Understand the function of and reason to use subjunctive in cause-effect with "hace que …"

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In my understanding, indicative is used to talk about a fact, a completed action, or a general idea. However in cause-effect or make sth happen sentences, subjunctive is used. In the last example, it was the fact the child had a breathing problem but "tuviera" instead of "tenía".

I would like to understand why subjunctive is required here. Is it because the effect is yet to happen until the cause is completed, and this time delay is signified by using subjunctive?

I appreciate someone could shed light on this.

2 Answers 2


Subjunctive implies subjectivity, uncertainty or grammatical subordination. In a reason/result relationship where there is some sort of imperative implied, the result is subordinate to the reason (depends upon it).

For example, 'La lluvia hace que use mi paraguas' includes an imperative relationship between the rain and my having to use an umbrella. However, 'Uso mi paraguas cuando llueve' and even 'Uso mi paraguas porque llueve' do not. They simply link the two facts as a reason/result, but do not require the result. It's a subtle difference, to be sure. The grammatical subordination comes in the way the sentence is structured: Using my umbrella is the object of the imperative 'hacer que'.

  • Thanks for the answer. So "People put up umbrellas when it rains" will be "Usen los paraguas cuando llueve"? Here, "it rains" is the reason and "put up umbrellas" is result. And according to the answer by Walter Mitty, as it is not yet to happen to rain, it would be subjunctive for 'when it rain'...
    – mon
    Feb 16, 2015 at 13:19
  • After thinking about it (for more than the 5 minutes allowed to edit a comment), 'tener que' and 'hacer que' imply a form of imperative, which makes subjunctive tense appropriate. 'Cuando' and 'porque', although they link two facts as a reason/result, do not imply an imperative. I've updated my original answer to reflect this.
    – Kent A.
    Feb 16, 2015 at 14:12

It's not a matter of time delay. It has to do with the fact that the sentence is discussing the action that would be the effect, without making any assertion about whether that effect has happened, is happening, or will happen at a known time in the future.

The indicative is used to indicate that an action has happened, is happening, or will happen definitely in the future. However, there are cases where English uses a present indicative for a future event and Spanish uses a subjunctive.


We will get on board when the train comes.

This is not about an action in the present. It's about a future action at an indefinite point in time.

Abordaremos cuando venga el tren.

  • What if "We will get on board if the train comes"? Would it be 'Abordaremos si venga el tren' o 'Abordaremos si viene el tren'?
    – mon
    Feb 16, 2015 at 11:43
  • I don't know which is correct. I would say "abordaremos si viene el tren." Feb 16, 2015 at 13:30

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