subjunctivo pretérito 1 y 2

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During the down time, I spent a little time on another language site, You gotta get your fix somewhere. They have a feature where other students who are fluent in the language you are studying critique the exercise. If you get critiqued by a knowledgeable person it works well, but it's not a forum where you can easily ask questions and hope that someone will post a reply. I received a correction to an exercise I had completed, in which I made the following comment:

No sé por qué los ejercicios"write" no son sobre el sujeto de la lección, pero si eso fue el caso, esto sería mejor .

They changed it to:
pero si ESE FUESE el caso, ÿSTO sería mejor.

My editor told me that I would have to use the subjunctive to say 'if that was the case,? which I should have known. Her correction used a conjugation I have seen in the tables but for which I have not yet found an explanation. Hence my question: When do we use the two different past subjunctives? If I had remembered to use subjunctive, I would probably have used fuera instead of fuese, and I would have wondered what the other subjunctivo pretérito was for. Apparently it's for this, but I still have the question: What's the other one for'

11957 views
updated MAR 23, 2010
posted by The-Steve

37 Answers

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Even in English, the subjunctive usually persists here and we say: "If that WERE the case . . ."

Regarding the two forms of the past subjunctive, if you search for "fuese" or "hubiese", you'll see several informative past discussions related to your question.

I know the English subjunctive is used by many here, and I hope it completely leaves us before long, because nobody I know talks that way unless they are trying to impress or sound Brittish. Having said that, thanks for the search terms suggestions, I had not found anything in my previous searches except (in a web search)extracts from Spanish grammar books in Spanish which were a little over my head. I'll follow your suggestion and see what I get.

updated MAR 23, 2010
posted by The-Steve
I am not tryng to impress anyone - hopefully have no need to do so:-) and certainly don't want to sound British, but I talk this way. A lot of people do. Really!
But...I have to admit that I sure did not know that I am using the "subjunctive" when I do.....
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OK, here´s one for the mix. The FUTURE SUBJUNCTIVE.

Eg "que yo hablare"

The only place I have ever seen it is on bullfighting posters where they tell the public to either buy tickets in advance or on the day "en el caso que todavía los hubiere".

Anyone seen this tense in any other context?

Interesting quote from the posters!

Here's one previous discussion about this; you can probably find some others if you search.

http://www.spanishdict.com/answers/show/6016/

updated ABR 9, 2009
posted by Natasha
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Lazerus said:
The '-se? forms were the original subjunctive forms in Latin (the only one), and the '-ra? forms were initially indicative only. In time, the '-ra? forms evolved, and they assimilated the uses of the '-se? forms, without losing completely their original indicative uses.

I think the point I am trying to make regarding the use of "was" with I wish is related to the evolution of the English language. Lazerus stated that in Spanish the -ra forms were ORIGINALLY indicative and then they evolved and now are used for subjunctive (while still maintaining some of their original uses).

I don't know the history of English conjugations, only that Old English was more similar to Latin and Spanish in that it was highly conjugated and had a more active subjunctive. In time English has become less conjugated and the subjunctive (at least in certain areas) either has disappeared or is disappearing.

The story of the -ra ending in Spanish changing from expressing the indicative to expressing the subjunctive must bear some comparisons to this discussion about "were".

Some people would have started using the -ra ending in a way that others would have frowned upon (assuming people cared about such things). They would have said that it was just plain wrong to use it in such a way. Then after several years/decades/centuries went by they would have said that it was heard but wasn't correct and was a case of someone using the indicative where they should have been using the subjunctive.

This process may even have evolved with people claiming that this usage was considered "vulgar" or at least "colloquial".

But again time passed and somewhere along the way it became accepted to use the -ra and the -se ending (almost) interchangably. Now (as far as I am aware and were taught) the -ra ending is considered an expression of the subjunctive.

IF there was/were a big distinction in Old English between a conjugation of "to be" which expressed the indicative and the subjunctive this has largely been eroded. Everyone claims that this difference is now only observed in the distinction between "was" and "were" for the 1st and 3rd person singular. "Was" being the indicative and "were" being the subjunctive.

I still don't understand why now in this time we can't consider both of them the subjunctive. "Was" is used by many people all over the world and the phrase still expresses the subjunctive. Why not just say it is the subjunctive.

Its roots may be different but no different from the -ra ending in Spanish and if the Spanish allows two forms (-ra and -se) which can be used to express the subjunctive why can't English with "was" and "were"?

p.s. Apologies if I have not correctly assessed the changing of the meaning of the -ra ending in Spanish. I am of course assuming but I think it could describe the progression from the indicative ot the subjunctive.

updated ABR 9, 2009
posted by Robert-Austin
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OK, here´s one for the mix. The FUTURE SUBJUNCTIVE.

Eg "que yo hablare"

The only place I have ever seen it is on bullfighting posters where they tell the public to either buy tickets in advance or on the day "en el caso que todavía los hubiere".

Anyone seen this tense in any other context'

updated ABR 9, 2009
posted by mdepps
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All I am saying is that I believe that "was" in place of "were" is still the subjunctive and the choice between the two depends on how formal you want to sound.

Well in the imperfect indicative, the distinction between was/were is most certainly not decided by how formal you wish to sound. It is decided by the pronoun (I/he/she/it vs. you [sing]/we/you [plu]/they. So, suddenly, when it comes to what one might otherwise call the subjunctive) this awareness of pronoun-dependent-distinctions (in what you call the "backshifting" of the imperfect indicative-used-to-substitute-for-the-missing-subjunctive) disappears?

Basically, I suppose, I would appeal to an Occam's-razor-like argument. Forms such as "thou art" and "thou hast" have disappeared in favor of (been subsumed by) the forms "you are" and "you have". One does not suggest (to my knowledge) as an explanation any "backshifting"/"timeshifting"/"shapeshifting" to explain this. One simply says "where there used to be multiple/distinguishable forms, a single form became dominant". Note: we do not normally say that for the 2nd person singular there is a "person-shifting" to the 2nd/3rd person plural, we simply say that "the 2nd person singular is the same as the 2nd person plural". By the same token, we do not say that Spanish substitutes "ser" for "ir" in the preterito (or vice-versa) but rather that the forms of the verbs are indistinguishable in that case.

Fine, but I can say that the first and second person singular of the simple past (was and were) are indistinguishable from the first and third person singular of the past subjunctive (was and were).

updated ABR 9, 2009
posted by Robert-Austin
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All I am saying is that I believe that "was" in place of "were" is still the subjunctive and the choice between the two depends on how formal you want to sound.
Well in the imperfect indicative, the distinction between was/were is most certainly not decided by how formal you wish to sound. It is decided by the pronoun (I/he/she/it vs. you [sing]/we/you [plu]/they. So, suddenly, when it comes to what one might otherwise call the subjunctive) this awareness of pronoun-dependent-distinctions (in what you call the "backshifting" of the imperfect indicative-used-to-substitute-for-the-missing-subjunctive) disappears?

Basically, I suppose, I would appeal to an Occam's-razor-like argument. Forms such as "thou art" and "thou hast" have disappeared in favor of (been subsumed by) the forms "you are" and "you have". One does not suggest (to my knowledge) as an explanation any "backshifting"/"timeshifting"/"shapeshifting" to explain this. One simply says "where there used to be multiple/distinguishable forms, a single form became dominant". Note: we do not normally say that for the 2nd person singular there is a "person-shifting" to the 2nd/3rd person plural, we simply say that "the 2nd person singular is the same as the 2nd person plural". By the same token, we do not say that Spanish substitutes "ser" for "ir" in the preterito (or vice-versa) but rather that the forms of the verbs are indistinguishable in that case.

updated ABR 8, 2009
posted by samdie
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"If I was rich..." describes a present situation but uses a past form of the verb. As it is impossible in English to use an indicative form of a verb in the past to express something in the present the conclusion I draw is that this is the subjunctive being used here.

1) "If I were rich ..." does not describe a present situation it describes a condition contrary-to-fact (a situation that does not now exist).

2) Your suggestion that "backshifting" is the operative mechanism is tantamount to saying not that "If I was rich ..." = "If I were rich ..." but, rather, that all the speakers/writers who for centuries have intentionally used "If I were ..." have been wrong in their belief that there was such a thing as a subjunctive form in English and, furthermore, that they have been misusing the plural form with pronouns (I/he/she/it) that in all other situations require (and they manage to consistently use) the singular form (i.e. 'was'). Thus, you conclude that these speakers/writers manage to use am/is/are or was/were (depending on the person of the pronoun) correctly and consistently in the indicative but that, when it comes to expressing hope/fear/desire/hypothetical situations, their sense of singular/plural verb forms suddenly abandons them and they make a substitution (of plural form for singular form) that they would never (and never do) in the indicative.

I find is passing strange that so many grammar books and people (who think/thought themselves to be taking particular care to speak/write well) should have gotten things so completely backwards.

Sorry, I meant to say that "If I was/were rich.." describes a present hypothetical situation (whereas "I wish I hadn't crashed my car" describes a past hypothetical situation).

I am not denying the existence of the subjunctive in English. As I have said all along we use the simple past tense to express a wish in a present situation. All I am saying is that I believe that "was" in place of "were" is still the subjunctive and the choice between the two depends on how formal you want to sound.

updated ABR 8, 2009
posted by Robert-Austin
0
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"If I was rich..." describes a present situation but uses a past form of the verb. As it is impossible in English to use an indicative form of a verb in the past to express something in the present the conclusion I draw is that this is the subjunctive being used here.

1) "If I were rich ..." does not describe a present situation it describes a condition contrary-to-fact (a situation that does not now exist).

2) Your suggestion that "backshifting" is the operative mechanism is tantamount to saying not that "If I was rich ..." = "If I were rich ..." but, rather, that all the speakers/writers who for centuries have intentionally used "If I were ..." have been wrong in their belief that there was such a thing as a subjunctive form in English and, furthermore, that they have been misusing the plural form with pronouns (I/he/she/it) that in all other situations require (and they manage to consistently use) the singular form (i.e. 'was'). Thus, you conclude that these speakers/writers manage to use am/is/are or was/were (depending on the person of the pronoun) correctly and consistently in the indicative but that, when it comes to expressing hope/fear/desire/hypothetical situations, their sense of singular/plural verb forms suddenly abandons them and they make a substitution (of plural form for singular form) that they would never (and never do) in the indicative.

I find is passing strange that so many grammar books and people (who think/thought themselves to be taking particular care to speak/write well) should have gotten things so completely backwards.

updated ABR 8, 2009
posted by samdie
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The only thing we have in English for the past subjunctive is the "backshifting" because after centuries of losing our conjugations that is all that is left.

This is the strangest "explanation" of the subjunctive (in English) that I have ever heard. However, if "backshifting" is what's going on, why have careful writers/speakers from the time of Shakespeare on been using "if he were ..." instead of "if he was ..."? Both forms are equally past-imperfect of "to be". Is there something so disruptive to people's speech habits that when "backshifting", they consistently confuse singular with plural? Or is this mere coincidence?

What I learned when studying English grammar (and these lessons were repeated/reinforced when I studied Latin and Greek) was that "I/he/she/it was" is the imperfect indicative and "I/he/she/it were" is the subjunctive. Admittedly, the "were" of the subjunctive is indistinguishable from the "were" for the plural in the indicative but there are plenty of examples in English of inflected forms being lost until one or only a few remain.

"If this be error and upon me proved ..."

I don't know what is so strange about it. In Spanish there are two distinct forms for the past of "to be" (I realise there are actually more but I want to keep things simple for the sake of the discussion).

Indicative: Subjunctive:
Yo era Yo fuera
tú eras Tú fueras
El/ella era El/ella fuera
Nosotros éramos Nosotros fueramos
Ustedes eran Ustedes fueran
Ellos eran Ellos fueran

As you can see they are totally distinct and this follows for all verbs in Spanish
ej.
Indicative: Yo tuve, tú tuviste, él/ella tuvo etc.
Subjunctive: Yo tuviera, tú tuvieras, él/ella tuviera etc.

Without writing endless charts I´m sure you know that in English the past subjunctive is identical to the simple past tense. In other words we use the simple past forms of the verbs with "wish" to express a PRESENT idea. This use of a past form to express a present idea is called "backshifting" because you backshift a verb tense from, for example, the simple present to the simple past, the present continuous to the past continuous , the simple past to the past perfect (past of the past) etc.

In english (and please correct me if I am wrong) but there is no example where a past tense can express something in the present when using the indicative.

"I went to the shop" indicates an action in the past, as does "I was angry yesterday."

"If I was rich..." describes a present situation but uses a past form of the verb. As it is impossible in English to use an indicative form of a verb in the past to express something in the present the conclusion I draw is that this is the subjunctive being used here.

Others may not agree with the conclusion I have drawn but it works for me.

updated ABR 8, 2009
posted by Robert-Austin
0
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The only thing we have in English for the past subjunctive is the "backshifting" because after centuries of losing our conjugations that is all that is left.
This is the strangest "explanation" of the subjunctive (in English) that I have ever heard. However, if "backshifting" is what's going on, why have careful writers/speakers from the time of Shakespeare on been using "if he were ..." instead of "if he was ..."? Both forms are equally past-imperfect of "to be". Is there something so disruptive to people's speech habits that when "backshifting", they consistently confuse singular with plural? Or is this mere coincidence?

What I learned when studying English grammar (and these lessons were repeated/reinforced when I studied Latin and Greek) was that "I/he/she/it was" is the imperfect indicative and "I/he/she/it were" is the subjunctive. Admittedly, the "were" of the subjunctive is indistinguishable from the "were" for the plural in the indicative but there are plenty of examples in English of inflected forms being lost until one or only a few remain.

"If this be error and upon me proved ..."

updated ABR 8, 2009
posted by samdie
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One last point to be made (maybe).

I understand that there are similarities between Spanish and English grammar and that English (at least grammatically) is derived from Latin but the fact is that English is English and Spanish is Spanish.

For whatever reason there are very few conjugations of any given verb in English (especially compared to Spanish) and in my opinion swapping "was" for "were" is not sufficient to deem it a subjunctive.

As was pointed out, it can't be done in Spanish because Spanish has different verb conjugations for the indicative and subjunctive whereas in English quite simply we don't. We have to use the same verbs in English but in slightly different forms (infinitives, past forms for present events, etc.)

The backshifting of am/are/is to was/were has to express the subjunctive because there is no other verb conjugation to use.

In Spanish we can't say "como si yo eras..." and call it the subjunctive because we swapped the 1st person singular for the 2nd person singular so why does that the suffice in English.

The only thing we have in English for the past subjunctive is the "backshifting" because after centuries of losing our conjugations that is all that is left.

updated ABR 7, 2009
posted by Robert-Austin
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Wow, Robert, you are stubborn! I must admit that I admire your chutzpah, though, in being able to call an authoritative book on grammar "nonsense."

Let's try another tack. Some of English grammar derives from Latin, as does nearly all of Spanish grammar. Using your logic, we should be able to say the following.

Desearía que fui milionario.

However, that is positively, absolutely, incontrovertibly incorrect. Why? Because the grammar rules require the past subjunctive, not just the past tense, so we have to say it as follows.

Desearía que fuera milionario.

The same source of grammar is why we can't correctly say "I wish I was a millionaire." Of course, again I stress that that phrase is very common in speech, as mentioned in the citation given by Natasha, but it isn't acceptable in edited writing.

Y ahora me despido de este hilo, habiendo dicho todo que sea posible decir sobre este asunto (a no ser que digas algo tan asombroso que no puedo evitar contestar, jeje).

updated ABR 7, 2009
posted by 00bacfba
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Uses of the subjunctive

IN CONTRARY-TO-FACT CLAUSES BEGINNING WITH IF

==> If I were a member of Congress, I would vote for that bill.
==> We could be less cautious if Jake were more trustworthy.

[In the original, "was" is crossed out as wrong and replaced with "were," above.]

IN CONTRARY-TO-FACT CLAUSES EXPRESSING A WISH

In formal English, the subjunctive is used in clauses expressing a wish or desire; in informal speech, however, the indicative is more common.

FORMAL I wish that Dr. Kurtinitis were my professor.
INFORMAL I wish that Dr. Kurtinitis was my professor.

IN CERTAIN SET EXPRESSIONS. Be that as it may, etc.

My personal opinion is that people shouldn't blindly accept what they are told and should critically analise what they have heard in order to see if it makes sense. Claiming as above that in "informal" English we use the indicative to express a wish is nonsense.

In English we use a system called BACKSHIFTING to express wishes. Backshifting involves using a past tense to describe a present event or a past perfect tense to describe a past event.

I don't have a ferrari becomes I wish I had a ferrari

I crashed my ferrari becomes I wish i hadn't crashed my ferrari

If the indicative was/were being used to express a wish in the present then:

I am not rich becomes I wish I am rich(which is obviously incorrect)

The moment you backshift a tense to express a wish it becomes the subjunctive. This is correct in English because we don't have separate conjugations to express the indicative and subjunctive like in Spanish.

updated ABR 7, 2009
posted by Robert-Austin
0
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I do encourage you to consult a reliable grammar reference, though, as it will greatly help you not only in using English correctly, but in using the Spanish subjunctive correctly.

For one example: from the Bedford English Handbook (6th ed.) by Diana Hacker, p. 341 ff., here are some excerpts:

28b Use the subjunctive mood in the few contexts that require it.

There are three moods in English . . . [the indicative, the imperative,] and the subjunctive, used in certain contexts to express wishes, requests, or conditions contrary to fact.

Uses of the subjunctive

IN CONTRARY-TO-FACT CLAUSES BEGINNING WITH IF

==> If I were a member of Congress, I would vote for that bill.
==> We could be less cautious if Jake were more trustworthy.

[In the original, "was" is crossed out as wrong and replaced with "were," above.]

IN CONTRARY-TO-FACT CLAUSES EXPRESSING A WISH

In formal English, the subjunctive is used in clauses expressing a wish or desire; in informal speech, however, the indicative is more common.

FORMAL I wish that Dr. Kurtinitis were my professor.
INFORMAL I wish that Dr. Kurtinitis was my professor.

IN *THAT *CLAUSES FOLLOWING VERBS SUCH AS ASK, INSIST, REQUEST, AND SUGGEST

Because requests have not yet become reality, they are expressed in the subjunctive mood.

==> Professor Moore insists that her students be on time.
==> We recommend that Lambert file form 1050 soon.

IN CERTAIN SET EXPRESSIONS. Be that as it may, etc.

updated ABR 7, 2009
posted by Natasha
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1) I wish I were rich

2) I wish I was rich

3) I wish I am rich

4) I am rich

1 and 2 are past forms of "to be", both of which express the subjunctive. To state that 2 is not expressing the subjunctive is completely incorrect. The only other option would be that 2 is expressing the indicative but the indicative here is the PRESENT TENSE of "to be", NOT the PAST. Like I said before the use of "were" in the 1st and 3rd person singular merely emphasises the subjunctive.

Sigh.

Robert, you could not be more wrong here, but at this point, I don't really care anymore. I could take the time to google up an authoritative site contradicting what you say, but it's just not worth it. I do encourage you to consult a reliable grammar reference, though, as it will greatly help you not only in using English correctly, but in using the Spanish subjunctive correctly.

I'll just add that the verb "to be" is the only verb left in English that has a past subjunctive conjugation that is different in the first and third persons (you and he/she/it). All other verbs just use a form that is identical to the simple past tense. The present subjunctive conjugation is identical to the infinitive for all verbs, including "to be."

Present subjunctive:
It is important that I/you/we/they/she be on time.

Past subjunctive:
I wish I/you/we/they/she were on time.

Using "was" in the second example above is WRONG.

updated ABR 7, 2009
posted by 00bacfba