Are there two different forms of subjunctive preterite?

Are there two different forms of subjunctive preterite?


I was just looking up verb congugations and I realized that spanishdict has 2 lists of subjunctive preterite tenses in its full congugation of several verbs. Is this correct? Is there a different meaning between the two subjunctive preterites or is it just for different dialects? Thanks for the help.

updated OCT 6, 2009
posted by ivancic91
Me too, I have always wondered about this...How I should choose the one or the other...Well, I guess usage has made my choice easy in case I ever get to speaking Spanish well enough to make use the tense at all:-) - Janice, AGO 16, 2009

4 Answers


The two forms have the same meaning, but the ...ese... form isn't used any more. It's kind of like the English "thee" and "thou". Everyone understands it, but no one uses it. You'll see it in ancient writing, like the Bible.

Hold on, hold on! The -se forms are used every day in Spain, along with the -re ones, and we are not tales from the Bible. We are talking about a form used dozens of times every day by more than 40 million people. I wouldn't describe that as "no one".

When the imperfect subjunctive is used for typical subjunctive uses, either form can be used alike, although the -re form is far more popular in Latin America (and apparently, not even in use in Calvo Viejo's country). The advantage of the -re form is that it also have other uses that the -se form doesn't.

The -se form was the original Latin subjunctive tense, while the -re form was originally an indicative tense. In time, the -re form began to expand its uses, and eventually it could also be used instead of the original imperfect subjunctive forms. That's why -re has more uses than -se.

In Spain we like to keep both to break the monotony of so many re re re re in the same paragraph, so we alternate sometimes as we see fit.

  • ...porque cualquiera que fuese la verdad, de ningún modo podía remediarse (Isabel Allende, Chilean writer)
  • ...como si la poética de su autor no se hubiese perfeccionado todavía con el uso. (García Márquez, Colombian writer)
  • ...y confiase que el Jordán pasará por su boca (Borges, Argentinian writer)

Maybe this -se form has died recently, and I didn't realized.

updated OCT 6, 2009
edited by lazarus1907
posted by lazarus1907
"...and I didn't realize", or "...and I haven't realized'. - Martyn, AGO 22, 2009
Do you mean the "ra" form instead of the "re" form? "Re" is the future subjunctive, yes? - Nick-Cortina, AGO 24, 2009
Thank you for the correction! - ivancic91, OCT 6, 2009

Please ignore my answer

updated OCT 6, 2009
edited by CalvoViejo
posted by CalvoViejo
Your comment should be restricted to your region or country only. Please read below. - lazarus1907, AGO 16, 2009

yes in mexico they use them too... but maybe some places dont....

i was talking with my bf about the.... Espero que tu verano fuera tan divertido como el mío

and he said that he would have said

Espero que tu verano fuese tan divertido como el mío

updated JUN 16, 2011
edited by NikkiLR
posted by NikkiLR
Interesting. I often check with a colleage of mine from Mexico who has a PhD, just to get a different perspective. I need to check this with him. - lazarus1907, AGO 21, 2009

My apologies, Lazarus!

Pregunté a un amigo, nativo de Colombia, y él me dijo que ya no se usa la forma -se. Lo creí. Seguro que tiene mucho más conocimiento que mí amigo en este asunto.

Gracias por aclara la pregunta.

Con esto Calvo regresa a su modo de observar sin contestar preguntas

updated AGO 21, 2009
edited by CalvoViejo
posted by CalvoViejo
¡No, Calvo! ¡No regreses a un modo de observar sin contestar! Aprendiamo muchos de te...También de ese error. - Janice, AGO 21, 2009
No te lo tomes a mal, pero me quedé de piedra al leer eso, porque en España la forma -se se usa a diario. - lazarus1907, AGO 21, 2009
SpanishDict is the world's most popular Spanish-English dictionary, translation, and learning website.