaker decides to express the attitude with tener que he or she can do that also in conjuntivo. When using deber he or she can do this in indicativo or conjuntivo. The difference is marginal.

Tienes que conocerlo. Te va a fascinar.
Debes conocerlo. Te va a fascinar.
= You have to meet her. She will fascinate you.

Deberías
conocerlo. Te va a fascinar.
Tendrías que conocerlo. Te va a fascinar.
= You should meet her. She will fascinate you.

see also chapter 20.10.2


3.

When using deber in a situation that expresses the freedom of choice is existent and there is really room for manoeuvre it can be done in indicativo and conjuntivo. It can also be done with the conjuntivo of tener que.

Debe ir a España, pero creo que se va a Italia.
= He shall go to Spain but I think he goes to Italy.
Debería ir a España pero creo que se va a Italia.
= He should go to Spain but I think he goes to Italy.
Él tendría que ir a España, pero creo que se va a Italia.
= He should* go to Spain but I think he goes to Italy.


* Here is definitely a difference. Since there is not an adequate translation for the conjunctive form of to have to or to must it can only be should

4.

When using deber as expression of a request of another person deber can be used in indicativo, which expresses then a demand or a rather strong request. Deber can also be used in conjuntivo which then indicates rather an advise or a softer request.

Debes escucharme ahora.
= You shall* listen to me now.
Deberías escucharme ahora.
= You should listen to me now.

* Here again we see the difference. Shall is not used that often and therefore the sentence You should listen to me would be more common than the first one. Still it's not really wrong to say so.

5.

When using deber in moral principles it can't be put into conjuntivo without changing the meaning of it. The Spanish is here more strict than English.

correct: Debes respetar a tus padres, pero si te pegan debes defenderte.
correct: You shall honour your parents but if they hit you, you shall defend yourself.

not: Deberías respetar a tus padres, pero si te pegan deberías defenderte.
not: You should honour your parents but if they hit you, you should defend yourself.


6. In negative clauses the conjuntivo should not be used! The meaning is changed as it is in English as well.

No deberías robar.

= You shouldn't steal.
No debes robar.
= You shall not steal.

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