HomeQ&AWhen exactly do you use the subjunctive?

When exactly do you use the subjunctive?

3
votes

So I'm trying to understand this better.

When is the subjunctive used?

I mean, do you have to use it in everyday conversations?

Or is it just....there?

I'm confusing myself. ^.^

If someone could help me I'd very much appreciate it!

Thanks! xx

5678 views
updated MAY 24, 2011
posted by ChaoticNinja

8 Answers

5
votes

The subjunctive is alive and well in the Spanish language although it has almost completetly disappeared from the English language. There is far too much about it to include it in a single post. I will say that Yes, it is used in everyday language. Have you checked out the reference section above (Click on More) where you will find information about it. Paralee also has lessons on it that you could take online with Spanishdict. Check them out. They are great. smile

updated MAY 24, 2011
posted by Delores--Lindsey
Would you please explain "Paralee"? How do I access these lessons. Muchas gracias - Sheily, JUN 30, 2010
The subjunctive does exist in English but we don't create it the same way as in Spanish. - ian-hill, MAY 24, 2011
5
votes

When is the subjunctive used?

When a subordinate clause (a sentence embedded into another one) is said because it is something you know or guess which you intend to communicate, regardless of the meaning of the main sentence, you always use indicative; if that is not the case, you use subjunctive. These examples will show you what I mean:

I think he is coming

I doubt he is coming

In the first sentence, "he is coming" is what you know or guess, and it is what you intend to communicate. In the second one, "he is coming" is not what you want others to know about what you think or guess, because you don't think that, but the opposite. The first "coming" is indicative; the second one subjunctive.

English has developed a whole array of specific tools to replace the subjunctive it lost, so most things can be expressed without it. Structures like "I want you to..." are not used to indicate what you think or guess, but to influence other people; these would be subjunctive in Spanish. Any hypothetical situation where English uses the past tense (still called subjunctive), would be subjunctive in Spanish. "If you came tomorrow..." (notice that past tense "came" used for a hypothetical future).

I mean, do you have to use it in everyday conversations?

Even 3 yeard old children can use it hundreds of times a day. It is used in all situations and registers, from the most casual conversations to the most formal Spanish. Without subjunctive you are extremely limited to extremely simple sentences, like "Hello, my name is..." Even a simple "Don't worry" requires subjunctive.

I'm getting the impression that understanding the subjunctive is more a matter of understanding the mood and the logic of what is being said as opposed to following precise grammatical rules.

You're partially right. The subjunctive is not about memorising endless lists of words and structures that 'trigger' the subjunctive for some random reasons; if you create a few new words and structures in Spanish, any Spanish native who learns them will use the correct mood for any of them... if they've understood exactly what they mean. The subjunctive is quite logical, although its presence is also motivated by its syntactic function in the sentence.

updated MAY 24, 2011
edited by lazarus1907
posted by lazarus1907
Jaja, Lazarus, the king of long posts ;-) - Destroyed99, MAY 21, 2011
Great answer :) - amy_moreno, MAY 21, 2011
The king of long posts is izanoni. - lazarus1907, MAY 21, 2011
2
votes

I would like a "cross reference" to the English for the Spanish subjunctive.

My guess is that most of the time we would use modals or a modified "to be" verb.

Plus the "doubts" etc. as follows:

I hope she will come. I hope = main clause

I know she will come. I know = main clause

I feel she will come. I feel = main clause.

The above examples all have main clauses, but only the first and the third introduce an element of uncertainty or subjectivity.

and the 3rd person singular without an "s"

This might make it easier for us all to grasp.

Could that be done?

updated MAY 24, 2011
edited by ian-hill
posted by ian-hill
I was surprised by how much the subjunctive was used in math texts. - lorenzo9, MAY 21, 2011
Are you thinking of "If z = 2 x y and y = 5 then what is z" ? - ian-hill, MAY 21, 2011
I was thinking more along the lines of "Let G be group. . ." = "Sea G un grupo. . .", although your example works too. - lorenzo9, MAY 21, 2011
2
votes

To access the lessons with Paralee (she is the teacher), to to the top of the page and click on Learn Spanish. You'll see the lessons under that. Just start with number one. The lessons consist of flashcards, listening, writing and reading. You can repeat any lesson that you don't feel sure about. wink

updated MAY 24, 2011
posted by Delores--Lindsey
Muchas gracias por aclararme eso! - Sheily, JUN 30, 2010
Un placer, Shelly! - Delores--Lindsey, JUN 30, 2010
2
votes

I found this page really useful - http://topspanishtips.weebly.com/spanish-subjunctive-common-triggers.html - it is a collection of phrases which trigger the subjunctive - I found that learning the triggers helped me better understand the underlying rules about doubt, denial etc and I stopped making so many mistakes!!!

updated MAY 24, 2011
posted by grizzler
Out of the frying pan and into the fire: that seems like a lot to think about in the middle of saying a sentence. - lorenzo9, MAY 21, 2011
1
vote

I feel your pain ChaoticNinja. The subjunctive intimidates me. I'm currently reading a book, "The Spanish Subjunctive Up Close" and I'm getting the impression that understanding the subjunctive is more a matter of understanding the mood and the logic of what is being said as opposed to following precise grammatical rules. In other words, you need to get a feel for the language. In other other words, you need to practice, practice, practice.

As I continue through this book, I'm sure that I will have examples to present to the forum for assistance.

updated MAY 24, 2011
posted by lkelly
Awe yeah. I'm going to redo the lesson to understand it better. [: - ChaoticNinja, JUL 1, 2010
0
votes

When exactly do you use the subjunctive?

Exactly ! ? What dou think this is? Rocket science? grin

updated MAY 24, 2011
posted by ian-hill
0
votes

Thank you. ^.^

I'm on those lessons right now && it was just a little confusing.

&& yes I did check out the reference section. :D

updated JUN 30, 2010
posted by ChaoticNinja
Great. If you have questions about specific examples, post those. It might help you if you wrote some sentences of your own and posted them for corrections and comments. Good luck. You can do it! :-) - Delores--Lindsey, JUN 30, 2010
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