The subjunctive (el subjuntivo) is one of the three moods in Spanish, the other two being the indicative and the imperative. The subjunctive mood in Spanish often expresses the opposite of the objective and truthful indicative. The subjunctive is used to express desires, doubts, the unknown, the abstract, and emotions. The subjunctive mood includes many of the same verb tenses as the indicative mood, but not all, in three different time periods:
3. Future (rarely used in modern Spanish, but good to know for literature)
Elements of the Subjunctive
There are three main parts to a subjunctive sentence:
1. Two Different Subjects
One subject in the main/independent clause, and one in the noun/dependent clause.
- Yo quiero que tú limpies el baño.
2. A Relative Pronoun (Que, Quien, Como)
This pronoun links the two clauses and translates to mean "that."
- Yo quiero que tú limpies el baño.
3. Two Verbs: One WEIRDO and One Subjunctive
The WEIRDO (indicative) verb (see uses below) is the verb that signals the verb in the next clause will be in the subjunctive.
- Yo quiero que tú limpies el baño.
The subjunctive may seem a bit difficult for many native English speakers since we don´t use the subjunctive too often in English. But if you can keep in mind that each Spanish mood is just that, a mood, then you will begin to "feel" the difference in speech. Of course there are also lots of handy rules and tips to help you until you get the "feelings" of the subjunctive. The acronym WEIRDO seems to encompass most of the situations you will need to use the subjunctive. The subjunctive is used to express: Wishes, Emotions, Impersonal Expressions, Recommendations, Doubt/Denial, and is used after the word Ojalá (I hope to God that...).
Wishing, wanting, demanding, desiring, expecting, ordering, and preferring all fall into this category. Also mentioning the nonexistence or indefiniteness of something that is desired falls into this category. Because the dependent clause represents what we want from someone else, the actions have not yet occurred and may never occur, thus they are in the subjunctive mood and not the indicative.
- Yo espero que él me compre unas flores. (I hope that he buys me flowers.)
- No hay nadie que quiera sacar la basura. (There is no one that wants to take out the trash.)
- Nosotros agradecemos que tú cocines bien. (We are grateful that you cook well.)
Useful Verbs of Wishfulness
|agradecer||to be grateful||insistir||to insist||no tener||not to have|
|buscar||to look for||mandar||to order||pedir||to request|
|desear||to wish||necesitar||to need||preferir||to prefer|
|esperar||to hope; to expect||no encontrar||not to find||querer||to want|
|exigir||to demand||no haber||there is/are not|
Being annoyed, angry, happy, regretful, sad, scared, or surprised all fall into this category. Any personal reaction to a situation is emotional. The focus is not on a factual observation of a situation but how is makes the subject feel. Since how a person feels is always subjective, you use the subjunctive.
- Me alegro de que tú sonrías. (It makes me happy that you smile.)
- ¿Les molesta que él escuche la música fuerte? (Does it bother you that he listens to loud music?)
- Siento mucho que no puedan venir a la fiesta. (I´m sorry that they can´t come to the party.)
Useful Verbs of Emotion
|alegrarse||to be glad||gustar||to like||quejarse||to complain|
|encantar||to be delighted||lamentar||to regret||sentir||to feel|
|enojar||to be angry||maravillar||to astonish||sorprender||to surprise|
|estar contento, enojado, etc.||to be glad, angry, etc.||molestar||to annoy||temer||to fear|
3. Impersonal Expressions
Impersonal expressions work a lot like emotions in that they are someone´s opinion or value judgement. They focus on the subjectivity of the subject and not on the actual truth or reality of the situation.
Impersonal Expression Formula
Almost any phase with the es + adjective + que can be an impersonal expression as long as it doesn´t state any truth (es verdad que), certainty (es cierto que), or fact (es hecho que). These are indicative. But their opposites (no es verdad que) are subjunctive.
- Es necesario que Jaime lea este libro. (It is necessary that Jaime reads this book.)
- Es extraño que yo reciba un regalo porque no es mi cumpleaños. (It´s odd that I receive a gift because it isn´t my birthday.)
- Es increíble que los guepardos corran tan rápidamente. (It is incredible that cheetahs can run so quickly.)
Useful Impersonal Expressions (not a complete list!)
|es agradable||it is nice||es estupendo||it is great||es necesario||it is necessary||es urgente||it is urgent|
|es bueno||it is good||es extraño||it is strange||es probable||it is probable||es vergonzoso||it is a disgrace|
|es curioso||it is curious||es importante||it is important||es raro||it is rare||no es cierto||it is not certain|
|es dudoso||it is doubtful||es increíble||it is incredible||es recomendable||it is recommended||no es hecho||it is not a fact|
|es esencial||it is essential||es malo||it is bad||es una lástima||it is a pity||no es verdad||it is not true|
When a person recommends, suggests, wants, or asks another person to do something, the subjunctive is used. In this case, the que separates the recommender for the recommendation.
- Mi doctor recomienda que yo beba más agua. (My doctor recommends that I drink more water.)
- Yo suplico que mi hija tenga más cuidado. (I beg that my daughter is more careful.)
- Ellos sugieren que tú leas este libro. (They suggest that you read this book.)
Useful Verbs of Recommendation
|aconsejar||to advise||proponer||to suggest||sugerir||to suggest|
|decir||to say||recomendar||to recommend||suplicar||to beg|
|ordenar||to order||rogar||to beg|
Doubt indicates that a situation seems unreal, therefore, not factual (indicative). To doubt or deny something is to question is sense of reality.
- Dudo que él tenga mi número de teléfono. (I doubt that he has my phone number.)
- No creen que los extraterrestres existan. (They don´t believe that aliens exist.)
- Tú niegas que la camisa sea mía. (You deny that the shirt is mine.)
Useful Verbs of Doubt
|dudar||to doubt||no creer||not to believe||no pensar||not to think|
|negar||to deny||no estar seguro||not to be sure||no suponer||not to assume|
|no comprender||not to understand||no parecer||not to seem|
Indicative or Subjunctive?
Comprender (to understand), creer (to believe), estar seguro (to be sure), parecer (to seem), pensar (to think), and suponer (to assume) are all indicative as they indicate what the subject knows, believes, thinks to be true and part of reality.
Ojalá is a Spanish word with Arabic origins. Originally it meant "Oh Allah!" and may have been used in prayers. Nowadays, it has taken on several more general meanings: "I hope to God..." "I hope..." or "If only..." Ojalá can introduce a subjunctive phrase with or without the relative pronoun que.
- ¡Ojalá que recuerde nuestro aniversario! (I hope to God he remembers our anniversary!)
- ¡Ojalá llueva! (I hope it rains!)
- ¡Ojalá que venga el padre Noel. (I hope Santa Clause comes!)
1) Label each introductory phrase as subjunctive or indicative.
Example: Duda que -> subjunctive
- Quiero que
- Es urgente que
- Recomienda que
- Creo que
- Es posible que
- Es cierto que
- Estoy segura que
- Es verdad que
- Es importante que