Spanish Present Subjunctive
The present subjunctive functions much like the present indicative time-wise, except it deals with situations of doubt, desire, emotion, and is generally subjective. On the other hand, the present indicative is true, real, and objective. In some cases, it can also refer to the future. If you are familiar with all the spelling changes, stem changes, and irregular verbs in the yo form of the indicative, then you already know most of the spelling changes, stem changes, and irregular verbs in the subjunctive, too. For specifics on when to use the subjunctive instead of the indicative, see the article on subjunctive vs. indicative.
To conjugate a verb in the present subjunctive, you must first remember what the present indicative yo form is. In the present subjunctive, instead of forming a stem from the infinitive, the stem is formed from the yo form of the present indicative. For many verbs, this will be the same as the infinitive stem, but for many others (all the spelling-changes, stem-changing, and irregulars), it will be different.
How to Find the Present Subjunctive Stem
present subjunctive stem = yo form of present indicative -o ending
|Infinitive||Yo Present Indicative||Present Subjunctive Stem|
If the stem is irregular in the yo form of the present indicative, the subjunctive will maintain this “irregularity” throughout all of its conjugations (including all stem-changing -ir verbs).
Regular Present Subjunctive Endings
To the end of this new stem, add the appropriate ending depending on the subject of the verb and infinitive ending of the verb. There are only two ending sets for the present subjunctive: one for -ar verbs and one for both -er and -ir verbs.
|Subject||-AR Verbs||-ER and -IR Verbs|
|usted, él, ella||-e||-a|
|ustedes, ellos, ellas||-en||-an|
- Note that -ar endings in the present subjunctive are the same as -er endings in the present indicative except in the yo form.
- -Er and -ir endings in the present subjunctive are the same as -ar endings in the present indicative as well except in the yo form.
|Subject||hablar (habl-)||tener (teng-)||vivir (viv-)|
|usted, él, ella|
|ustedes, ellos, ellas|
Irregular Present Subjunctive Verbs
There are only six truly irregular verbs in the subjunctive. All other "irregulars" are only irregular in the stem or in spelling (see below.)
|usted, él, ella|
|ustedes, ellos, ellas|
Tildes Mean A Lot!
The tilde on dé is used to distinguish it from the preposition de, unless a pronoun is attached to the end as with deme (give me), where it is omitted.
Stem Changes in the Present Subjunctive
1. E to IE and O to UE stem-changing -AR and -ER verbs
All e-ie and o-ue stem-changing -AR and -ER verbs in the present indicative follow the same rules in the present subjunctive: all forms follow the stem change except for nosotros and vosotros (these use the infinitive stem).
- volar - vuele, vueles, vuele, volemos, voléis, vuelen
- querer - quiera, quieras, quiera, queramos, queráis, quieran
2. E to IE and O to UE stem-changing -IR verbs
All e-ie and o-ue stem-changing -IR verbs in the present indicative follow the same rules in the present subjunctive except the nosotros and vosotros forms where the -e changes to -i and the -o changes to -u.
- preferir - prefiera, prefieras, prefiera, prefiramos, prefiráis, prefieran
- dormir - duerma, duermas, duerma, durmamos, durmáis, duerman
3. E to I stem-changing -IR verbs
All e-i stem-changing -IR verbs in the present indicative maintain the stem-change in all forms.
- pedir - pida, pidas, pida, pidamos, pidáis, pidan
- servir - sirva, sirvas, sirva, sirvamos, sirváis, sirvan
All spelling changes in the preterite indicative are maintained in the present subjunctive. This is to maintain pronunciation of the infinitive.
All verbs ending in -ger and -gir change the -g to a -j in all forms.
- escoger - escoja, escojas, escoja, escojamos, escojáis, escojan
- exigir - exija, exijas, exija, exijamos, exijáis, exijan
All verbs ending in -car, -gar, and -zar change to -qu, -gu, and -c, respectively.
- explicar - explique, expliques, explique, expliquemos, expliquéis, expliquen
- llegar - llegue, llegues, llegue, lleguemos, lleguéis, lleguen
- empezar - empiece, empieces, empiece, empecemos, empecéis, empiecen