The Present Subjunctive Mood

Posted on 9th August 2012 in Conjugation

The Present Subjunctive Mood

By Russell Sabo

Would you like to express your personal views in Spanish? How about emotions, or to talk about the possibilities? Sometimes you just need to talk about things that aren’t facts, at least not yet, or maybe never. When we talk about these subjects in Spanish we use the subjunctive mood. This article will focus on the present subjunctive mood.

So first things first. How do we form the present subjunctive?

Click here to learn more about the Present Subjunctive – Learning Spanish Like Crazy Level 2 Nivel 2

  1. We begin with the first person singular form of the verb, the “yo” form: Hablo (I speak), Como (I eat), and Vivir (I live).
  2. Remove the “o” ending.
  3. Add the following endings to the first person singular verb stem according to the normal verb endings (AR/ER/IR).
    • For verbs that normally end with AR, add these endings to form the present subjunctive.
      1. (yo) Hablar – Habl receives an “-e” becoming “Hable”. que yo hable…
      2. (tú) Hablar – Habl receives “-es” becoming “Hables”. que tú hables…
      3. (Usted, él, ella) Hablar – Habl receives “-e” becoming “Hable”. que usted hable. que él hable. que ella hable…
      4. (nosotros/as) Hablar – Habl receives “-emos” becoming “Hablemos”. que nosotros hablemos…
      5. (vosotros/as) Hablar – Habl receives “-éis” becoming “Habléis”. que vosotros habléis…
      6. (Ustedes, ellos, ellas) Hablar – Habl receives “-en” becoming “Hablen”. que ustedes hablen. que ellos hablen. que ellas hablen…
    • For verbs that normally end with ER and IR, add these endings to form the present subjunctive.
      1. (yo) Comer – Com receives an “-a” becoming “Coma”. que yo coma…
      2. (yo) Vivir – Viv receives an “-a” becoming “Viva”. que yo viva…
      3. (tú) Comer – Com receives “-as” becoming “Comas”. que tú comas…
      4. (tú) Vivir – Viv receives “-as” becoming “Vivas”. que tú vivas…
      5. (Usted, él, ella) Comer – Com receives “-a” becoming “Coma”. que usted coma. que él coma. que ella coma…
      6. (Usted, él, ella) Vivir – Viv receives “-a” becoming “Viva”. que usted viva. que él viva. que ella viva…
      7. (nosotros/as) Comer – Com receives “-amos” becoming “Comamos”. que nosotros/as comamos…
      8. (nosotros/as) Vivir – Viv receives “-amos” becoming “Vivamos”. que nosotros/as vivamos…
      9. (vosotros/as) Comer – Com receives “-áis” becoming “Comáis”. que vosotros/as comáis…
      10. (vosotros/as) Vivir – Viv receives “-áis” becoming “Viváis”. que vosotros/as viváis…
      11. (Ustedes, ellos, ellas) Comer – Com receives “-an” becoming “Coman”. que ustedes coman. que ellos coman. que ellas coman…
      12. (Ustedes, ellos, ellas) Vivir – Viv receives “-an” becoming “Vivan”. que ustedes vivan. que ellos vivan. que ellas vivan…
  4. Here are the conjugated verbs once again with their meanings.
    • Habl+e=Hable (I speak), Com+a=Coma (I eat), Viv+a=Viva (I live)
    • Habl+es=Hables (you speak), Com+as=Comes (you eat), Viv+as=Vivas (you live)
    • Habl+e=Hable (You (formal) speak. He speaks. She speaks)
    • Com+a=Coma (You(formal) eat. He eats. She eats)
    • Viv+a=Viva (You (formal) live. He lives. She lives)
    • Habl+emos=Hablemos (we speak), Com+amos=Comamos (we eat), Viv+amos=Vivamos (we live)
    • Habl+éis=Habléis (You all (informal) speak), Com+áis=Comáis (You all (informal) eat), Viv+áis=Viváis (You all (informal) live)
    • Habl+en=Hablen (You all (formal) speak. They (males or a mixed group) speak. They (all females) speak)
    • Com+an=Coman (You all (formal) eat. They (males or a mixed group) eat. They (all females) eat)
    • Viv+an=Vivan (You all (formal) live. They (males or a mixed group) live. They (all females) live)

Basically, the trick here is to give the verbs the “other” endings. To clarify, the verbs that normally end with AR will receive the normal present indicative ER endings, and the ER/IR verbs will receive the normal present indicative AR endings.

None of the verbs above demonstrate the use of the first person singular (yo) use very well. To better show the use of the first person singular forms, here’s a small list of verbs that do show how it’s used:

  • tener – tenga, tengas, tenga, tengamos, tengáis, tengan
  • hacer – haga, hagas, haga, hagamos, hagáis, hagan
  • caer – caiga, caigas, caiga, caigamos, caigáis, caigan
  • salir – salga, salgas, salga, salgamos, salgáis, salgan
  • traer – traiga, traigas, traiga, traigamos, traigáis, traigan
  • concluir – concluya, concluyas, concluyamos, concluyáis, concluyan

Present Subjunctive and Reflexive Verbs

The reflexive pronoun appears in front of the conjugated verb.

  • mirarse – to look at oneself
  • que me mire
  • que te mires
  • que se mire
  • que nos miremos
  • que os miréis
  • que se miren

Present Subjuntive and Stem-Changing Verbs

Stem-changing verbs will keep their normal stem changes in the present subjunctive mood.

Pensar – To think que yo piense que tú pienses que usted, él, ella piense que nosotros pensemos que vosotros penséis que ustedes, ellos, ellas piensen
Devolver – To return (something) que yo devuelva que tú devuelvas que usted, él, ella devuelva que nosotros devolvamos que vosotros devolváis que ustedes, ellos, ellas devuelvan

Stem-changing verbs that have the -IR ending will also keep their change in the nosotros and vosotros form

Pedir – to order, to ask for, to request que yo pida que tú pidas que usted, él, ella pida que nosotros pidamos que vosotros pidáis que ustedes, ellos, ellas pidan
Morir – To die que yo muera que tú mueras que usted, él, ella muera que nosotros muramos que vosotros muráis que ustedes, ellos, ellas mueran

Also, there are 6 verbs that are irregular in the present subjunctive mood

  • dar – to give
  • estar – to be
  • haber – to have
  • ir – to go
  • saber – to know
  • ser – to be

And here are their conjugations.

  • dar – to give
  • yo dé
  • tú des
  • usted, él, ella dé
  • nosotros demos
  • vosotros deis
  • ustedes, ellos, ellas den
  • estar – to be
  • yo esté
  • tú estés
  • usted, él, ella esté
  • nosotros estemos
  • vosotros estéis
  • ustedes, ellos, ellas estén
  • haber – to have
  • yo haya
  • tú hayas
  • usted, él, ella haya
  • nosotros hayamos
  • vosotros hayáis
  • ustedes, ellos, ellas hayan
  • ir – to go
  • yo vaya
  • tú vayas
  • usted, él, ella vaya
  • nosotros vayamos
  • vosotros vayáis
  • ustedes, ellos, ellas vayan
  • saber – to know
  • yo sepa
  • tú sepas
  • usted, él, ella sepa
  • nosotros sepamos
  • vosotros sepáis
  • ustedes, ellos, ellas sepan
  • ser – to be
  • yo sea
  • tú seas
  • usted, él, ella sea
  • nosotros seamos
  • vosotros seáis
  • ustedes, ellos, ellas sean

Keep in mind also that some words will have spelling changes. There are 5 types of spelling changes that will occur in the present subjunctive and these are as follows:

  1. Verbs with the -car ending: the “c” changes to “qu”.
  2. Verbs with the -cer or -cir ending (preceded with a consonant): the “c” changes to “z”.
  3. Verbs with the -gar ending: the “g” changes to “gu”.
  4. Verbs with the -ger or -gir ending: the “g” changes to “j”.
  5. Verbs with the -zar ending: the “z” changes to “c”.

Spelling Change in -gar Verbs

  • pagar – to pay
  • yo pague nosotros paguemos
    tú pagues vosotros paguéis
    usted, él, ella pague ustedes, ellos, ellas paguen

    Spelling Change in -car Verbs

    tocar – to touch, to play (an instrument)
    yo toque nosotros toquemos
    tú toques vosotros toquéis
    usted, él, ella toque ustedes, ellos, ellas toquen

    Spelling Change in -zar Verbs

    trazar – to trace
    yo trace nosotros tracemos
    tú traces vosotros tracéis
    usted, él, ella trace ustedes, ellos, ellas tracen

    Spelling Change in -ger Verbs

    proteger – to protect
    yo proteja nosotros protejamos
    tú protejas vosotros protejáis
    usted, él, ella proteja ustedes, ellos, ellas protejan

    Spelling Change in -gir Verbs

    fingir – to pretend
    yo finja nosotros finjamos
    tú finjas vosotros finjáis
    usted, él, ella finja ustedes, ellos, ellas finjan

    Spelling Change in -cer Verbs

    ejercer – to exercise
    yo ejerza nosotros ejerzamos
    tú ejerzas vosotros ejerzáis
    usted, él, ella ejerza ustedes, ellos, ellas ejerzan

    Spelling change in -cir Verbs

    zurcir – to mend, to darn
    yo zurza nosotros zurzamos
    tú zurzas vosotros zurzáis
    usted, él, ella zurza ustedes, ellos, ellas zurzan

    When to Use the Present Subjunctive

    So when does somebody use the present subjunctive? The easy answer is: OFTEN!!! But getting down to specifics, there’s a long list of the times when you should use the present subjunctive. Let’s get started then!

    To Show Desire

    When you wish to show your desire for something or some action. The following verbs will indicate that the present subjunctive is needed:

    • desear que – to desire that
    • esperar que – to hope that
    • exigir que – to demand that
    • insistir en – to insist on
    • preferir – to prefer
    • querer – to want
    • Deseo que Anita abra su regalo. – I want Anito to open her present.
    • Prefieres que tu novio maneje a la biblioteca. – You prefer that your boyfriend drives to the library.
    • Él quiere que Mary le envie el dinero. – He wants Mary to send him the money.

    To Command

    You can express a command without using the Imperative (Command) tense. Using the present subjunctive isn’t as direct as the Imperative tense, but sometimes you don’t want to be direct. Sometimes a suggestion or a recommendation will get the point across, and who really wants to sound like a tyrannical dictator throwing out direct commands all the time?

    • aconsejar – to advise
    • decir que – to tell
    • dejar que – to allow
    • exigir – to demand
    • hacer que – to make
    • mandar – to order
    • ordenar que – to order
    • pedir – to request
    • preferir – to prefer
    • recomendar – to recommend
    • rogar – to beg, to pray
    • sugerir – to suggest
    • Aconsejo que pares el carro. – I advise you to stop the car.
    • Exiges que él reciba un desayuno gratis. – You demand that he receive a free breakfast.
    • Él le manda al soldado que se retire de la batalla. – He orders the solder to retreat from the battle.
    • Ella pide que todo se quede en la ciudad. – She requests that everyone remain in the city.
    • Preferimos que ustedes no coman en el baño. – We prefer that you all don’t eat in the bathroom.
    • Ustedes recomiendan que veamos la película ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’ – You all recommend that we see the movie ‘The Dark Knight Rises.’
    • Ruego que apagues la silla eléctrica. – I beg that you turn off the electric chair.
    • Sugieres que yo tome el ron. – You suggest that I drink the rum.

    To Show Emotion

    You can use the present subjunctive mood to say how you feel about something.

    • alegrarse – to be glad
    • enojarse de que – to be angry that
    • esperar – to hope
    • estar contento de que – to be glad that
    • lamentar – to regret
    • molestar(se) que – to be annoyed that
    • sentir – to regret
    • temer – to fear
    • Me alegra que todo esté bién. – I am glad that all is well.
    • Espero que tengas un gran día. – I hope that you have a great day.
    • Lamentas que no puedas venir. – You regret that you cannot come.
    • Él siente que su hijo sea tonto. – He regrets that his son is a fool.
    • Ella teme que lo peor venga. – She fears that the worst is coming.

    To Show Doubts and Express Denial

    You don’t think he did it and you’re pretty sure you didn’t do it. Then deny it. And while you’re at it, let the listener know that you don’t think your friend did it either. It had to be somebody else. But when you do it, do it with the present subjunctive.

    • no creer – to not believe
    • dudar – to doubt
    • negar – to deny
    • no estar convencido de que – to not be convinced
    • no estar seguro/a de que – to not be sure
    • no imaginarse que – to not imagine that
    • no parecer que – to not seem that
    • no pensar – to not think
    • no suponer que – to not suppose that
    • temer que – to fear/suspect that
    • No creo que el oso sea amable. – I don’t believe that the bear is friendly.
    • Dudas que Jane pueda tomar el aguardiente. – You doubt that Jane can drink the aguardiente.
    • Él no esta convencido de que Fred mate dragones. – He is not convinced that Fred kills dragons.
    • No estamos seguro de que no robes los bancos. – We are not sure that you don’t rob the banks.
    • ¿Niegas que yo vea el asesinato? – You deny that I saw the murder?
    • No pienso que eso sea una buena idea. – I don’t think that is a good idea.

    To Express Impersonal Expressions

    There are some impersonal expressions in which you will use the present subjunctive. These expressions don’t necessarily convey the truth so much as a personal opinion. What is important to one person isn’t necessarily important to another. The same with ‘incredible,’ or ‘easy,’ and so on. So with the following expressions, use the present subjunctive.

    • conviene – it’s advisable
    • es dudoso que – it’s doubtful that
    • es una lástima – it’s a shame, it’s a pity
    • es difícil – it’s unlikely
    • es fácil – it’s likely
    • es fantástico – it’s fantastic
    • es importante que, es preciso que – it’s important that
    • es imposible – it’s impossible
    • es increíble – it’s incredible
    • es inútil que – it’s useless that
    • es mejor – it’s better
    • es necesario – it’s necessary
    • es posible – it’s possible
    • es probable – it’s probable
    • es ridículo – it’s ridiculous
    • puede ser que – it may be that
    • es una pena que – it’s a pity that
    • es útil que – it’s useful that
    • más vale que – it’s better that
    • parece mentira que – it seems unreal that
    • parece que – it seems that
    • Conciene que sepas manejar el carro. – It’s advisable that you know how to drive the car.
    • Es una lástima que ella esté muerta. – It’s a pity that she is dead.
    • Es difícil que él vaya a conocer a Shakira. – It’s unlikely that he is going to meet Shakira.
    • En vez, es fácil que él vaya a conocer a las guardias de seguridad. – Instead, it is likely that he’s going to meet the security guards.
    • Es fantástico que ella plante maíz in su apartamento. – It’s fantastic that she plants corn in her apartment.
    • Es importante que te cepille los dientes. – It’s important that you brush your teeth.
    • Es imposible que él pueda manejar un autobus. – It’s impossible that he can drive a bus.
    • Es increíble que ustedes sobrevivan sin oxígeno. – It’s incredible that you all survive without oxygen.
    • Es mejor que lleves otros calcetines. – It’s better that you wear other socks.
    • Es necesario que comamos pollo todos los días. – It’s necessary that we eat chicken every day.
    • Es posible que ella no beba leche. – It’s possible that she doesn’t drink milk.
    • Es probable que ella sólo tome cerveza. – It’s probable that she only drinks beer.
    • Es ridículo que ellos crean en Santa Claus. – It’s ridiculous that they believe in Santa Claus.
    • Puede ser que estémos perdidos. – It may be that we’re lost.

    There are a few impersonal expressions that you’ll use that don’t require the present subjunctive. These expressions have to do with ways of stating facts, such as “Es cierto que – it’s certain that,” “Es evidente que – It’s evident that,” “Es obvio que – It’s obvious that,” and “Es verdad que – It’s true that.” When you use these expression, use the present indicative. “Es obvio que hablas mucho. – It’s obvious that you talk a lot.”

    • es cierto que – it’s certain that, it’s true that
    • es evidente que – it’s evident that
    • es obvio que – it’s obvious that
    • es verdad que – it’s true that
    • está comprobado que – it’s proven that
    • no hay duda que – there’s no doubt that

    However, when you use these expressions in the negative, then use the present subjunctive. “No es obvio que hables mucho. – It’s not obvious that you talk a lot.”

    To Express the Indefinite or the Negative

    Pretend you’re searching for a clothing store in a large city. It’s a sure bet that at least one exists, but until you find one, you can’t be sure. You tell somebody that you’re searching for a store that sells clothes. “Busco una tienda que venda ropa. – I’m looking for a store that sells clothes.” The verb “vender” becomes “venda.”

    The person replies to you, “No hay una tienda que venda ropa aquí. – There is no store that sells clothes here.” Such a store doesn’t exist in this city and so the reply warrants the present subjunctive, leaving you to walk away, wondering what kind of city doesn’t have a clothing store.

    Time References

    When you are saying that something will happen when the time comes or when the time is right, use the present subjunctive.

    • antes de que – before
    • cuando – when
    • despues de que – after
    • en cuanto – as soon as
    • hasta que – until
    • mientras que – while
    • tan pronto como
    • Antes de que salgas, debes ducharte. – Before you go out, you should take a shower.
    • Él comerá cuando ella cocine la cena. – He will eat when she cooks supper.
    • En cuanto pueda, te devolveré la guía de revistas. – As soon as I can, I will return the magazine to you.
    • Voy a escribir hasta que tenga sueños. – I’m going to write until I’m tired.
    • Tan pronto como salga el sol, voy a correr. – As soon as the sun comes out, I’m going to run.


    Some conjunctions will always require the subjunctive mood. Here are some of them:

    • a menos que – unless
    • con tal de que – provided that
    • en caso de que – in case that
    • para que – in order that
    • sin que – without
    • A menos que aprendas a montar en bicicleta, tienes que caminar. – Unless you learn to ride a bicycle, you have to walk.
    • Voy a morder mi hermano con tal de que esté durmiendo. – I’m going to bite my brother, provided that he is sleeping.
    • Tiene que llevar el aerosol de pimienta en caso de que encuentre un perro agresivo. – You need to carry pepper spray in case that you meet an agressive dog.
    • Necesito un cuchillo para que coma el bístec. – I need a knife in order to eat the steak.
    • Vamos a robar el carro sin que los dueños nos descubran. – We’re going to steal the car without the owners discovering us.

    Perhaps…Maybe…I hope…

    Of course, you should always use the present subjunctive mood when you’re using the mother of all uncertainty: Maybe. The words “maybe” and “perhaps” are expressed using the words: “tal vez” and “quiza(s)”. If you’re reading, you may also see the word “acaso”, which also means “perhaps”.

    • Quizas ella esté en la tienda. – Perhaps she is in the store.

    • Tal vez él no sea un mal tipo. – Perhaps he isn’t a bad guy.

    And let’s not forget about “ojalá”, which means “I hope that”.

    • Ojalá que ella cante una buena cancion. – I hope that she sings a good song.


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    Click here to learn more about the Present Subjunctive – Learning Spanish Like Crazy Level 2 Nivel 2

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