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In my Spanish textbook it says that Spanish uses que when talking about thinking.

E.g. Pienso que = I think that

It then gives the following examples:

1) Pienso que puede hacerlo.
I think he can do it. 

2) Pienso que la elección fue muy emocionante
I think the election was very exciting.

3) I think large governments don't understand the public
Pienso que los altos gobernantes no entienden al pueblo

4) Pienso que este año vuelven a ganar la Copa.
I think this year they’ll win the Cup again.

But then it has the following examples:

5) Pienso irme la semana que viene o en dos semanas
I think go away next week or in two weeks

6) Pienso quedarme una semana en España
I think I’ll stay a week in Spain

Why do examples 5 and 6 omit the use of que? Is there are rule as to when to use que and when to omit it?

2

"Pienso que" will be followed by a clause containing a tensed verb (puede, fue, entienden, vuelven).

Instead, in examples (5) and (6), "pienso" is followed by an infinitive and does not mean "believe" as in examples (1) to (4) but "plan to/intend to/consider the idea of".

1

Look at the following pair, both sentences are correct:

Pienso que iré mañana a tu casa.

Pienso ir mañana a tu casa.

In both cases the subject is 'Yo', the verb is 'pensar' and the direct complement is a subordinate sentence.

The difference is that in the first subordinate sentence the verb is conjugated ('iré': first singular person of the indicative future), while in the second it uses an impersonal ('ir': infinitive).

Normally, the subordinate sentence is preceded by the pronoun 'que' or some similar conjunction. But if the subject of the main sentence ('Yo pienso') coincides with the subject of the subordinate sentence ('Yo iré'), then the conjunction 'que' is not used, and the verb is used in infinitive.

These are equivalent because the subject of the main and subordinate sentences are the same: 'tú'.

No nades después de que comas.

No nades después de comer.

But in the other hand, these are not equivalent because the subject of the main sentence is 'yo', and the subject of the subordinate is 'tú':

Me gustaría que cantaras para nosotros.

Me gustaría cantar para nosotros.

3
  • Both pienso que iré and pienso ir are correct though different in meaning. Please see my post or that of Pablodf's. Your remark about que being dropped when the subject in the main clause is the same as the one in the subordinate clause does not apply in this case.
    – Gustavson
    Feb 28 '17 at 20:26
  • @Gustavson: In the 6 examples proposed by the OP my approach is verified: (1) yo pienso / él puede (with 'que'); (2) yo pienso / la elección fue (with 'que'); (3) yo pienso / los gobernantes no entienden (with 'que'); (4) yo pienso / ellos vuelven (with 'que'); (5) yo pienso / yo me voy (without 'que'); (6) yo pienso / yo me quedo (without 'que').
    – Rodrigo
    Feb 28 '17 at 21:03
  • What I find misleading is your assertion that when both subjects coincide que IS NOT used, as if this always held true. You should have said that que may be dropped (in which case the infinitive has to be used). With verbs denoting mental processes like pensar, considerar, estimar, creer, esperar, sospechar, etc. both patterns, with or without que, work fine when there is identity of subjects in the main and in the subordinate clause. With pensar we also have a change of meaning that should not be disregarded.
    – Gustavson
    Feb 28 '17 at 22:21
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The examples you gave correspond to two different meanings of pensar. The first four employ the common pattern for when the meaning is "to think" and the object (the thing being thought) is a subclause. The basic difference with English here is that, in English, "that" is optional, while in Spanish que is compulsory.

The two examples without que show a slightly different meaning of pensar: here it's not "to think" but "to plan", and what follows is not a subclause but an infinitive. In English you might translate is as "to be thinking [of/about]" or "to be planning on".

Pienso irme la semana que viene o en dos semanas.
"I'm planning on going away next week or in two weeks."

Pienso quedarme una semana en España.
"I'm thinking of staying a week in Spain."

It's more like "plan" than "think" actually, most times.

1

If you want to say "I think..." you must always say "que". When you use "pienso" + (infinitive) you talk about something you want to do. It's used in two cases: when you're talking rudely, for example, if you are threatening your interlocutor; and when you promise something.

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Respondiendo a tu pregunta no hay una regla que aplique cuando debe o no ir el "que".

En el caso particular de las últimas dos oraciones si agregas "que" en "Pienso que irme..." debes colocar un complemento, porque con el "que" después de "irme" es como si dijeras que si te vas produce una determinada consecuencia que debes explicar dentro de la oración.

Espero sea de ayuda.

-1

The first Pienso means "I believe" or "I think".

The second Pienso means "I have decided to ...".

As another example, to show the different meanings for the same word:

Pienso que es culpa suya y no pienso ayudarle.

I think (I believe) it is his/her fault, and I will not help him/her (I have decided to ... / I am determined to ...).

The first use reflects my opinion or my belief, and the second one reflects my will, my determination, my decision, what I will do, unless I change my mind.

As you can see in the corresponding entry in the dictionary of the Real Academia Española: http://dle.rae.es/?id=STY14i0|STayfGw the verb "pensar" can have different meanings.

As for a rule for when to use "que": I would suggest you use it whenever you use the word "pienso" in the sense mentioned above.

Another example:

¿Vienes esta noche? Are you coming tonight?

Pienso que sí. I think so.

Pienso estar allí. I'll be there.

No pienso ir ni loca. I'm not going at all. [she wouldn't go even if she had gone crazy]

Like the phrasal verbs in english, in this case I don't see a shortcut. The rule to apply could be quite general for the sudent of a foreign language: know the vocabulary (the word and its different meanings), study your grammar (use of "que" in compound sentences), and then read, hear and speak the word in different contexts.

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