You have probably worked out that there is more than one way to say “perhaps” or “maybe” in Spanish.
quizás (or: quizá): perhaps
tal vez: perhaps
a lo mejor: maybe
puede que: it can be
The problem with saying “perhaps” in Spanish is that they often need to use the subjunctive mood, as they involve situations that are possible or likely but not definite. However you do always sometimes see them used with the indicative (non subjunctive).
In this blog post we will look at how to use the words for “perhaps” and “maybe” and when to use the subjunctive with them.
Quizás / Quizá
Quizás normally goes at the beginning of the sentence and you usually need to use the subjunctive with it as it involves uncertain situations.
Quizás no vengan hoy. Perhaps they aren’t coming today.
Quizás él no sepa. Perhaps he doesn’t know.
Quizás llueva hoy. Perhaps it’ll rain today.
To avoid using the subjunctive, you could place “quizás” at the end of the sentence.
Ella va a la biblioteca para estudiar, quizás. She’s going to the library to study, maybe.
“Tal vez” is interchangeable with “Quizás”.
Tal vez yo pueda comprar un coche nuevo este año. Perhaps I’ll be able to buy a new car this year.
Tal vez vayamos de vacaciones en mayo. Perhaps we’ll go on holiday in May.
The reason why you sometimes see the subjunctive used and sometimes not is all to do with the true meaning of the sentence. The subjunctive is used to show uncertainty or possibility whereas the indicative is used to convey certainty.
According to the grammar book “A New Reference Grammar of Modern Spanish” when using “quizás”, if the event being referred to is happening in the present or past, you can choose whether to use the subjunctive or not.
If the event is still in the future, the present subjunctive is used, but not the present indicative:
Quizás tengamos una fiesta el sábado: Perhaps we’ll have a party on Saturday (using tengamos here is common, to use “tenemos” would imply that the speaker definitely believes they will have a party on Saturday)
Quizá venga mañana (not “viene mañana”): Perhaps she’ll come tomorrow.
A lo mejor
“A lo mejor” translates as “maybe” and is more colloquial than “tal vez” and “quizás”. You do not need to use the subjunctive with “A lo mejor”.
A lo mejor soy un poco torpe. Maybe I am a little clumsy.
A lo mejor voy al centro esta tarde. I might go to the town centre this afternoon.
This translates as “it can be” and the following verb normally uses the subjunctive.
Puede que debas buscar otro trabajo. Maybe you should look for another job.
Puede que no queden entradas para el concierto. Maybe there are no tickets left for the concert.
“Posiblemente” translates as “possibly” but is less common than in English.
Posiblemente no vayan a ganar el partido. Maybe they aren’t going to win the match.
Posiblemente sea la culpa mía. It might be my fault.