What is the Spanish Subjunctive and how does it work?

The Spanish Subjunctive is proclaimed “nightmare” for a lot of Spanish speakers. But this little quirk of the language should only make it more fun! Keep reading to learn how the subjunctive works, what it means and how to use it correctly.

What is the subjunctive mood?

Usually, when we start learning a new language, we start by learning the verb ‘to be’ or ‘to have’ in the present tense. Then, we move on to the present tense of regular verbs. Later, we learn how to express concrete things that happened in the past or that will happen in the future.

But those are all things that belong in the real world. What about our wishes? Our emotions? Opinions, possibilities, judgements, daydreams?

In English, we can say things like “I wish I spoke Spanish” or “If I were you, I would go to Spanish classes.” They’re forms of a vestigial subjunctive mood. In Spanish, we have 6 verb tenses to talk about this hypothetical world (even though only 3 or 4 are used in everyday conversations). It’s not a nightmare: it’s a striking difference that unveils the core of our culture.

Learning the subjunctive mood is learning another way to see the world. And that’s the fun of learning languages, right? 

When is the subjunctive used in Spanish?

The Subjunctive mood is used to express uncertainty, usually with subordinate clauses beginning with que or an equivalent.

  • Expressions which are equivalent to que in subordinate clauses: para que, sin que, a menos que, con tal de que, antes de que, a fin de que, quizás, ojalá, tal vez.

e.g.: Para que sepas lo que estás comprando, procura información. 

A menos que vayas de bus, no llegarás a tiempo. 

Ojalá (que) llueva mañana. 

  • Will, desire, orders, with the verbs querer que, pedir que, preferir que, esperar que, desear que, exigir que, mandar que.

e.g: Quiero que estudies

Te pido que lo hagas

Exijo que me den una explicación.  

  • Emotions, reactions, with the verbs me gusta que, me molesta que, me encanta que, me sorprende que; and expressions like es triste que, es bueno que, es justo que, es cierto que, es obvio que, es verdad que (es + adjective + que).

e.g.: Me gusta que hayas pasado un buen rato.

Es bueno que respetes a tu madre.

  • Doubts and negative opinions, no creer que, dudar que, no pensar que.

e.g.: Dudo que vaya a Madrid.

No creo que hable Español correctamente.

How to conjugate the Spanish subjunctive

To conjugate a regular Spanish verb in the present of the subjunctive, use these endings:

verb ends in:  - ar verb ends in -er/ -ir

Yo

  • e
  • a
  • es
  • as
Él/Ella
  • e
  • a
Nosotros/Nosotras
  • emos
  • amos
Vosotros/Vosotras
  • éis
  • áis

Ellos/Ellas

  • en
  • an

 

And then there are 6 irregular verbs:

Verbo: Estar Saber Ser Haber Dar Ir
Yo esté sepa sea haya vaya
estés sepas seas hayas des vayas
Él/Ella esté sepa sea haya vaya
Nosotros/Nosotras estemos sepamos seamos hayamos demos vayamos
Vosotros/ Vosotras estéis sepáis seáis hayáis deis vayáis
Ellos/Ellas estén sepan sean hayan den vayan

What do you think? The Spanish subjunctive isn't that hard after all, or is it?

 

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