Complete Guide To Present Subjunctive Spanish (Beginner Friendly)
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The present subjunctive Spanish is likely to be your first exploration into the subjunctive form, and in this post, we’re going to cover everything that you need to know in order to master using this mood.
(In a separate post, we wrote a simple overview of all six subjunctive forms that you need to know)
What is the present subjunctive in Spanish?
Before we go any further, let’s make sure that you fully understand what the subjunctive mood is.
The subjunctive is one of the three moods that we use in Spanish (along with Indicative and Imperative) and is used when the speaker wants to express a lack of certainty in a statement.
The present subjunctive mood is normally used when speaking about a thought, belief, expectation or assumption – and despite the name, this form can be used to speak about a future action (as well as a present action).
- I hope you are fine – Espero que estés bien (present)
- We will congrat the runner who arrives first – Felicitaremos al corredor que llegue primero (future)
Both of the above examples are in the present subjunctive.
In the rest of this post, you’ll learn how to master the Spanish subjunctive, often recognized as the most difficult part of Spanish grammar.
But first, we need to take a slight detour.
We’re going to explore how independent and subordinate clauses work.
Let’s start with some definitions.
1) A clause is a group of words with a subject and verb. The subject tells us whom or what the sentence is about, and the verbs tell us what the subject is or does.
2) An independent clause is a group of words with a subject and verb that can stand on its own, and doesn’t need any other extra information to make sense.
For example: Sofia saw a dog.
3) A subordinate clause (or dependent clause) is a group of words with a subject and a verb that cannot stand on its own.
For example: She wants to adopt.
The independent clause makes sense on its own, while the subordinate clause needs more information to make sense.
These two clauses are often (not always) linked together by relative pronouns such as “that”, “which” or “who”.
For example: Sofia saw a dog that she wants to adopt
Why is this important?
Once you understand the use of independent and subordinate clauses, then it will be easy to identify when the subjunctive is being used.
A common structure that triggers the subjunctive is:
- Independent clause (indicative mood) + relative pronoun + subordinate clause (subjunctive mood) + context
- I hope that you arrive on time – Espero que llegues a tiempo
In the above example, the sentence is expressing a hope for the action to happen.
- espero (independent clause in indicative mood)
- que (relative pronoun)
- llegues (subordinate clause in subjunctive mood)
As we mentioned before, subordinate clauses are often preceded by relative pronouns (like the example above) and these relative pronouns are the words that link an additional piece of information to an independent clause.
So why did we bring you on this detour?
Because, relative pronouns often act as triggers, and can help you identify where and when to use present subjunctive Spanish.
Although they look very similar to the Spanish interrogative pronouns (¿Qué?, ¿Cuándo?, ¿Dónde?, ¿Quién?), there is also a subtle difference in appearance, and the meaning and function are different.
Appearance wise, you can identify them by remembering that the interrogative pronouns always have the accent mark (relative pronouns don’t).
For example: “¿qué?” is interrogative, while “que” is a relative pronoun.
Below are examples of the present subjunctive being triggered by relative pronouns.
- Que (That): I hope you have time – Espero que tengas tiempo
- Cuando (When): I will come when I have time – Vendré cuando tenga tiempo
- Quien (Who): It will be done by whoever has time enough – Lo hará quien tenga tiempo suficiente
- Cuanto (How much/many): I don’t know how much time I have – No sé cuanto tiempo tenga
As mentioned before, these relative pronouns, when used in certain expressions or with certain verbs, can trigger the subjunctive mood in subordinate clauses.
When To Use Present Subjunctive Spanish
Below are examples of the most common scenarios and verbs that can trigger the present subjunctive Spanish
- To express wishes:
- I wish that you come to my party – Deseo que vengan a mi fiesta
- We wish that you come to our wedding – Deseamos que vengas a nuestra boda
- I wish you have a good day – Deseo que tengas un buen día
- I hope that you enjoy the cake – Espero que te disfrutes la torta
- We demand that we get paid now – Exigimos que nos paguen ya
- I prefer that you travel alone – Prefiero que viajes solo
- Do you need me to help you? – Necesitas que te ayude?
- I request you to be more kind – Pido que sean más amables
- Hopefully it won’t rain today – Ojalá no llueva hoy
- I want you to study Spanish – Quiero que estudies español
2. To express doubts:
- I doubt that you come to my party – Dudo que vengan a mi fiesta
- I’m not sure that it is the best idea – No estoy seguro de que sea la mejor idea
- It doesn’t seem like you’re very happy – No parece que estés muy contento
Or words that express uncertainty:
- I may like that movie – Tal vez me guste esa película
- We may live in Barcelona for a while – Quizás vivamos un tiempo en Barcelona
3. To express emotions and feelings:
- I love that you have so many friends – Me encanta que tengas tantos amigos
- It surprises me that you are home early – Me sorprende que estés temprano en casa
- I’m sorry you have to work – Lamento que tengas que trabajar
- It makes me happy that you sing in Spanish – Me alegra que cantes en Español
Overtime, you’ll notice that certain situations almost always trigger the subjunctive:
- It makes me happy that you’re here – Me hace feliz que estés aquí
- It makes me sad that you don’t have time for me – Me entristece que no tengas tiempo para mí
4. To express hope:
- I hope it won’t rain – Ojalá no llueva
- I hope you’re happy – Espero que estés feliz
5. To express purpose:
- He works for his children to study – Él trabaja para que sus hijos estudien
- The money is for you to buy lunch – El dinero es para que compren el almuerzo
6. Negative form of the imperative:
- Do not smoke – No fume
- Do not come too late – No vengas muy tarde
Once you know how to conjugate the simple present tense, the following conjugation is relatively straightforward.
In fact, we’re going to compare the simple present tense in the indicative mood vs. the subjunctive mood side by side, so that you can see similar they are.
For AR verbs, the vowel in last syllable of the regular indicative conjugation will change from “a” to an “e”, or “o” to “e” for the personal pronoun “yo”.
Comprar (to buy)
Comprar (to buy)
|Él / Ella
|Ellos / Ellos
We must follow a similar formula when dealing with the regular ER verbs and IR verbs.
The vowel “e” will change to an “a” in the last syllable of the regular indicative conjugation and “o” into “a” for personal pronoun “yo”.
Comer (to eat)
Comer (to eat)
|Él / Ella
|Ellos / Ellos
Here are a couple more examples of regular verbs conjugated in the present subjunctive mood.
(Remember, the present subjunctive doesn’t exist in English, which is why some translations look strange.)
|Hablar (To speak)
|Ella espera que hable en la conferencia.
She expects that I speak in the conference.
|Comer (To eat)
|Mamá quiere que comas toda la cena.
Mom wants that you eat all the dinner.
|Él / ella
|Vivir (To live)
|Dudo que ella viva mucho tiempo en esta ciudad.
I doubt that she lives for a long time in this city.
|Creer (To believe)
|No es posible que creamos en sus palabras.
It’s not possible that we believe his words.
|Beber (To drink)
|Espero que no beban mucho esta noche.
I hope that they don’t drink too much tonight.
|Ellos / Ellas
|Comprar (To buy)
|Queremos que compren mucha comida.
We want that you buy a lot of food.
Present Subjunctive Spanish Irregulars
Of course, there are irregular verbs that need to be conjugated differently.
Below are some of the most common irregular verbs and their conjugations in the present subjunctive mood.
|Él / ella
|Ellos / Ellas
Voicing Your Opinion: Subjunctive vs. Imperative
Before we finish, it’s important to mention that when we want to give our opinion about what we think, we can use the indicative or subjunctive, depending on whether the sentence is affirmative or negative.
- I think that she is good person – Pienso que ella es una buena persona (indicative).
- I don’t think that she is good person – No pienso que ella sea una buena persona (subjunctive).
A good hack to remember is that phrases such as “Me parece que…”, “Creo que…”, “Pienso que…”, will be linked to a subordinate clause that will be in indicative when affirmative, and in subjunctive when negative.
Present Subjunctive Spanish Practice
Conjugate the relevant verb in the present subjunctive.
(scroll down for the answers)
- Tener: Estoy buscando un apartamento que _____ una terraza. (I’m looking for an apartment that has a terrace.)
- Saber: Ella quiere una secretaria que _____ hablar español. (She wants a secretary who knows how to speak Spanish)
- Llegar: Necesito que _____ a tiempo a la reunión. (I need you to get to the meeting on time)
- Tomar: Queremos que los niños _____ clases de guitarra. (We want children to take guitar lessons)
- Disfrutar: Esperamos que _____ su estadía en el hotel. (We hope you enjoy your stay at the hotel)
- Poder: Ojalá mañana _____ ir a la playa. (Hopefully tomorrow we can go to the beach)
- Ir: Voy a solicitar una beca cuando _____ a la universidad. (I’m going to apply for a scholarship when I go to college)
- Comprar: Por favor, ______ vegetales. (Please, buy vegetables.)
- Creer: Es increíble que todavía _____ sus mentiras. (It’s amazing that you still believe his lies)
- Tener: Cuando _____ tiempo, ayúdame a limpiar el garaje. (When you have time, help me to clean the garage)
- Estoy buscando un apartamento que tenga una terraza.
- Ella quiere una secretaria que sepa hablar español.
- Necesito que llegues a tiempo a la reunión.
- Queremos que los niños tomen clases de guitarra.
- Esperamos que disfruten su estadía en el hotel.
- Ojalá mañana podamos ir a la playa.
- Voy a solicitar una beca cuando vaya a la universidad.
- Por favor, compren vegetales.
- Es increíble que todavía creas sus mentiras.
- Cuando tengas tiempo, ayúdame a limpiar el garaje.