Explanation

Quick Answer

The subjunctive is one of the three moods in Spanish, the other two being the indicative (actions, events, facts) and the imperative (commands). You can find more on the differences between the subjunctive and the indicative here!

WEIRDO

Many of the verbs and phrases that require the subjunctive fit into the acronym WEIRDO: Wishes, Emotions, Impersonal expressions, Recommendations, Doubt/Denial and Ojalá. Although this topic doesn't fit into our fancy acronym, it's still important to learn. Let's get started!

Conditional Outcomes

This type of sentence describes what will happen if another action is completed. These actions are conditional upon another action being completed, so the subjunctive is used to convey a sense of uncertainty. Many phrases with conditional circumstances have a connecting phrase or conjunctive expressions which introduce time limitations, conditions, concessions, or results.

As you can see below, the key action (the one that must be completed for the second action to occur) is in the subjunctive.

examples
Limpiaré el cuarto después de que salgan.
I will clean the room after they leave.
Me hablará tan pronto como llegue.
He will speak with me as soon as I arrive.
No iremos a la playa a menos que vayan también.
We won’t go to the beach unless they go as well.

Time Expressions

These conjunctions or conjunctive expressions are often used in the type of sentence discussed in this article.

Time Limitations

These expressions introduce the idea of a time limitation.

SpanishEnglish
antes (de) que
before
hasta que
until
cuando
when
luego que
as soon as
después (de) que
after
siempre que
whenever
en cuanto
as soon as
tan pronto como
as soon as
mientras
while
examples
Llámame antes de que vengan.
Call me before they come.
Estemos aquí hasta que llegue nuestro amigo.
Let’s stay here until our friend arrives.
Cuando vea a sus padres los saludaré.
When I see your parents, I will tell them hello.

Conditions

These expressions introduce the idea of a condition, an action dependent on something else occurring.

SpanishEnglish
dado que
given that, since
a no ser que
unless, lest
en caso (de) que
in case (that), if
a menos que
unless, lest
sea que
whether, if
con/a condición de que
on condition that
siempre y cuando que
provided that, as long as
con tal (de) que
provided that
sin que
without
con tanto que
provided that
examples
No voy, a no ser que vayas conmigo.
I am not going unless you go with me.
Debemos esperarnos aquí en caso de que regrese.
We should wait here in case she comes back.
Me iré, sea que se decidan a salir o no.
I'll leave whether they decide to go out or not.

Concessions

These expressions introduce the idea of a concession, an action occurring despite something else.

SpanishEnglish
aunque
although, even if, though
aun cuando
even if, even when
a pesar de que
in spite of
por...que
however
examples
Aunque sea un hombre difícil, sabe los negocios.
Although he might be a difficult man, he knows business.
Aun cuando no tenga nada, no debe perder la esperanza.
Even if you have nothing, you shouldn’t lose hope.
Por delicioso que sea, no quiero comerlo.
However delicious it may be, I don’t want to eat it.

Aunque and a pesar de que do not always take the subjunctive. If the conditional statement is considered hypothetical, you will use the subjunctive and if it is factual, you will use the indicative.

examples

Aunque es un hombre difícil, sabe de negocios.
Although he is a difficult man, he knows about business.

Results

These expressions introduce the idea of a result.

SpanishEnglish
a fin de que
in order (that), so that, so as
de manera que
in order (that), so that, so as
de modo que
in order (that), so that, so as
para que
in order (that), so that, so as
que
in order (that), so that, so as
examples
Vine para que tenga suficiente gente para el juego.
I came so that you would have enough people for the game.
Voy a cerrar las ventanas a fin de que no entren moscas.
I am going to close the windows so that flies won’t come in.
Estudiaré mucho de manera que entienda mejor el español.
I will study a lot so I can understand Spanish better.
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