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One of the most confusing aspects of Spanish for beginners is the subjunctive mood. You might already be familiar with the most common verb mood "the indicative" mood which is considered a normal verb form, indicating both action and state of being. You also might know "the imperative" mood used to give commands. Now you're going to learn about the subjunctive mood, which is very essential to Spanish, and even many simple types of statements cannot be made properly without it.

 

In general, the subjunctive is a verb mood that is used to express an action or state of being in the context of the speaker's reaction to it. Mostly (although not always), the subjunctive mood is used in dependent clauses introduced by que (which, that, who) when the main clause expresses a wish, a strong emotional attitude, or an uncertainty. Frequently, the sentences that contain a subjunctive verb are used to express doubt, uncertainty, denial, desire/wish, commands, reactions or a strong emotional attitude to the clause containing the subjunctive verb. Compare the following two sentences: Indicative: María duerme. (María is sleeping) Subjunctive: wish= Espero que María duerma. (I hope that María is sleeping), desire= Te ruego que duermas (I beg you to go to bed). Doubt= Dudo que duerma (I doubt that she is sleeping).

Another example: Indicative (statement of fact): María duerme. (Maria is sleeping) Indicative (statement of fact): Sé que María duerme. (I know that Maria is sleeping) Subjunctive (doubt): No es cierto que María duerma. (It is uncertain that María is sleeping.) Subjunctive (denial): No es verdad que María duerma. (It is not true that Maria is sleeping) Subjunctive (reaction): Estoy feliz que María duerma. (I am happy that María is sleeping) Subjunctive (wish): Espero que María duerma (I hope that Maria is sleeping) Subjunctive (desire/wish): Prefiero que María duerma (I prefer that Maria is sleeping).

The subjunctive is also used for formal commands: ¡Tenga Ud eso! (Have this!) For the negative of informal commands: ¡No duermas! (don´t sleep) For hortatory commands: ¡Durmamos! (Let's sleep!). And after impressional expressions: es necesario que/ insisto que María duerma... (I insist that Maria is sleeping).

The subjunctive has four tenses: present subjunctive, present perfect subjunctive, imperfect subjunctive, and past perfect (or pluperfect) subjunctive.

So, which form to use depends on two factors: the tense of the verb in the main clause & the time relationship between the verb in the dependent clause and the subjunctive verb.

The Present subjunctive is regularly formed by adding one set of personal endings to the stem of -ar verbs and a second set of endings to verbs of the -er and -ir conjugations, and is used to indicate an action viewed as occurring at the same time or in the future when the governing verb is in the present.

 

Spanish Subjunctive (Present Tense)

Regular

yo

él, Ud
nosotros
ellos, Uds

verb ending with –ar = e

hable
hables
hable
hablemos
hablen

verb ending with –er = a

venda
vendas
venda
vendamos
vendan

verb ending with -ir = iera

escriba
escribas
escriba
escribamos
escriban

Irregular

yo

él, Ud
nosotros
ellos, Uds

Estar / jugar    –ar = e

esté - juegue
estés - juegues
esté - juegue
estemos - juguemos
estén - jueguen

Ser / saber      –er = a

sea - sepa
seas - sepas
sea - sepa
seamos - sepamos
sean - sepan

Ir / mentir        -ir = iera

vaya - mienta
vayas - mientas
vaya – mienta
vayamos - mintamos
vayan - mientan

 

Note that some other irregular verbs have different irregularities not listed in the table above.

The Imperfect subjunctive is formed by adding a set of endings terminating in either -ra or -se (with no difference in usage or meaning) to the verb stem, with one set of endings for first conjugation (-ar) verbs and another set of endings for second (-er) and third (-ir) conjugation verbs, and is used in the same type of situations in which the present subjunctive is used, except that the governing verb is typically in a past tense (e.g., the preterit, imperfect, past perfect, conditional, conditional perfect, or one of the past subjunctives):  Esperaba que él dormiera (or dormiese) pronto (I was expecting him to sleep soon).

 

Spanish Imperfect Subjunctive

Regular

yo

él, Ud
nosotros
ellos, Uds

verb ending with –ar = ara

hablara
hablaras
hablara
habláramos
hablaran

verb ending with –er = iera

vendiera
vendieras
vendiera
vendiéramos
vendieran

verb ending with -ir = iera

escribiera
escribieras
escribiera
escribiéramos
escribiera

 

The perfect subjunctive is a compound tense formed by the present subjunctive of haber and the past participle of the main verb. And is normally used to indicate the action as completed with governing verbs in the present or future tense or command forms. Examples: Me alegro de que él haya llegado (I’m glad he has arrived):

 

Spanish Perfect Subjunctive

Regular

yo

él, Ud
nosotros
ellos, Uds

All verb (-ar, -er, -ir)

haya
hayas
haya
hayamos
hayan

 

    hablado

+  comido     He has spoken/eaten/lived

    vivido

 


The Pluperfect subjunctive is a compound tense formed by the imperfect subjunctive of haber and the past participle of the main verb. Similar to the past perfect indicative, this tense is may be used to indicate an action or state that occurred prior to something in the past (usually expressed by the imperfect or preterit indicative, or by the past subjunctive): Dudábamos que hubieran dormido (We doubted that they had slept).

 

Spanish Pluperfect Subjunctive

yo

él/ella/usted

nosotros/vosotras

vosotros/vosotras

ellos/ellas/ustedes

hubiera

hubieras

hubiera

hubiéramos

hubierais

hubieran

 

hablado

comido

vivido

 

 

I had spoken/eaten/lived

 

The following is a list of clauses commonly associated with the use of the Spanish subjunctive (about 80 expressions):

 

Subjunctive in Spanish

a menos que  (unless)

gustar que  (to like that)

aconsejar(le) que  (to advise that)

gustaría que  (would like that)

alegrarse de que (to be happy that)

hace falta que (to be necessary that)

antes  (de) que  (before)

hasta que (until)

con tal  (de) que  (so that)

importar(le) que (to matter)

conviene que  (it is advisable that)

insistir en que (to insist that)

cuando  (when)

mandar que (to order that)

dar(le) miedo de que (to be afraid that)

más vale que (it's better that)

decir(le) que (to tell someone to do something!)

mientras que (while)

dejar que (to allow someone to do something)

molestar(le) que (to bother)

después  (de) que (after)

negar que (to deny that)

dudar que (to doubt that)

no creer que (not to believe that)

en caso de que (in case)

no es cierto que (it's not certain that)

en cuanto (as soon as)

no es verdad que (it's not true that)

es  (una) lástima que (it's a pity that)

no estar convencido de que (not be convinced that)

es aconsejable que (it's advisable that)

no estar de acuerdo con (to not agree with)

es bueno que (it's good that)

no estar seguro de que (to not be sure that)

es difícil que (it's difficult for)

no imaginarse que (to not imagine that)

es dudoso que (it is doubtful that)

no parecer que (to not seem that)

es fácil que (it's easy for)

no pensar que (to not think that)

es fantástico que (it's fantastic that)

no suponer que (to not suppose that)

es importante que (it's important that)

ojalá que (if only he would)

es improbable que (it's unlikely that)

para que (in order that)

es incierto que (it's uncertain that)

parecer(le) bien/mal que (to seem right/wrong that)

es increíble que (it's incredible that)

pedir(le) que (to ask someone to do something!)

es malo que (it's bad that)

perdonar que  (to ask forgiveness for)

es mejor que (it's better that)

preferir que (to prefer that)

es menester que (it's necessary that)

prohibir que (to prohibit that)

es necesario que (it's necessary that)

puede ser que (it may be that)

es posible que (it's possible that)

querer que (imperative: to want that)

es preciso que (it's necessary that)

recomendar(le) que  (to recommend that)

es preferible que (it's preferable that)

rogar que (to plead/ beg that)

es probable que (it's probable that)

sentir que (to regret that)

es raro que (it's rare that)

sin que (without)

es ridículo que (it's ridiculous that)

sugerir que (to suggest that)

es terrible que (it's terrible that)

tan pronto como (as soon as)

esperar que (to hope/hope that)

temer que (to fear that)

estar contento que…(to be happy that)

tener miedo de que (to be afraid that)

estar en contra de que (to be against)

vale/merece la pena que (to be worthwhile to)

 

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