Presente de Subjuntivo

Grammar: Spanish verbs

Presente de Subjuntivo (present subjunctive)

Subjuntivo often causes bewilderment in English-speaking students. Why is there another verb form when there are already enough tenses in Spanish? This is because Spanish speakers make a clear distinction between a “fact” and a “hypothesis” (desires, opinions, assumptions). Subjuntivo serves to express “non-facts.” At first, it might be difficult to tell what a “non-fact” is. A list of indicator situations and the magic word “que” will help you with this.

First, let’s look at how the present tense of Subjuntivo is formed. Remembering the new endings will be pretty easy if you use the “reverse” trick: Verbs ending in “-ar” get the ending “e”, and verbs ending in “-er/-ir” receive the ending “a”.

pronoun -ar: hablar (to speak) -er: aprender (to learn) -ir: vivir (to live)
yo hablе aprenda viva
hables aprendas vivas
él, ella, usted hable aprenda viva
nosotros hablemos aprendamos vivamos
vosotros habléis aprendáis viváis
ellos, ustedes hablen aprendan vivan

Some verbs have a completely irregular Subjuntivo form. Try to memorize them:

Pronoun saber (to know) ser (to be) ir (to go) ver (to see) haber (shall/ to have to / to be) estar (to be)
yo sepa sea vaya vea haya esté
sepas seas vayas veas hayas estés
él, ella, usted sepa sea vaya vea haya esté
nosotros sepamos seamos vayamos veamos hayamos estemos
vosotros sepáis seáis vayáis veáis hayáis estéis
ellos, ustedes sepan sean vayan vean hayan estén

When to use Presente de Subjuntivo?

Using Spanish tenses correctly is not an easy task for an English-speaking student. If you want to use Subjuntivo correctly, learn the situations in which it is used. In most situations, you will see the word “que”. Let it be your guide. When you’re about to say something with the word “que”, think for a second: do you need to use Subjuntivo here? In most cases, the answer is “yes”:

Situations with the word “que”:

  1. Assumptions (puede ser que, es posible que):
  2. Puede ser que Laura se vaya de la empresa. = Laura might leave the company.

    Es posible que el perro esté enfermo. = The dog might be sick.

  3. Desires or hopes (quiero que, deseo que, me apetece que, espero que):
  4. Quiero que Pablo venga a mi fiesta. = I want Pablo to come to my party.

    Espero que mañana haga buen tiempo. = I hope the weather will be good tomorrow.

  5. Wishes (derived from “deseo que…. = wish that”, but “deseo” is omitted):
  6. ¡Que te mejores! = Get well!

    ¡Que lo paséis bien! = Have a great time!

  7. Imperative forms in indirect speech (with the verbs decir, aconsejar, sugerir etc.):
  8. La abuela dice que vengas ahora mismo. = Grandma asks you to come right now.

    El médico aconseja que tomes las pastillas todos los días. = The doctor advises you to to take the pill every day.

  9. Expression of hypothetical ideas (“I wish it were…”):
  10. Quiero un abrigo que tenga muchos bolsillos. = I want a coat with lots of pockets.

    Busco a gente que sea amable y trabajadora. = I am looking for people who are friendly and hard-working.

  11. In subordinate clauses with the conjunction “para que”:
  12. Estudio español para que mis amigos en España me entiendan. = I study Spanish so that my friends in Spain understand me.

    Hay que echar más especias para que el plato esté más rico. = You have to add more spices for the dish to taste better.

  13. Opinion or assessment:
  14. A los niños les gusta que haya algo rico de postre. = Children like it when there is something tasty for dessert.

    Me parece genial que tengas un nuevo trabajo. = I think it’s great that you have a new job.

  15. Doubt: in negative sentences meaning “I don’t think that” (no creo / no pienso / no me parece / no diría)and with the verb “dudar”:
  16. Dudo mucho que puedas participar en este concurso. = I doubt very much that you can participate in this contest.

    No creo que Marcos quiera dejar a su novia. = I don’t think Marcos wants to leave his girlfriend.

    Careful! In phrases “no creo / no me parece aso.” the negation word “no” must come before the main verb. If you change the location to “no”, then you can no longer use Subjuntivo. Compare:

    Creo que no tienes razón. = I think you are not right.

    No creo que tengas razón. =I don’t think you are right. (Subjuntivo)

Situations without the word “que”:

  1. Assumptions (tal vez, quizá, posiblemente aso.):
  2. Quizá María esté ocupada ahora. = Maria might be busy right now.

    Tal vez nieve hoy. = Maybe it’ll snow today.

  3. Talking about the future – conditional clause I* (with the word “cuando”):
  4. Cuando tengas dinero hablaremos. = When you have money we will talk.

    Lo vas a entender cuando crezcas. =You will understand when you grow up.

    *Please note that Subjuntivo is used in future sentences. If we are talking about regular actions or universal truths, the regular present tense is used:

    Cuando duermo mi vecino siempre toca la guitarra. = When I sleep, my neighbour always plays the guitar.

    Cuando los perros ladran quieren avisarnos de un peligro. = When dogs bark, they try to warn us of a danger.

  5. Negative imperatives (prohibitions):
  6. ¡No hables de esto a nadie! = Don’t tell anyone about this!

    No bebas tantos refrescos. Bebe agua. = Don’t drink so much soda. Drink water.

    Note that the affirmative imperative does not require Subjuntivo (No bebas refrescos –> Bebe agua).

  7. In combination with the word “ojalá” (I wish, if only, may):
  8. ¡Ojalá te recuperes pronto! = I hope you get better soon!

    ¡Ojalá tengas suficiente dinero! = I hope you have enough money!

    Fun Fact: The word “Ojalá” is of Arabic origin and became part of the Spanish language during the Al-Andalus (Muslim rule in Spain in the Middle Ages). Literally, it means “may Allah wish it.” Nowadays, this word has completely lost its religious meaning, and few Spaniards know about its origin.

Set expressions:

  • Entra en la tienda y compra lo que sea. = Go into the store and buy whatever (lo que sea = whatever)
  • Pase lo que pase, no mires atrás. = Whatever happens, don’t look back. (pase lo que pase = whatever happens
  • )
  • Tenemos que ganar este partido como sea. = We have to win this match anyhow (como sea = somehow, by all means)

Subjuntivo or infinitive?

If the subject in the main clause and the subordinate clause is the same, then the infinitive is used, not the Subjuntivo form.

  • No me gusta que tengas que hacer este trabajo. = I don’t like that fact that you have to do this job.
  • No me gusta tener que hacer este trabajo. = I don’t like having to do this job.

Many verbs have irregular forms of the Subjuntivo in the present tense. However, if you are already familiar with other tenses of the Spanish verb, then the following irregular forms will not cause you any surprise:

Pronoun tener (to have) venir (to come) conocer (to know) decir (to say) hacer (to do) oir (to hear) poner (to put) salir (to leave) traer (to bring)
yo tenga venga conozca diga haga oiga ponga salga traiga
tengas vengas conozcas digas hagas oigas pongas salgas traigas
él, ella, usted tenga venga conozca diga haga oiga ponga salga traiga
nosotros tengamos vengamos conozcamos digamos hagamos oigamos pongamos salgamos traigamos
vosotros tengáis vengáis conozcáis digáis hagáis oigáis pongáis salgáis traigáis
ellos, ustedes tengan vengan conozcan digan hagan oigan pongan salgan traigan

When in doubt, it’s always worth checking a new verb in the dictionary. In the process of conjugation, both vowels and consonants can change:

pronoun entender (to understand) contar (to count) sentir (to feel) mentir (to lie) dormir (to sleep) vencer (to defeat) dirigir (to lead, to guide, to address) seguir (to follow)
yo entienda cuente sienta mienta duerma venza dirija siga
entiendas cuentes sientas mientas duermas venzas dirijas sigas
él, ella, usted entienda cuente sienta mienta duerma venza dirija siga
nosotros entendamos contemos sintamos mintamos durmamos venzamos dirijamos sigamos
vosotros entendáis contéis sintáis mintáis durmáis venzáis dirijáis sigáis
ellos, ustedes entiendan cuenten sientan mientan duerman venzan dirijan sigan
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