Language Guide
Verbs
Spanish Imperfect Subjunctive

Spanish Imperfect Subjunctive

Quick Answer

The imperfect subjunctive (el imperfecto de subjuntivo ) follows many of the same rules as the present subjunctive. Introduced with a preterite, imperfect, conditional, or past perfect WEIRDO verb in the independent clause, the imperfect subjunctive often refers to a previous experience, but can also refer to unlikely events or possibilities.

Check out these examples of the imperfect subjunctive.

Si tuviera más dinero, viajaría por todo el mundo.
If I had more money, I would travel around the whole world.
 
Si yo fuera tú, no lo haría.
If I were you, I wouldn’t do it.
 

Imperfect Subjunctive Forms

Finding the Imperfect Subjunctive Stem

To conjugate a verb in the imperfect subjunctive, you'll need to know the third person plural (ellos, ellas ) preterite form of the verb you're using. Why? Instead of using the infinitive for a stem, the imperfect subjunctive uses the third person plural of the preterite (minus the -ron). Whatever the third person preterite from of a verb is, whether regular or irregular, becomes the base for the imperfect subjunctive stem.

Imperfect Subjunctive Stem Formula

imperfect subjunctive stem = third person plural preterite form minus -ron ending

Imperfect Subjunctive Stem Examples

Here are the imperfect subjunctive stems of some common Spanish verbs.

InfinitiveThird Person Preterite FormImperfect Subjunctive Stem
caber
 
cupieron
 
cupie-
dar
 
dieron
 
die-
decir
 
dijeron
 
dije-
dormir
 
durmieron
 
durmie-
estar
 
estuvieron
 
estuvie-
haber
 
hubieron
 
hubie-
hablar
 
hablaron
 
habla-
hacer
 
hicieron
 
hicie-
ir
 
fueron
 
fue-
leer
 
leyeron
 
leye-
tener
 
tuvieron
 
tuvie-
pedir
 
pidieron
 
pidie-
poder
 
pudieron
 
pudie-
poner
 
pusieron
 
pusie-
preferir
 
prefirieron
 
prefirie-
querer
 
quisieron
 
quisie-
saber
 
supieron
 
supie-
sentir
 
sintieron
 
sintie-
ser
 
fueron
 
fue-
traducir
 
tradujeron
 
traduje-
traer
 
trajeron
 
traje-
ver
 
vieron
 
vie-

Imperfect Subjunctive Endings

When conjugating the imperfect subjunctive, you can choose from two different sets of endings. Both are correct, though use of the first set, whose yo ending is -ra, is more widespread.

SubjectSubjunctive 1 EndingsSubjunctive 2 Endings
yo-ra-se
-ras-ses
él, ella, usted-ra-se
nosotros-ramos-semos
vosotros-rais-seis
ellos, ellas, ustedes-ran-sen

Watch out for the accents

Nosotros imperfect subjunctive conjugations have a tilde on the vowel that comes immediately before the subjunctive ending. For example:

  • habláramos /hablásemos
  • escribiéramos/escribiésemos

Here a three common verbs conjugated in the imperfect subjunctive with each set of endings.

Subjunctive 1

SubjectHablarHacerTraducir
yo
hablara
 
hiciera
 
tradujera
 
hablaras
 
hicieras
 
tradujeras
 
él, ella, usted
hablara
 
hiciera
 
tradujera
 
nosotros
habláramos
 
hiciéramos
 
tradujéramos
 
vosotros
hablarais
 
hicierais
 
tradujerais
 
ellos, ellas, ustedes
hablaran
 
hicieran
 
tradujeran
 

Subjunctive 2

SubjectHablarHacerTraducir
yo
hablase
 
hiciese
 
tradujese
 
hablases
 
hicieses
 
tradujeses
 
él, ella, usted
hablase
 
hicieses
 
tradujese
 
nosotros
hablásemos
 
hiciésemos
 
tradujésemos
 
vosotros
hablaseis
 
hicieseis
 
tradujeseis
 
ellos, ellas, ustedes
hablasen
 
hiciesen
 
tradujesen
 

Imperfect Subjunctive Uses

The imperfect subject can be used to talk about past occurrences, current opinions of past events, doubts and wishes, as well as in if clauses and polite requests.

1. Past Occurrences

If the WEIRDO verb in the independent clause is in the preterite or the imperfect, then the subjunctive verb that follows will be imperfect.

Quise que vinieras/vinieses a mi fiesta.
I wanted you to come to my party.
 
Tenía miedo de que no lloviera/lloviese.
I was scared it wouldn't rain.
 
Le iba a prestar dinero para que se comprara un abrigo.
I was going to lend him money so he could buy a coat.
 

2. Current Opinions of Past Events

The imperfect subjunctive can also be used to express current emotions, doubts, etc. about something that happened in the past.

Es bueno que él se casara/casase.
It's good that he got married.
 
No me parece que el viaje fuera/fuese largo.
It doesn't seem to me that the journey was long.
 

3. Doubts and Wishes

It's common to see ojalá or ojalá que used with the imperfect subjunctive to express the idea of hoping for something that is unlikely to happen or is impossible.

Ojalá que nevara/nevase en Panamá.
I wish it were snowing in Panama.
 
Ojalá mi hermano se casara/casase.
I wish my brother were getting married.
 

4. If Clauses

When preceded by si (if), the imperfect subjunctive is often used to talk about hypotheticals. Note that the other verb in these constructions is in the conditional.

Si yo fuera/fuese reina, viajaría por todo el mundo.
If I were queen, I would travel all over the world.
 
Pintaría más seguido si tuviera/tuviese más tiempo.
I would paint more often if I had more time.
 

5. Polite Suggestions and Requests

The imperfect subjunctive can be used to make very polite suggestions or formal requests.

Quisiera/Quisiese dos semanas de vacaciones.
I would like two weeks of vacation.
 

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