Spanish subjunctive mood

All tenses what we considered before are tenses in indicative mood. And now we will consider the tenses in Subjunctive mood. Yes, the Spanish language is rich in tenses.

There is subjective mood in English too, we use it when we say: “If I were…”, “I wish that he do…”.  However in English it is not used as widely as in Spanish. The Subjunctive mood is not a tense but mood, but grammatically, it looks like the whole bunch of tenses, so it requires time investment to learn and practice.

So let’s figure out, what is the sense of subjunctive mood. Subjunctive mood describes an action that doesn’t actually happen or take place, or hypothetical situation, or doubt, or wish, or emotion, i.e – not certain actions. In order to make it more clear for understanding, look at the comparative examples, the conjugation of verbs will be considered later:

Él hace – he does; this is indicative mood, because the action “he does” actually happens, this is certain fact.

Dudo que él haga – I doubt that he do; this is subjunctive mood, because the action “he does” doesn’t actually happen, but I doubt about it – uncertain fact.

Cuando él era joven, le gustaba nadar – When he was young, he loved to swim; this is indicative mood, because it describes an exact fact that took place in the past (“when he was young” – certain fact)

Si él fuese joven, le gustaría nadar – If he were young, he would love to swim; This is subjunctive mood, because it describes not a certain fact but what didn’t actually took place in the past,  “if he were” instead of “if he was”.

Era major porque ella nos escuchaba – It was better because she listened to us; This is indicative mood, because the action (she listened to us) actually happened.

Esto sería mejor si ella nos escuchara – It would be better if she listened to us; This is subjunctive mood, because the action (IF she listened to us) didn’t, actually happen, but “it would be better if it happened”

Of you understood the logic of subjunctive mood, let’s learn more about conjugation. The conjugation of verbs in subjunctive mood is quite similar to usual indicative mood.

Cantar – to sing, this is –AR verb.

Present tense

IndicativeSubjunctive
Yocantocante
cantascantes
Él, ella, ustedcantacante
Nosotroscantamoscantemos
Vosotroscantáiscantéis
Ellos, ustedescantancanten

Past tense I (Pretérito imperfect)

IndicativeSubjunctive
Yocantabacantara
cantabascantaras
Él, ella, ustedcantabacantara
Nosotroscantábamoscantáramos
Vosotroscantabaiscantarais
Ellos, ustedescantabancantaran

Past tense II (Pretérito perfecto simple)

IndicativeSubjunctive
Yocantécantase
cantastecantases
Él, ella, ustedcantócantase
Nosotroscantamoscantásemos
Vosotroscantasteiscantaseis
Ellos, ustedescantaroncantasen

And in future tense the subjunctive mood is not used. It is used only in legal documentation, so we will not consider it.

And let’s consider one more verb. –ER and –IR verbs are conjugated the same as subjunctive.

Describir – to describe, this is –IR verb.

Present tense

IndicativeSubjunctive
Yodescribodescriba
describesdescribas
Él, ella, usteddescribedescriba
Nosotrosdescribimosdescribamos
Vosotrosdescribísdescribáis
Ellos, ustedesdescribendescriban

Past tense I (Pretérito imperfect)

IndicativeSubjunctive
Yodescribíadescribiera
describíasdescribieras
Él, ella, usteddescribíadescribiera
Nosotrosdescribíamosdescribiéramos
Vosotrosdescribíaisdescribierais
Ellos, ustedesdescribíandescribieran

Past tense II (Pretérito perfecto simple)

IndicativeSubjunctive
Yodescribídescribiese
describistedescribieses
Él, ella, usteddescribiódescribiese
Nosotrosdescribimosdescribiésemos
Vosotrosdescribisteisdescribieseis
Ellos, ustedesdescribierondescribiesen

There are irregular verbs here too. First of all let’s conjugate the most irregular verbs SER and IR , they require memorization:

Present tense

Ser Ir
Yoseavaya
seasvayas
Él, ella, ustedseavaya
Nosotrosseamosvayamos
Vosotrosseáisvayáis
Ellos, ustedesseanvayan

Past tense I (Pretérito imperfect)

Ser Ir
Yofuerafuera
fuerasfueras
Él, ella, ustedfuerasfueras
Nosotrosfuéramosfuéramos
Vosotrosfueraisfuerais
Ellos, ustedesfueranfueran

Past tense II (Pretérito perfecto simple)

Ser Ir
Yofuesefuese
fuesesfueses
Él, ella, ustedfuesefuese
Nosotrosfuésemosfuésemos
Vosotrosfueseisfueseis
Ellos, ustedesfuesenfuesen

As you can see, the conjugation of SER and IR matches in both past tenses.

Other irregular verbs have common characteristics:

Conjugate an irregular verb in usual present tense with the pronoun YO. For example HACER – to do: YO HAGO – I do. And the stem in present tense subjunctive will be the same as the stem in usual present tense with pronoun YO, i.e. HAG-. In this case the conjugation in subjunctive will be: YO HAGA, TÚ HAGAS, ÉL HAGA etc. It’s the same for all other irregular verbs.

Conocer – to know, subjunctive stem CONOZC –

Poder – can, subjunctive stem PUED-

Tener – to have, subjunctive stem TENG-

Decir – to say, subjunctive stem DIG-

Oír – to hear, subjunctive stem OIG-

Ver – to se, subjunctive stem VE-

Saber – to know, subjunctive stem SEP-

And so on for all irregular verbs.

In past tense, the situation is quite similar. All irregular verbs in subjunctive forms in both past tenses will have the same stem as in indicative Past tense II. For example, ESTAR – to be, stem in past II is ESTUV-, so the stem in past subjunctive will be also ESTUV-: YO ESTUVIERA, TÚ ESTUVIERAS etc. or YO ESTUVIESE, TÚ ESTUVIESES etc.

Querer – to want, past subjunctive stem QUIS-

Poder – can, past subjunctive stem PUD-

Saber – to know, past subjunctive stem SUP-

And so on for all irregular verbs.

Conjugate verbs from the previous lessons in subjunctive mood.

Build sentences with these words:

posible – possible

famoso – famous

solo – single/alone

limpio – clean

probable – probable

bajo – low

viejo – old

medio – middle

el contador – accountant

imposible – impossible

vacío – empty

el negocio – business

Examples

Deceamos que tuviéramos un yate – We wish we had a yacht

Quiero que tú me abraces – I want you to hug me

Ojalá este estante no se caiga – Hopefully, this shelf won’t fall

¿Por qué ellos quieren que seamos débiles? – Why they want us to be weak?

Si estos estudiantes fuesen inteligentes, resolverían esta tarea más rápido – If these students were smart, they would solve this task faster

Es possible que ella me enviase una carta – It is possible that she sent me a letter

En caso de que lo comprobes, dime – In case you check it, tell me

¡Si fuera joven, tendría más energía! – If I were young, I would have more energy

Te pido que me ayudes con eso – I ask you to help me with that

Es probable que el mensajero no venga – The courier probably don’t come

Es necesario que vosotros leéis los términos de uso – It is necessary that you read the terms of use

Tal vez lo tuviera una ventaja – Maybe it had an advantage

Te deseo que tengas feliz Año Nuevo – I wish you to have happy New Year

Quizás te sentirás mejor si tomes unas pastillas – Maybe you will feel better if you take some pills

Creo que ella parezca linda – I believe that she looks cute

No te recomiendo que nades en este río – I don’t recommend you to swim in this river

No me llamas antes de que lo completes – Don’t call me until you complete it

Ellos permiten que sus hijos vengan aquí– They allow their children to come

Exercises

Conjugate verbs in subjunctive mood

  1. Quiero que _________________ inteligente (SER – to be) – I want you(tú) to be smart
  2. Pienso que _________________ hacerlo (PODER – can) – I think that we could do it
  3. Ojalá mi hermano no _________________ a fumar (EMPEZAR – to start) – Hopefully my brother doesn’t start to smoke
  4. No creo que él _________________ romper la pared (PODER – can) – I don’t believe that he can break the wall
  5. Me gustaría que este candidato _________________ (ELEGIRSE – to get elected) – I wish that this candidate get elected
  6. Supongo que el futbolista _________________ marcar el gol (PODER – can) – I suppose that the football player could hit the goal
  7. Espero que mis hijos _________________ un educación bueno (OBTENER – to obtain) – I hope that my children get a good education

Figure out whether you need to use the subjunctive mood or no, and use appropriate conjugation

  1. Ojalá ellos no los _________________  (ATACAR – to attack) – Hopefully they don’t attack them
  2. Tal vez _________________  aquí muchos veces (APARECER – to appear) – Maybe it appeared here many times
  3. Quiero _________________  piloto de un avión (SER – to be) – I want to be a pilot of an airplane
  4. Ella espera que su marido _________________  un trabajo (ENCONTRAR – to find) – She hopes that her husband finds a job
  5. Parece que él                  de sí mismo (OLVIDARSE – to forget oneself) – It seems that he forgot himself
  6. Yo ví cómo la policía _________________ a un ladrón (DETENER – to detain) – I saw how the police detained a robber
  7. ¿Cuándo _________________ a la universidad? (VOLVER – to get back) – When you get back to the university?

Answers

1: seas, 2: pudimos, 3: empiece, 4: pueda, 5: fuese elegido, 6: pudiese, 7: obtengan, 8: ataquen, 9: apareció, 10: ser, 11: encuentre, 12: se olvidó 13: detuvo, 14: volverás

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