Subjunctive Mood


Subjunctive forms from the Spanish in Texas Corpus

The subjunctive (subjuntivo) is one of three moods in Spanish (indicative, imperative, and subjunctive). A mood is a grammatical term which helps categorize verb tenses. The subjunctive mood is used more frequently in Spanish than in English. It has two simple tenses, present and past (or imperfect), and two compound tenses, present perfect and pluperfect. It expresses several concepts, such as a wish, hope, or doubt, as well as an obligation or a necessity. One such expression which is always followed by the subjunctive is para queso that

Siempre le danzábamos…para que la cosecha fuera buena.
We always danced for her… so that the harvest was good.

Because the subjunctive often occurs in subordinate clauses, the subordinating conjunction que is usually found before the the subjunctive forms.

Quieren que yo les haga un trabajo.
They want me to do a job for them.

Main Uses

Will, Desire, and Orders

The subjunctive is used in dependent clauses after expressions of will, desire, and orders whenever there are two different subjects in the two clauses linked by the subordinating conjunction que. Here is a list of common verbs expressing will and desire:

querer que to want that …
pedir que to ask that …
preferir que to prefer that …
ordenar que to order that …
esperar que to hope that …
mandar que to order that…
desear que to desire that …
exigir que to require that …
Espero que el español se vuelva tal vez otro idioma oficial de los Estados Unidos.
I hope that Spanish becomes maybe another official language in the United States.

Emotions and Reactions

The subjunctive is used after expressions of emotion and reactions to something. Remember that the subjunctive is found in the subordinate clause of sentences that contain a change of subject from the main clause to the subordinate clause. A very common structure that triggers the subjunctive is es + adjective + que expressing opinions. Here is a list of common expressions of emotion with which the subjunctive is found in the subordinate clause:

me gusta que  I like that es fundamental que  it is key that
me molesta que  it annoys me that sentir que  to be sorry that
me encanta que  I am delighted that es bueno que  it is good that
me sorprende que  I am surprised that es inútil que  it is useless that
es bonito que  it is nice that temer que  to fear that
es importante que  it is important that es urgente que  it is urgent that
es triste que  it is sad that tener miedo de que  to fear that
es justo que  it is fair that es absurdo que  it is absurd that
Es muy bonito que sepan los dos idiomas.
It is very nice that they speak both languages.

The expressions es cierto que, it is true that, es obvio que, it is obvious that, es verdad que, it is true that, and es evidente que, it is evident that are exceptions since they are followed by the indicative and not by the subjunctive.

Es verdad que hay ciertos principios que uno puede aplicar.
It is true that there are some principles that one can apply.

However, when these expressions are used in the negative, in the subordinate clause the subjunctive is used.

No es evidente que tengas razón. It is not evident that you are right.

Negative Opinions and Doubt

The subjunctive occurs in dependent clauses introduced by verbs and expressions of doubt or negative opinions whenever there are two different subjects in the two clauses linked by the subordinating conjunction que. Here is a list of common expressions of negative opinion and doubt with which the subjunctive is found in the subordinate clause:

no creer que  to not believe that …
no pensar que  to not think that …
dudar que  to doubt that …
no opinar que  to not think that …
no me/te/le/nos/les parece que  it doesn’t seem to me/you/him that…
La verdad no, no creo que eso sea correcto.
Actually no, I do not think this is fair.

Remember that such expressions of opinion, when used in affirmative statements, are followed by the indicative.

Creo que voy a quedarme con una familia para que pueda practicar español en la casa.
I think I will stay with a family so that I can practice Spanish at home.

Conjunctions with Subjunctive

When the following conjunctions introduce a subordinate clause with a new subject, they always trigger the subjunctive. Remember that the subjects of the subordinate clause and of the main clause are different.

para que so that
sin que  without
a menos que unless that
con tal de que provided that
antes de que before that
a fin de que in order that
quizás maybe
ojalá  hopefully
tal vez maybe
A menos que a usted le guste pizza de papel o de cartón no lo recomiendo…
Unless you like paper or cardboard pizza I would not recommend it.

After the connector aunque (although), both the indicative and the subjunctive can be used.

Aunque toda mi vida he vivido aquí en los Estados Unidos.
Although all my life I have lived here in the United Sates.
Aunque crezcas entre la pobreza, aunque crezcas entre la ignorancia, aunque crezcas entre gente que, entre las pandillas ah… no es excusa alguna como para que tú decidas hacer decisiones incorrectas en tu vida.
Although you grow up among poverty, although you grow up among ignorance, although you grow up among people that, among gangs uh… that is not an excuse for choosing to make wrong decisions in your life.

Time expressions  also require the subjunctive, when they refer to a future event.

cuando  when
hasta que until
en cuanto as soon as
tan pronto como as soon as
después de que  after
Repito y repito la palabra hasta que me salga bien.
I repeat the word again and again until it sounds right.

Si (If) Clauses

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

Si hubiera ahorrado más, ahora tendría más dinero. If I had saved more, now I would have had more money.

For more uses of the subjunctive mood and to learn more about which subjunctive tense you should use, see also the page about tense sequences.