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Español V
El Subjuntivo
El subjuntivo (The subjunctive)
The subjunctive is a mood (un modo), in other words it is a way to classify verbs.
In Spanish, there are two basic verb categories: the indicative and the subjunctive.
Each mood contains several tenses. Tense simply refers to time frame. Up until
now you have almost exclusively relied on the indicative mood (modo indicativo).
The indicative indicates. It indicates facts, state of being in the “real world.” It
tells what is, not what might be. It is also used to ask basic questions.
In contrast, the subjunctive mood (modo subjuntivo) is generally used to express
a subjective view from the point of view of the speaker. It helps to express what
might be, or what might be dependent upon another person/subject. It can also
be used to negate an action or state. Because sentences within the subjunctive
mode are subjective, or subject to “something else”, the subjunctive is frequently
used in a dependent clause. A clause is a group of words that contain a subject
and at least one conjugated verb. Most (but not all) Spanish sentences that
include the subjunctive are set up like this:
Main clause (main subject and verb
Dependant clause (second subject and verb)
There are many kinds of clauses in which the subjunctive can be used. Here is
brief overview:
 Clausulas nominales (noun clauses)
 Clausulas adjetivas
 Clausulas adverbiales
It is also possible to use the subjunctive in certain if statements (si and como si)
This handout is based on :
Español V
El Subjuntivo
II. Sequence/ Agreement of tenses:
Each time you determine that the subjunctive is needed, you must then decide
which tense of the subjunctive fits the situation. To decide, keep in mind the
charts below:
If you need the subjunctive , and the verb
in the main clause is in the:
Present indicative
Present present perfect
Future perfect
Then choose: a present subjunctive
However, if the sentence needs the
subjunctive, and the verb in the main
clause is in:
Conditional perfect
Then you MUST use a past subjunctive
Present subjunctive
Present perfect subjunctive
Imperfect subjunctive
Pluperfect subjunctive
Note that this agreement of tenses chart applies to the subjunctive in noun, adjective and
adverbial clauses. On the following pages, we will break down each type of clause and
examine how the subjunctive can be used within each type.
This handout is based on :
Español V
El Subjuntivo
III. The subjunctive in noun clauses
When talking about the subjunctive, noun clauses refer to dependent clauses (after
the que) that act like the direct object of a sentence, just like a noun can do.
Example: I want the book.
Yo quiero el libro
I = subject want=verb book=direct object
I want you to buy me the book.
Yo quiero que me compres el libro.
I=subject, want =verb, you to buy the book= activity acting like a direct object (in other
words, a verb acting like a noun)
RULE: The Spanish subjunctive is used in a dependent noun clause when :
1. The subject of the dependent clause is different from the subject in the main
clause, AND
2. The verb in the main clause expresses: influence, doubt, emotion, negation,
impersonal expressions.
The acronym WIERDO may help you remember the situations where the subjunctive is used with
dependent noun clauses. (Note, there is a lot of overlap between the categories so verbs may fit in
more than one place)
wishing/ willing : querer, insistir, preferir, desear, esperar, mandar, permitir*,
prohibir, requerir, dejar, querer,
emotion: estar contento/triste, sentir, gustar, alegrase, sorprender, disgustar, temer,
tener miedo de, encantar, molestar
impersonal expressions: see list on next page
requests : aconsejar, pedir, recomendar, mandar, exigir, sugerir
doubt/ denial*: dudar, es dudoso, no estar seguro, no creer, no pensar, no es cierto,
negar (ie)
obligation/ ojalá: Ojalá literally means God willing and originated with the Moors
who prayed to Allah. Now it is always followed by que and the subjunctive.
Obligation verbs: necesitar, mandar, insistir, decir, etc..
This handout is based on :
Español V
El Subjuntivo
Common Impersonal Expressions used to express opinions
que lo hagan.
Es bueno
Es malo
Es mejor
Es peor
Es horrible
Es horrendo
Es estupendo
Es maravilloso
Es posible
Es imposible
Es probable
Es improbable
Es increíble
Es necesario
Es preciso
Es urgente
Es importante
Es interesante
Es notable
Es raro
Es extraño
Es estúpido
Es ridículo
Es curioso
Es dudoso
Es difícil
Es fácil
No es seguro
No es cierto
No es verdad
It's good
for them to do it (or: that they do it).
It's bad
It's better
It's worse
It's horrible
It's horrendous
It's stupendous
It's marvelous
It's possible
It's impossible
It's probable
It's improbable
It's incredible
It's necessary
It's necessary
It's urgent
It's important
It's interesting
It's notable
It's unusual/strange
It's strange
It's stupid
It's ridiculous
It's curious
It's doubtful
It's unlikely
It's likely
It's uncertain
It's uncertain
It's untrue
Note that any impersonal expression that expresses certainty is not used with the subjunctive.
This handout is based on :
Español V
El Subjuntivo
Special Notes
1. Certain verbs of influence may be used either with the subjunctive or an
infinitive, even when there's a change of subject. The infinitive is more frequent
when the subject of the dependent verb is a pronoun (rather than a noun or
noun phrase). Such verbs include hacer (to make [someone do something]),
permitir (to permit), and dejar (to let, allow):
Nobody makes me think.
Let me work in peace.
They don't permit us to dance.
Nadie hace que los trabajadores piensen en el No one makes the workers think about the
Let the secretaries work in peace.
Deja que las secretarias trabajen en paz.
They don't permit the other students to
Ellas no permiten que los otros estudiantes
Nadie me hace pensar.
Déjame trabajar en paz.
Ellas no nos permiten bailar.
2. Also, certain verbs of influence can also act as verbs of reporting. Therefore,
verbs like escribir and decir will only take the subjunctive when in a situation of
Mis padres me dicen que estudie mucho.
Mis padres me dicen que mi primo viene mañana.
3. Using the sujunctive in questions with verbs of doubt can be tricky. What are the
differences between these two questions:
a. ¿Crees que ellos vendrán?
b. ¿Crees que ellos vengan?
This handout is based on :
Español V
El Subjuntivo
IV. The subjunctive in adjective clauses
Adjectives are words that modify a noun, describing or limiting it. . An entire clause may
serve an adjectival purpose, describing a noun or pronoun —the antecedent— in a sentence,
for example:
1. Do you have a dress which will go with these shoes?
2. Yes, I have a dress which will be perfect.
3. I don't see any dress (that) I like.
Each bold-faced adjectival clause refers back to the word dress (the antecedent) but each does so in
a different way. In sentence #1 the antecedent is indefinite, in #2 it is definite, and in #3 it is
The rule: In Spanish, the subjunctive is used in an adjectival clause when the antecedent
is indefinite or unknown or is nonexistent or negated; in contrast, the indicative is used when the
antecedent is a definite or existing one.
Main clause
Dependent clause
Mood of the
Predicate Antecedent Adjectival clause verb ladrar
(to bark)
Reason for the use of the
subjunctive or the indicative
que ladra mucho. Indicative
There is a definite antecedent, a
dog which I own.
No tengo un perro
que ladre mucho. Subjunctive
The antecedent is negated; such a dog
doesn't exist.
que ladre mucho. Subjunctive
There is an indefinite antecedent; such a
dog may or not exist.
un perro
un perro
(I have/don't have/want a dog that barks a lot.)
More examples of the three types of situations:
1. The indicative is used in an adjectival clause when there is a definite antecedent:
Hay algo aquí que me gusta.
There is something here which I like.
This handout is based on :
Español V
El Subjuntivo
Conoces al profesor que vive allí?
Do you know the professor who lives there?
Leo un libro que explica todo eso.
I'm reading a book which explains all that.
Tienen una criada que habla español. They have a maid who speaks Spanish.
2. The subjunctive is used in an adjectival clause when antecedent is negated:
No hay nada aquí que me guste.
There is nothing here I like.
No veo *a nadie que conozca.
I don't see anyone I know.
No recomendamos ningún libro que él haya
We don't recommend any book he has
3. The subjunctive is used in an adjectival clause when there is an indefinite antecedent:
Hay algo aquí que te guste?
Is there anything here you like?
Quiero leer un libro que explique
todo eso.
I want to read a book which explains all that.
Conoces *a alguien que viva cerca
de aquí?
Do you know anyone who lives nearby?
Buscamos una criada que hable
We're looking a maid who speak Spanish. [We hope we
can find one!]
*Note the use of the personal a before the pronouns alguien and nadie when used as direct
This handout is based on :
Español V
El Subjuntivo
V. The subjunctive in adverbial clauses
Adverbs indicate why, where, when and how. Typical adverbs in English are words
like son, here, and quickly. Adverbial phrases are groups of words used in the same
way, such as on Sunday or with compassion. Also, an entire clause may have an
adverbial function:
John is working so that she will notice him. (why)
John works after school is finished for the year. (when)
John Works as quickly as he can. (how)
Adverbial clauses are introduced by conjuctions. Sometimes these conjunctions
require the subjunctive and at other times the indicative is used.
The indicative is (generally) used if there is no change of
subject. Instead, an adverbial phrase and a preposition + infinitive is
He is saving his Money so that he can buy a car.
El ahorra su dinero para poder comprar un coche.
My parents are saving money so that I can buy a car.
Mis padres ahorran dinero para que yo pueda comprar un coche.
The subjunctive is ALWAYS used after certain prepositions (and
change of subject). These prepositions can be remembered with the
acronym ESCAPA:
En caso de que- in case (of)
Sin que- unless, without
Con tal de que- provided that, as long as
A menos que- unless
Para que- so that (synonyms are de modo que and de manera que)**
A fin de que- in order that, so that
This handout is based on :
Español V
El Subjuntivo
No voy a menos que venga ella.
I'm not going unless she comes.
Salgo a la una con tal que se termine todo. I leave at 1:00 provided everything is done.
Trabaja mucho para que vivan bien.
She works hard so they (can) live well.
No hago nada sin que lo sepan.
I don't do anything without their knowing it.
Adverbial conjunctions of time:
The following adverbial conjunctions deal with time, and are followed by the
subjunctive when they introduce an anticipated situation. If they introduce one
which is viewed as completed or habitual, they are followed by the indicative.
después de que-
en cuanto-
as soon as
tan pronto como-
as soon as
siempre que-
Por lo general lo hago cuando nos
I usually do it when we get up.
Lo haré cuando nos levantemos.
I'll do it when we get up.
Siempre me lavo los dientes después que I always brush my teeth after we
Me lavaré los dientes después de que
I'll brush my teeth after we eat.
This handout is based on :
Español V
El Subjuntivo
Los alumnos lo repiten hasta que el
profesor está satisfecho.
The students repeat it until the
professor is satisfied.
Los alumnos lo repetirán hasta que él
esté satisfecho.
The students will repeat it until he [Subjunctive]
is satisfied.
Trabajamos mientras ellos descansan.
We work while they rest.
Trabajaremos mientras ellos descansen.
We will work while they rest.
Other adverbial conjunctions:
Aunque (although, even though, even if). The indicative is used if a
fact is involved or the outcome is known; otherwise the subjunctive is
Lo haré aunque no le gusta.
I’ll do it even though she doesn’t like it.
Lo haré aunque no le guste.
I’ll do it, even though she may not like it.
The conjunction of time antes de que (before) is ALWAYS used with
the subjunctive, even if the adverbial phrase refers to something that has
already happened.
Yo lo hago antes de que ellos vuelvan.
Yo lo hice antes de que ellos volvieran.
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