Giving Advice

Subjunctive Mood Among Verb Forms That Can Be Used

milk bottle leche
No deberías escoger productos lácteos que son altos en grasas. (You shouldn't choose dairy products that are high in fat.). Photo by Nacho; licensed via Creative Commons.

There are at least three ways you can offer advice in Spanish, depending partly on how direct you wish to be.

Statements of advice can be in the form of a command, in the form of telling a person what he or she is obligated to do, or as a statement of advice using the subjunctive mood. All three methods have parallels in English.

Commands: Commands may go beyond the point of being advisory, depending on the context, tone of voice and whether your command is direct or indirect. In context, commands (also known as the imperative mood) such as these can be understood as either advice or a demand:

  • Habla tú a la policía, y diles que tu vecina está loca. Talk to the police and tell them your neighbor is crazy.
  • Compre el producto, no el proveedor. Buy the product, not the provider.
  • No salgas ahora. Don't leave now.

Expressing obligation: Like direct commands, whether statements of obligation (such as "You should do this" in English) are understood as advice — or potentially as rude — depends quite a bit on context, including the tone of voice.

The common ways of expressing obligation are the uses of "tener que + infinitive" and "deber + infinitive." When giving advice, you can soften the tone by using a conditional form of deber:

  • Deberías estudiar un poco acerca de las opciones. You ought to study a little bit about the choices.
  • No deberías escoger productos lácteos que son altos en grasas. You shouldn't choose dairy products that are high in fat.
  • Deberían ustedes ser más positivos. You should be more positive.

With verbs of advice followed by the subjunctive: Because giving advice is often a way of expressing a wish or a desire — or certainly of referring to an event that may or may not occur — the subjunctive mood is used after the verb of advice. Common verbs of advice and possible translations include these:

  • aconsejar: to advise
  • sugerir: to suggest
  • proponer: to propose, to put forward (an idea)

These verbs should not be confused with verbs such as notificar and informar, which can be translated as "advise," but only in the sense of "to inform."

Here are some examples of these verbs in use:

  • Te aconsejo que me olvides. I suggest that you forget me.
  • Te aconsejo que te cases en tu propio país. I advise you to get married in your own country.
  • Sugiero que se pueda desactivar el foro. I suggest that you deactivate the forum.
  • Le sugerimos que visite nuestro sitio regularmente. We suggest that you visit our site regularly.
  • Sugiero que te comuniques con el centro meteorológico de tu ciudad. I suggest you communicate with your city's weather center.
  • Te propongo que escribas un articulo con lo que sabes de este señor. I suggest you write an article based on what you know about this gentleman.
  • Te proponemos que dediques 3 minutitos a contestar este cuestionario. We ask you to spend just three short minutes answering this questionnaire.