Subjunctive – Past or Imperfect

Regular ar verbs:

hablar  to speak
yo hablara nosotros/as habláramos
tú hablaras  
él/ella/usted hablara ellos/as/ustedes hablaran

Regular er and ir verbs:

comer  to eat
yo comiera nosotros/as comiéramos
tú comieras  
él/ella/usted comiera ellos/as/ustedes comieran 

The past subjunctive (subjuntivo pasado) or imperfect subjunctive (imperfecto subjuntivo) is formed using as a stem the preterit of the third person plural ellos dropping ending –on and adding the past subjunctive endings as in the tables above.

En ese momento llegó uno de mis hermanos mayores y evitó que él… pues pasara un accidente.
In that moment one of my elder brothers arrived and he avoided that he… well that an accident happened.

Some verbs are irregular in the past subjunctive:

  • Ser: fuera, fueras, fuera, fuéramos, fueran.
  • Ir:  fuera, fueras, fuera, fuéramos, fueran.
  • Dormir: durmiera, durmieras, durmiera, durmiéramos, durmieran.
Y no más celebramos ese día casi como si fuera una pre-Navidad.
And we just celebrate that day almost as it is a pre-Christmas day.

Uses

The past subjunctive is usually introduced by the same kinds of clauses that introduce the present subjunctive. The past subjunctive indicates a simultaneous action or a future action in relation to a main clause in the past tense.

Prendían… este lumbre para que los nogales, no se congelara la fruta.
They turned on… this lamp so that the walnut trees, the fruit did not get frozen.

The past subjunctive is also used in some hypothetical clauses with si (if) along with the conditional.

Si estudiaras más, sacarías mejores notas.If you studied more, I would get better grades.

For more details about hypothetical clauses see also the page about si clauses.

For more uses of this tense see also the page about tense sequences.