The Spanish Subjunctive Mood
By Russell Sabo
The Spanish subjunctive tense, or mood, is something that causes shivers to run down the spines of most Spanish learners. After all, you’ve spent countless hours and days learning about the present, past, future, conditional, and all the perfect tenses and now you have to learn what feels like the second half of Spanish!
Is it even necesary? No. You can make yourself understood to a non-English speaker without the subjunctive. But if your goal is to have a normal conversation in Spanish and exhibit some degree of fluency, you bet it’s necesary! Without the subjunctive, you won’t be able to convey a sense of doubt or uncertainty, to speak of things that may or may not happen, or to say that you hope that something will happen. Think for a second of how many times you speak of these things in English every day and you’ll gain a sense of just how important it is in Spanish also. Native Spanish speakers also have hopes and dreams, and doubts and uncertainties, and deal with things that may or may not happen. And they talk about these subjects by using the subjunctive.
What is the Subjunctive?
The Spanish subjunctive mood is what allows you to communicate your own personal point of view. Using it, you can talk about hopes, fears, possibilities, doubts, uncertainties, and other things that are not facts (or are not facts yet).
Normally, the subjunctive will be introduced with the word ‘que’ or ‘that.’ For example: I hope that you have a great day. In Spanish, this would be written as: Espero que tengas un gran día.
The word ‘Espero’ or ‘I hope’ is your personal desire. You are hoping for something for somebody else, in this case, that the person that you are speaking to has a great day. The word ‘que’ is equivalent to ‘that.’ So ‘Espero que’ is ‘I hope that’. And since ‘you have a great day’ is something that may or may not happen (it’s actually something that you’re hoping for, not something that’s certain to happen), you’ll use the subjunctive mood to express your hope. ‘…tengas un gran día.’ I hope (that) you have a great day. – Espero que tengas un gran día.
There are other times when the subjunctive will be used, but I’ll get into those in detail in respective articles.
There are four different subjunctive tenses that you’ll need to learn.
- The Present Subjunctive – el presente de subjuntivo
- The Imperfect Subjunctive – el imperfecto de subjuntivo
- The Present Perfect Subjunctive – el perfecto de subjuntivo
- The Pluperfect (Past Perfect) Subjunctive – el pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo
Once you learn each one of these, you’ll be smiling because you’ll know exactly what you want to do with them. Common words and phrases that you use everyday come from the subjunctive mood, such as ‘I would like’ and ‘should’ and ‘could you?’
The hardest part of learning the subjunctive conjugations is just learning the word forms. But once you learn them, the subjunctive becomes much easier to implement into your everyday Spanish. For more information on learning the conjugations, check out my article entitled ‘Learning Verb Conjugations’. If you’re having having problems remembering the conjugated form of the subjunctive (or any conjugated form), the method in ‘Learning Verb Conjugations’ will ensure that you never forget the conjugated form again.
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