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The present subjunctive functions much like the present indicative time-wise except it deals with situations of doubt, desire, emotion, and is generally subjective while 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.

Present Subjunctive

To conjugate a verb in the present subjunctive, you must first remember what the indicative present 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-changesstem-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   infinitive yo present indicative present subjunctive
caber quepo quep-   poner pongo pong-
caer caigo caig-   querer* quiero quier-
conocer conozco conozc-   tener tengo teng-
hacer hago hag-   traer* traigo traig-
lucir luzco luzc-   valer valgo valg-
parecer parezco parezc-   ver veo ve-

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).

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.

Regular Present Subjunctive Endings

  -AR verbs -ER and -IR verbs
yo -e -a
-es -as
usted, él, ella -e -a
nosotros -emos -amos
vosotros -éis -áis
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.

Example Conjugations

  hablar (habl-) tener (teng-) vivir (viv-)
yo hable tenga viva
hables tengas vivas
usted, él, ella hable tenga viva
nosotros hablemos tengamos vivamos
vosotros habléis tengáis viváis
ustedes, ellos, ellas hablen tengan vivan

Irregular Present Subjunctive Verbs

There are only 6 truly irregular verbs in the subjunctive. All other "irregulars" are only irregular in the stem or in spelling (see below.)

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

Tildes Mean A Lot!

The tilde on 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, dormimos, 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

Spelling-changes

All spelling changes in the preterit 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

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