Romance subjunctive quagmire: verbs "to think / to believe" with same subject

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Romance subjunctive quagmire: verbs "to think / to believe" with same subject

Postby outcast » Fri Jul 30, 2021 4:48 pm

I am lazy, and since I don't believe I really need to explain the grammar involved in this question step by step, I will just directly get to the crux of the matter (as I think those capable of answering this question would already have more than a superficial level of knowledge).

This is not as, as far as I can think, a very common situation, nevertheless I would like to have the correct forms in my notes. Since I am in Italy and deep in an Italian cram session, I am now writing the notes on the subjunctive (Congiuntivo in Italian). I then realized I'm not too clear on how the Romance languages I speak, or have studied to an incomplete level, resolve the following point:

As those who needed to learn probably know, when there are TWO (2) different subjects in a sentence with two clauses that may trigger the subjunctive, the romance verbs equivalent to "to think/believe" will take the INDICATIVE in Spanish and French when making an affirmative statement:

ES: (Yo) Creo que (tu) sabes la verdad. / FR: Je crois que tu sais la vérité.

In the negative, the subjunctive usually applies (but for very advanced locutions the indicative can be used to show nuance of certainty, unimportant here):
ES: (Yo) No creo que (tu) sepas la verdad. / FR: Je ne crois pas que tu saches la vérité.

(Italian does not follow this split pattern, and uses the subjunctive for both situations = IT: (Io) Credo che tu sappia la verità./ (Io) Non credo che tu sappia la verità. )

That's all fine. When the subject is the same in both clauses, the subjunctive is not triggered. Instead, each language seems to go their own way, and I want confirmation of this from native French and Italian speakers. As for the Spanish, I am actually not quite sure at all (and I am a "native" speaker, but lets face it my instincts are degraded from total lack of exposure to reading or active content, and I really never studied the Spanish Subjunctive).

For French: Je pense avoir une dépression / Je crois être prêt. (the formula is "penser/croire + INFINITIVE, based on textbooks and my own experience)
For Italian: Penso di avere la depressione. / Credo di essere pronto. (the formula is "pensare/credere + di + INFINITIVE, based on several grammar sources)
For Spanish: Pienso que tengo depresión. / Creo que estoy listo ~ Creo estar listo .

Here, for Spanish, I have no idea. Those sentences are just what I would say as a native speaker, I have no clue about the grammar. In the 2nd sentence, both formulas sound correct, but I do not know if there is one more correct than the other, or what Spanish learners are taught. The first sentence is weirder because I would always say "Pienso que tengo depresión" and NEVER "Pienso tener depresión", as that has a different meaning in my ears, something like "I plan to have depression"... Which is basically nonsense, no one would really ever say that. Anyone else agree or am I crazy?

Well, I would like to know what anyone can contribute to this topic. Thanks!
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Re: Romance subjunctive quagmire: verbs "to think / to believe" with same subject

Postby dampingwire » Fri Jul 30, 2021 7:08 pm

outcast wrote:Since I am in Italy and deep in an Italian cram session, ...


Always better to ask for opinions from absolutely trustworthy people on an internet bulltin board than those pretend native speakers that you're currently surrounded by ...

outcast wrote:(Italian does not follow this split pattern, and uses the subjunctive for both situations = IT: (Io) Credo che tu sappia la verità./ (Io) Non credo che tu sappia la verità. )


That's correct and is what I would say. The subjunctive is slowly being overwhelmed in italian, so you may well hear Credo che tu sai in daily life (although hopefully not yet in a classroom).

outcast wrote:Here, for Spanish, I have no idea. Those sentences are just what I would say as a native speaker, I have no clue about the grammar.


Fair enough. Forget anything I might have said about asking a native Italian speaker then :-)
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Re: Romance subjunctive quagmire: verbs "to think / to believe" with same subject

Postby sirgregory » Fri Jul 30, 2021 8:06 pm

And do the patterns hold for past action as well?

Example: I don't believe that he did it.

In Spanish, do you follow the pattern from the present tense and use subjunctive?

No creo que lo hiciera.

Or do you go with indicative?

No creo que lo hizo.

Or a perfect tense?

No creo que lo haya hecho.

Can anyone comment on if preterite would be considered "wrong"? I want to say I've heard natives use the preterite here. The past subjunctive sentence sounds okay as well but it seems more like it saying "I don't think he would do it" or something like that.

In French I would assume you'd use the perfect tense with subjunctive, no?
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Re: Romance subjunctive quagmire: verbs "to think / to believe" with same subject

Postby guyome » Fri Jul 30, 2021 8:43 pm

For French: Je pense avoir une dépression / Je crois être prêt. (the formula is "penser/croire + INFINITIVE, based on textbooks and my own experience)
Yes, these sentences are correct but you could also say "Je pense que j'ai une dépression" and "Je crois que je suis prêt" (I'd say that these are probably more common in everyday speech).
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Re: Romance subjunctive quagmire: verbs "to think / to believe" with same subject

Postby outcast » Fri Jul 30, 2021 9:21 pm

dampingwire wrote:
outcast wrote:Since I am in Italy and deep in an Italian cram session, ...


Always better to ask for opinions from absolutely trustworthy people on an internet bulltin board than those pretend native speakers that you're currently surrounded by ...


Very simple really, they cannot explain! They are not language geeks like we are, and native speakers are generally not able to explain their mother tongue's grammar in any useful way, much less compare it to others. That's why I come here.

I use native speakers for conversation, and if I do have any questions, I keep it simple and merely ask if the sentence I created sounds natural or not. If not, how would they say it.
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Re: Romance subjunctive quagmire: verbs "to think / to believe" with same subject

Postby outcast » Fri Jul 30, 2021 9:30 pm

dampingwire wrote:[

That's correct and is what I would say. The subjunctive is slowly being overwhelmed in italian, so you may well hear Credo che tu sai in daily life (although hopefully not yet in a classroom).


guyome wrote:Yes, these sentences are correct but you could also say "Je pense que j'ai une dépression" and "Je crois que je suis prêt" (I'd say that these are probably more common in everyday speech).


Yes, reports of the death of the romance subjunctive have been greatly exagerated...

Thanks guys. I do know the Italian subjunctive is not very stable, probably because of the dialects, and people can't be bothered with figuring things out anymore. Interesting about the French, I actually have heard such constructions before, but I have not really done French in a while so things are clouded. So it seems French allows the same "penser que..." for the same subject in both clauses like Spanish does. And it avoids the subjunctive entirely in the process.

I guess my question about Spanish is whether the "pensar que" is an actual fixed pattern. I Chinese friend who studies Spanish told me her textbooks teach it as a fixed expression.
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Re: Romance subjunctive quagmire: verbs "to think / to believe" with same subject

Postby outcast » Fri Jul 30, 2021 9:38 pm

sirgregory wrote:And do the patterns hold for past action as well?

Example: I don't believe that he did it.

In Spanish, do you follow the pattern from the present tense and use subjunctive?

No creo que lo hiciera.

Or do you go with indicative?

No creo que lo hizo.

Or a perfect tense?

No creo que lo haya hecho.

Can anyone comment on if preterite would be considered "wrong"? I want to say I've heard natives use the preterite here. The past subjunctive sentence sounds okay as well but it seems more like it saying "I don't think he would do it" or something like that.

In French I would assume you'd use the perfect tense with subjunctive, no?


No creo que lo haya hecho sounds more correct to me, and also aligns with what I learned in French, Portuguese, and now Italian: that if the main verb is in the present tense (creo), but the subjunctive action is in the past, that the Present perfect subjunctive is required.

The first one would have to be "No crei que lo hiciera" ("no creia" sounds a bit weird but correct).

The 2nd one is just incorrect, simply because "no creo" triggers the subjunctive in Spanish, so cannot be "hizo" (indicative). It can only be number 3.
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Re: Romance subjunctive quagmire: verbs "to think / to believe" with same subject

Postby guyome » Sat Jul 31, 2021 7:47 am

Just adding something I thought about after my last post.

While "Je pense avoir une dépression"/"Je pense que j'ai une dépression" are perfectly fine, a depression is also something you can "do" ("faire une dépression"). Which leads to an interesting wrinkle related to the infinitive/"que" topic. The two sentences with "avoir" ("Je pense avoir une dépression"/"Je pense que j'ai une dépression") mean the exact same thing but it might not be the case when "faire" is used, at least to me:

- "Je pense que je fais une dépression" > "I think I'm having depression"
- "Je pense faire une dépression" > "I'm thinking of having depression".

So, with the infinitive depression sounds a lot like something you're planning to have. Of course, it's a rather unlikely thing to say so the sentence would probably still be understood as an equivalent of "je pense que je fais une dépression". But in other cases the "planning" meaning is the only one available: "Je pense faire une tarte" > "I'm thinking of baking a pie"/"I think I'll bake a pie".

Right now, I can't find a reference explaining this in detail but this "planning" meaning is something you can also find with movement verbs, although the difference between infinitive/"que" might not always be as clear cut.

- "Je pense que j'arrive à Montélimar" > "I think I'm arriving in Montélimar" (maybe you're driving and speaking to someone on the phone and this person asks where you are right now but you're not too sure)
- "Je pense arriver à Montélimar"> "I think I'll arrive in Montélimar" (maybe you're discussing a trip you're going to make).
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Re: Romance subjunctive quagmire: verbs "to think / to believe" with same subject

Postby outcast » Sat Jul 31, 2021 8:25 am

guyome wrote:Just adding something I thought about after my last post.

While "Je pense avoir une dépression"/"Je pense que j'ai une dépression" are perfectly fine, a depression is also something you can "do" ("faire une dépression"). Which leads to an interesting wrinkle related to the infinitive/"que" topic. The two sentences with "avoir" ("Je pense avoir une dépression"/"Je pense que j'ai une dépression") mean the exact same thing but it's not the case when "faire" is used, at least to me:

- "Je pense que je fais une dépression" > "I think I'm having depression"
- "Je pense faire une dépression" > "I'm thinking of having depression".

So, with the infinitive depression is something you're planning to have. I can't find a reference explaining this in detail right now but this "planning" aspect is something you can also find with movement verbs, although the difference between infinitive/"que" might not always be as clear cut.

- "Je pense que j'arrive à Montélimar" > "I think I'm arriving in Montélimar" (maybe you're driving and speaking to someone on the phone and this person asks where you are right now but you're not too sure)
- "Je pense arriver à Montélimar"> "I think I'll arrive in Montélimar" (maybe you're discussing a trip you're going to make).


Pienso que llego (estoy llegando) a Montélimar.
Pienso llegar a Montélimar.

What can be said is that the semantics of "pensar" in Spanish and French vary slightly and it would appear in that in Spanish "pensar" by itself can carry the meaning of "planning" or "intending to", because "pensar llegar" and "Pensar tener" both suggest a willful intent of attaining the verb's activity or state. You must use "que" to change the meaning from that to one expressing opinion or supposition. (Pienso que estoy llegando a Montélimar -- a supposition).

I'm guessing that in French "faire" is a causative structure not just to make another agent perform an action ("faire dormir le bébé", where the grammatical subject is not the agent of the verb, but the influencer or trigger for the actual agent to do the action of sleeping, the baby), but it can also express influencing or triggering a psychological or physiological condition on one's own body or mind, since I have myself used the expression "faire un crise cardiaque", which led me to do a quick google and sure enough, there are several other expressions using "faire" involving health or mental conditions (I guess it could be interpreted that if you have a health or mental problem, it is something in your behavior or habits that causes the malfunction to occur). I think Spanish would use "sufrir" (with the meaning of "undergo"), for these scenarios.
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Re: Romance subjunctive quagmire: verbs "to think / to believe" with same subject

Postby Querneus » Sun Aug 01, 2021 2:04 am

outcast wrote:Here, for Spanish, I have no idea. Those sentences are just what I would say as a native speaker, I have no clue about the grammar. In the 2nd sentence, both formulas sound correct, but I do not know if there is one more correct than the other, or what Spanish learners are taught. The first sentence is weirder because I would always say "Pienso que tengo depresión" and NEVER "Pienso tener depresión", as that has a different meaning in my ears, something like "I plan to have depression"... Which is basically nonsense, no one would really ever say that. Anyone else agree or am I crazy?

I agree. In fact, I don't disagree with anything you've said about Spanish... except that maybe I'd accept No creo que lo hizo as far as my dialect (El Salvador) goes, even if I totally grant No creo que lo hiciera / lo haya hecho are both (much) more common (including in my dialect) and are standard constructions. Here's a tweet by someone from the Dominican Republic saying no creo que lo hizo, for an attested example. Corpusdelespanol.org also gives a couple examples of the exact phrase, one from a Paraguayan news source and another from a comment in an Argentinian news source.
[...] con su incondicionalidad a la figura del dictador civil. no creo que lo hizo por su magnanimidad, cosa que no ocurre con un ser tan despreciable. lo [...]
[...] poco mas cuidadoso... pero bueno fue un accidente no creo que lo hizo a proposito
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