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Colón dijo: "Aunque tenga que buscarlos en las cárceles, los encontraré."

Why is the subjunctive for the verb tener used? Can't the indicative be used instead of the subjunctive?

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Aunque can be followed either by subjunctive or indicative, with a subtle difference in meaning.

  • Aunque tengo que buscarlos en las cárceles, los encontraré
    They are found in the jails, and although that may make things difficult, I shall find them.
  • Aunque tenga que buscarlos en las cárc5les, los encontraré
    Whether or not I may need to search the jails, I shall find them.

Basically, if you use indicative, the clause is in fact true and integral to the non-aunque clause (and you could basically replace with "a pesar de que", or "in spite of" in English).

If you use subjunctive, you are saying that it's less important, or perhaps even non necessarily the case. You can replace this with "Sea o no que..." or in English "even if".

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  • doesn't aunque mean although? – user5482 Sep 21 '14 at 19:32
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    Generally, yes. But if I reuse although in both answers it can be confusing. Another way to look at it is using subjunctive would, in the English, add the modal verb may. Aunque estudio/e mucho, nunca sacaré una A --> "Although I (may) study a lot, I'll never get an A". In one, you do study (indicative) and in spite of that studying, you won't get the A. In the other (subjunctive or may in English), you're saying "even if / regardless if I study, I'll never get the A" and so maybe you will study, and maybe you won't. – user0721090601 Sep 21 '14 at 19:37
  • Another subtle difference is between pretérito imperfecto and presente of subjuntivo: "Aunque tuviera que buscarlos en las cárceles...": but probably it won't be necessary. "Aunque tenga que buscarlos en las cárceles...": I don't know if it will be necessary. "Aunque tengo que buscarlos en las cárceles...", it is certainly necessary. – Lucas Sep 22 '14 at 12:01
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It's not really a matter of 'doubt', but the dependent phrase expresses a hypothetical. You are not declaring that you are searching prisons.

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