Learning the Present Subjunctive

By Anthony / January 13, 2017

Mention the subjunctive tense to Spanish learners and you will probably hear a lot of groans. This “tense” is rarely used in English so natives of the English language struggle to comprehend it. I will be 100% honest admitting that I struggled to learn the tense in school and only really understood it after living in a Spanish speaking country.

Don’t worry! All hope is not lost! You can easily learn the subjunctive right here. I am going to break it down for you to it’s most simplistic form. You are going to learn how to use the subjunctive in this short and sweet lesson. Let’s take a look:

The Subjunctive

The first thing we are going to do is revamp our thinking and treat the subjunctive as a mood instead of a verb tense in Spanish. Why are we breaking the rules you ask? Well, because the subjunctive reflects how the speaker feels about an action and doesn’t necessarily take place in the past, present, or future like the other tenses.

The indicative mood (aka: all the other tenses) is used to express certainty, objectivity, and factual information. The subjunctive is none of these. The subjunctive expresses doubt, desire, the unknown, emotion, and abstract information.

Now let’s take a look at some examples in English that could be considered the subjunctive mood:

I doubt you are moving to Spain next month.

I doubt expresses uncertainty

Jorge hopes the you feel better.

Jorge hopes expresses desire/subjectivity

I wish I spoke Spanish like a native.

I wish expresses desire

Using Indicators

The best part of the subjunctive is that is has a long list of indicators that signal you to use the subjunctive mood. When you see or use these indicators, you need to prepare to use the subjunctive with the NEXT verb you use. Here are a few to practice:

es importante que …

It is important that…

esperar que …

To hope/wish that…. (need to conjugate esperar)

es posible que …

It’s possible that...

dudar que …

To doubt that…(need to conjugate dudar)

hasta que …

Until …

ojalá que …

Hopefully...

es necesario que …

It’s necessary that …

Still a little confused? Check out this video below for some more clarification:

Just remember that we are thinking of the subjunctive as a mood, not a tense. This subjunctive mood expresses doubt, uncertainty, emotion, and subjectivity. Practice getting to know what indicators to look for that signal the subjunctive.

Although the subjunctive can be a tough one to conquer, you can do this! Really master when the subjunctive is used and memorize some key indicators. The more you understand WHY it is used, the easier it will be to use it properly.

Here is another video you may find helpful:

Ready To Conjugate?

With the help of key indicators, you now know when to use the subjunctive.

So you are probably wondering, “How do I conjugate a verb into the subjunctive?” Wonder no more! Check out below on how to change a verb into the subjunctive mood:

AR Verbs

yo

e

nosotros

emos

es

vosotros

éis

él/ella/ud

e

ellas/ellos/usted

en

Simply take the -AR off the ending of a verb and add the new ending according to the subject.

  • Hablar in the yo form would be hable
  • Comprar in the nosotros form would be compremos

ER and IR Verbs

yo

a

nosotros

amos

as

vosotros

áis

él/ella/ud

a

ellas/ellos/usted

an

Take the -ER or -IR off the ending of a verb and add the new ending accordingly.

  • Comer in the ella form would be coma
  • Vivir in the ellos form would be vivan

For stem changing verbs and GO verbs the subjunctive is conjugated by starting with the yo form, drop the o, and change the ending. For example:

Conocer (yo conozco)

Conozco – o = conozc

conozca

conozcamos

conozcas

conozcáis

conozca

conozcan

Tener (yo tengo)

Tengo - o = teng

tenga

tengamos

tengas

tengáis

tenga

tengan

contar (yo cuento)

cuento – o = cuent

cuente

cuentemos

cuentes

contéis

cuente

cuenten

Check out this video for further clarification:

Even if you are still a little uncertain how and when to use the subjunctive don’t panic! You can still get your point across to a native speaker without using this “mood” tense. Remember to keep practicing, especially if you have access to native Spanish speakers. Don’t be afraid to test out your new subjunctive skills, even if you make a few mistakes along the way.

As always, do not hesitate to ask any questions in our comment section. We are here to help! Know of any good tips for learning the subjunctive? Please share! We are here to help our Spanish Hacker's community out.

About the author

Anthony

Coffee drinker, Spanish speaker, habitual traveler, taking life one beautiful day at a time.

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