Sometimes I hear people say

Penso che è in ritardo.


Penso che sia in ritardo.

as well.

I know I should use the subjunctive after verbs that state an opinion, my grammar book says so, but are both colloquially accepted and equally correct?

3 Answers 3


Everytime I hear a sentence like

Penso che è in ritardo.

I hear a glass crashing to the ground, I feel uncomfortable... :D

Many people now use it, but it's an error. If you use the verb "penso" ("think"), you express an opinion, something uncertain, so you need the conjunctive, as you learnt.

  • Is it ok to use the future here instead; "Penso che sarà in ritardo"?
    – Groky
    Nov 8, 2013 at 17:01
  • 2
    @Groky yes it's fine, since the future tense intrinsically express uncertainty Nov 10, 2013 at 21:15
  • 2
    It's also interesting noting that this is one of the few cases in which Italian an Spanish behave differently concerning the use of the subjunctive. Creo (and Pienso) express certainty in Spanish, so in Italian you'd say: Penso che tu sia bellissima, but in Spanish you would use the indicative instead: Pienso que tu eres muy hermosa. It's probably a symptom of a strong culture of pride: when a Spanish-speaking person says that they believe in something, there's no room for doubts. Nov 10, 2013 at 21:19

"*Penso che è in ritardo" is widely used, but is an error. There is a big feud between who says "Sono sicuro che è in ritardo" and who says "Sono sicuro che sia in ritardo", but this is in the case of a verb which states certainty.

  • 1
    The use of the indicative for verbs that express certainty, while accepted in colloquial use, is almost everywhere considered to be an error in written form
    – miniBill
    Nov 6, 2013 at 22:07

Google Books shows 3 hits for 'penso che è', whereas it shows 750,000 hits for 'penso che sia', thus demonstrating that the former is ungrammatical and almost nonexistent in written language.

Yes, colloquially one can say almost anything they want to say, but, if the listeners are educated persons they will think that the person who says 'penso che è' is an ignorant(one).

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