How To Offer Advice in Spanish

Subjunctive mood often used in providing tips or counsel

Athletic trainer at work
El entrenador le aconseja. (The trainer is giving advice.).

Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

There are at least four 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, as a statement of advice followed by the subjunctive mood, and as a n impersonal statement followed by the subjunctive mood. All four methods have parallels in English.

Giving Advice Using 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.)

The future tense can substitute for the imperative in making directing commands, as it can in English. But such commands are extremely forceful and thus would not usually be understood as advisory.

  • ¡Comerás todo el almuerzo! (You will eat all of your lunch!)
  • ¡Saldrá ahora mismo! (You will leave right now!)

Giving Advice by 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 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.)

Using Verbs of Advice With 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:

  • 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."

Some examples:

  • 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.)

Using Impersonal Statements as Advice

An even less direct way of giving advice is to use impersonal statements, typically followed by the subjunctive. Examples of impersonal statements used in advice include es importante (it is important) and es necesario (it is necessary); like verbs of advice, they are followed by a verb in the subjunctive mood. And as in the fourth example below, you can make statements of how you would react as a way of advising.

  • Es importante que participes en clase. (It is important that you participate in class.)
  • Creemos que es necesario que tenga un coche fiable. (We believe it is important that you have a reliable car.)
  • Sería provechoso si pudiéramos examinar ese problema. (It would be helpful if we could examine that problem.)
  • Me gustaría si me escribes de vez en cuando. (It would please me if you write to me once in a while.)

Key Takeaways

  • The most direct way of giving advice is to use the imperative mood or the future tense, although such ways of giving advice can come across as too forceful to be considered advice.
  • Verbs of advice are typically followed by que and a verb in the subjunctive mood.
  • Impersonal statements followed by a verb in the subjunctive mood can be used to give advice indirectly.