HomeQ&AThe Dreaded Subjunctive

The Dreaded Subjunctive

2
votes

I have had some difficulty with this tense.. or should I say mood. In the reference section every sentence utilizes the pronoun "that" (que, quien, como) to seperate the clauses. Other than "Ojalá" is there any other situation where you don't need to use the pronoun that.Can you give some examples. En contra de lo que vulgarmente se cree, el subjuntivo es muy dificil (por o para) mi.

Unrelated: I was listening to a Chavela Vargas song called "La Llorona" from Frida and in one of the verses she says "tu eres mi chunca" what is a "chunca" I'm guessing its slang for something.

8339 views
updated ABR 11, 2012
posted by ravensty

13 Answers

4
votes

I've never said it is easy; it is one of the most frustrating things for Spanish learners. What I say is that the mainstream method for teaching subjunctive is: memorize several thousand constructions, verbs and words that magically and mysteriously "trigger" or not the subjunctive, as if they were prime numbers or something totally unpredictable.

Nearly all subjunctive uses can be explained using a simple rule. The only rule needed, however, has to be practised and mastered before reaching fluency. It is a bit like chess, where learning the rules takes minutes, but learning how to move the pieces adequately takes a lot of practice and study. In any case, you don't teach chess by asking the student to memorize 10,000 positions on the board, telling them what pieces you should where for each position, and them to memorize them all without explain them why you move that way. Once you know several over 10,000 positions, you'll be able to "play" games, unless you come across a position you've never memorized before. When that happens, you'll have to check a book to see what new position you have to blindly memorize without understanding it. This method, demanding a lot of pointless memorization, and never providing any reason or cohesion is what I call the yellow pages approach: memorize the whole book, and then you'll know what to dial every time you should need a telephone number. I rather learn how to find numbers using a simple rule.

Learn how to use the rule, practice it, and you'll find yourself eventually having a real feeling for the subjunctive, confidently tackling verbs you haven't used before. Otherwise, try to memorize the subjunctive yellow pages, and good luck.

The rule is simple, but learning how to use it requires practice, like everything.

updated FEB 8, 2015
posted by lazarus1907
3
votes

A good example of the subjunctive for me is the difference between these two sentences:

1)Although it is raining, I am going to play in the park

2)Even if it rains, I am going to play in the park

Translations:

1) Aunque llueve, voy a jugar en el parque

2) Aunque llueva, voy a jugar en el parque

In the first sentence the indicative is used because we are declaring that it IS raining. In the second sentence the subjunctive is used because we are NOT declaring that it is raining or that it will rain(only the possibility).

updated FEB 8, 2015
posted by Robert-Austin
3
votes

Thanks Q and Lazarus what I was trying to ask really had nothing to do with que,quein, etc. but moreso the words like 'Ojalá" that don't need que, quien, etc. to initiate the subjunctive mood. You said quizá are there any others that I would commonly come across because this would make the subjunctive less dificult if I new what words activate it in correlation to my knowledge that "that" does.

Also what makes the subjunctive difficult is all the tenses plus the si clauses (which there is no reference of in the subjunctive reference) one has to remember plus the verbs those that are perfectly normal and those that get a little irregular (i do not mean irregular in the subjunctive since there are only a few commonly used verbs that are irregular in the subjunctive). In a nutshell its the memorization of this mood not really the mood itself. Whereas the indicative is straightforward the subjunctive (mood) well isn't and that is also what makes it difficult at least for a Spanish novice. I think people get upset because they confuse you saying its difficult with you saying its impossible. Memorizing and above all understanding something completely foreign to you is difficult in itself. This is why it frustrates me when people say the subjunctive is easy its like teaching someone how to ride a bike, you say to them its simple because you already know how to do it because its simple to you.

updated FEB 8, 2015
posted by ravensty
3
votes

Unrelated: I was listening to a Chavela Vargas song called "La Llorona" from Frida and in one of the verses she says "tu eres mi chunca" what is a "chunca" I'm guessing its slang for something.

http://www.lyricstime.com/chavela-vargas-la-llorona-lyrics.html

http://lyricwiki.org/Chavela_Vargas:La_Llorona

I don't see it. (it's in the 2nd link)

answer in this link:
http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php't=645556

updated ABR 15, 2012
posted by 0074b507
3
votes

En contra de lo que vulgarmente se cree, el subjuntivo es muy difícil ([del]por [/del]o para) mí.

Who did you hear say that it was easy, besides Lazarus?

I suppose that it is considered a distinct mood, but the imperative commands (positive, formal and negative, informal) pop into mind.

updated ABR 15, 2012
posted by 0074b507
3
votes

I have had some difficulty with this tense.. or should I say mood. In the reference section every sentence utilizes the pronoun "that" (que, quien, como) to seperate the clauses. Other than "Ojalá" is there any other situation where you don't need to use the pronoun that.Can you give some examples. En contra de lo que vulgarmente se cree, el subjuntivo es muy dificil ([del]por[/del] o para) mi.

First of all, subjective is a mood with 6 different tenses (present, present perfect, imperfect,...).

"Ojalá", a few other words like "quizá" (this can be used in both moods) do not introduce clauses. Clauses must be introduced by "que", "quien",... in 99.9% of the cases. But what does this "que" has to do with subjunctive anyway? You say your have problems about the subjunctive, but your question is about using "que".

updated ABR 15, 2012
posted by lazarus1907
3
votes

Oddly enough, in neither of those two (fairly lengthy responses) did our friend and mentor, Lazarus, actually say what the "simple" rule was. However, based on my recollection (such as it is) of his many replies to similar questions, I will attempt to fill in for this small lacuna. "The indicative is used for things that you wish to state/declare/affirm the subjunctive is used otherwise." This makes for a very short, "simple" rule but begs the question "What's meant by state/declare/affirm"? Mostly these are simple statements of fact as opposed to expressions of wish/hope/possibility/supposition (and the negation of these). Consider the classic example (of a surviving use of the subjunctive) in English "If I were you, I would ..." I am not (never have been and never will be) you so we are certainly not talking about a "fact" (nor am I stating/declaring that I am you) but about a hypothetical/imagined situation. Traditionally this was called a "condition-contrary-to-fact" and was one of the best known "triggers" for the subjunctive (in Greek, Latin and English). Another (in Spanish) is the use of "ojalá" (not because it's some sort of "magic" word but because it is used to express a wish/desire [and one does not "wish for" what is already a fact] if it were the case you wouldn't need to wish for it).Unfortunately, (for English speakers who are trying to learn a Romance language), this is one of many cases in which you can't simply say "See, it takes the subjunctive just like in English." because large numbers of English speakers neither understand nor use the subjunctive (they would say "If I was you ...").

Another classic (contrastive example): "Busco a alguien que habla/hable englés." If you use the indicative ("habla") you mean "I'm looking for someone who speaks English." [and, by implication, you mean that you believe that there is, indeed, such a person]) but when you use "hable" you mean "I am looking for someone who might speak English." [so you do not know/assert/declare that there is such a person but, rather, that, if there is such a person ..."]).

updated ABR 15, 2012
posted by samdie
3
votes

There is no one that wants(quiere) to take out the trash to There is no one who might want to take out the trash, the uncertainty might creates makes it subjunctive. The first would certainly be in the indicative. The second is more problematic. Since you are, essentially, asserting that there is no such person. The element of doubt is not quite the same as when you ask if there is/might be such a person. My inclination would be to say the second is also indicative but Lazarus is the one to ask.

updated ABR 15, 2012
posted by samdie
3
votes

The last example answered my question.

updated ABR 15, 2012
posted by 0074b507
3
votes

Allow me to back-pedal a bit. There is a well known refrán which I learned as ¨No hay quien pueda decir ´De esta agua no beberé´¨ (note 'pueda' is subjunctive') I've tried searching for it with Google but the closest that I could find was "Nadie diga ´De esta agua no beberé´". (slightly different but still subjunctive). In any event, though both are making (negative) assertions, both take the subjunctive.

updated ABR 15, 2012
posted by samdie
2
votes

No hay nadie que quiere sacar la basura

I think that here you have to use the subjunctive (quiera). That fact that there is "no-one" means that the action of "wanting" can't be taking place and therefore can't be "declared" (so to speak).

updated ABR 11, 2012
posted by Robert-Austin
2
votes

Subjunctive... ¡Ayyyyy! smile A great reference which really helped me out is Barron's Complete Spanish Grammar Review. Very useful. You can get it used on Amazon for very cheap.

http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Spanish-Grammar-Barrons-Language/dp/0764133756/ref=sr_1_1'ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1243875716&sr=8-1

updated ABR 11, 2012
posted by Alicia2919
1
vote

Thank you Samdie that second paragraph provides an intriguing example that I hadn't noticed. So saying No hay nadie que quiere sacar la basura would make the statement a fact whereas replacing quiere with quiera would alone turn the statement into a desire and thereby subjunctive, right. It would change it from being translated as: There is no one that wants(quiere) to take out the trash to There is no one who might want to take out the trash, the uncertainty might creates makes it subjunctive. Would translating it as might want be correct or is that a very rough translation. Feel free to let me know what you all think.

updated ABR 11, 2012
posted by ravensty
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