Take the 2-minute tour ×
Spanish Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for students, teachers, and linguists wanting to discuss the finer points of the Spanish language. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Algunas personas pensaban que no había suficientes habitaciones para acomodar a tantos visitantes.

VS

Algunas personas no pensaban que hubiera suficientes habitacions para acomodar a tantos visitantes.

Do these mean the same thing even though one uses the subjunctive and the other doesn't? The answer is probably an obvious yes as the negation is merely being moved around, but I thought I'd ask anyway just because the subjunctive was interesting to me. Is there any difference whatsoever in meaning or implication?

share|improve this question
2  
There is a slight difference in meaning, just as in English, between "I think there isn't room" and "I don't think there is room." It's usually just semantics, but the first is technically a positive statement that I believe there is not room, where as the second is a statement of uncertainty. –  Flimzy Feb 7 '12 at 1:15
    
Shouldn't the second case be hubiera instead of hubieran? –  jrdioko Feb 7 '12 at 1:44
    
@Flimzy In my English classes I've always been told by the English native teacher that I should say "I don't think there is ..." instead of "I think there isn't ..." because native people expect a positive statement after the verb think (so it was quite unnatural to say "I think there isn't..."). In Spanish it's very common to use a negative statement after "pensar" (maybe even more common than using "no pienso"). –  Juanillo Feb 7 '12 at 9:37
    
@Flimzy I think you should post that comment as an answer. You have my +1 at least. –  Janoma Feb 7 '12 at 14:11
    
@Juanillo: Well, I think I disagree with your English teacher on some level. :) I don't think (at least in the U.S.) one form is more "expected" than the other. Nobody will look at you funny if you say the "wrong" one. I tend to be a bit anal about these things, though, and try to always use the form that expresses what I actually mean (an affirmation of negative belief with "I think ... not"; or an uncertainty with "I don't think so"). –  Flimzy Feb 7 '12 at 18:53

3 Answers 3

Pensaban que no había...

They think there are no enough rooms. They make a thought.

No pensaban que había...

Simply, they didn't take the time to think. They make no thougth.

share|improve this answer
    
I've learned that should be "No pensaban que hubiera...". Is "había" also correct here? –  dainichi Jul 17 '12 at 5:54

There is a slight difference in meaning, even in English, between "I think there isn't room" and "I don't think there is room." It's usually just semantics, but the first is technically a positive statement of a lack of belief, where as the second is a statement of uncertainty.

A common case where the difference actually matters is in the definition of an atheist. An atheist does not believe in a God. Whereas many people often get confused and claim that atheists believe there is no God. There is a subtle, but very important difference. An atheist has a lack of belief, whereas the confusion is that an atheist has an active belief in the lack of god.

I cannot really comment on the use of subjunctive in your question.

share|improve this answer

"...no pensaban que hubiera..." is softer than "...pensaban que no había...". I think it's the same in English: "I don't think so" is softer than "I think not".

At least in Spanish, if I say "No pienso X", I'm not commiting myself regarding whether X or not-X is true. But if I say "Pienso que no X", then I'm commiting myself to not-X.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.