Ojalá in Spanish: Expressing wishes and desires

¡Ojalá! I hope we win the lottery!

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Ojalá in Spanish is a very common word that native speakers use all the time to express wishes and desires. We’re sure you’ve already heard some Spanish speakers saying this interjection in some emotional situations.

  • ¡Ojalá aprobemos el examen! – Let’s hope we pass the exam!
  • Ojalá Martina se enamore de Pedro. – I hope Martina falls in love with Pedro.

Ojalá in Spanish: Origin and Meaning

The Spanish language has borrowed and acquired words from different origins throughout the years. That’s why we have Spanish words derived from Latin, Greek, and Arabic, among others. Ojalá comes from Arabic, though its meaning has evolved over time.

Ojalá origin

Ojalá in Spanish is derived from the Arabic insha’Allah (إن شاء الله) or lawsha’Allah (لو شاء الله), whose best translation in English is God willing. Although the origin of ojalá is religious, nowadays it has no religious intention at all. It’s used to express a wish, a desire, or a hope, but in Spanish, ojalá has lost all correlation with Allah or God.

  • Ojalá nos veamos en la escuela mañana. – I hope we see each other at school tomorrow.

Ojalá meaning

Ojalá in English can take a few forms: if only, I wish, I hope, hopefully, let’s hope… The important unifying concept, no matter which ojalá meaning we choose in English, is that it’s used to express some wish or desire for something to happen.

Ojalá is usually used at the beginning of a sentence to introduce the action we’re wishing for. Let’s see some examples:

  • Ojalá ganáramos la lotería. – I wish we won the lottery.
  • Ojalá salgamos a tiempo para el espectáculo. – Let’s hope we leave in time for the show.
  • Ojalá no tengas que estudiar mucho este fin de semana. – I hope you don’t have to study much this weekend.
  • Ojalá pudiéramos pagar todas nuestras deudas. – If only we could pay all our debts.

¡Ojalá! as a wishful response

Another common usage of ojalá in Spanish is as a one-word answer. When we respond to a question or a statement with ojalá we’re expressing that we’d like the answer to be yes, while also admitting that it’s unlikely. This use of ojalá in Spanish is essentially to admit wishful thinking.

If a friend proposed that you go on a trip together but you can’t afford it, for example, you can respond with ojalá: if only!

  • ¿Vamos de vacaciones a Brasil el mes próximo? / ¡Ojalá! – Shall we go on vacation to Brazil next month? / I wish!

Or if you both optimistically wish for an outcome, while both knowing it’s improbable:

  • Tal vez mañana finalmente estará soleado. / ¡Ojalá! – Maybe tomorrow it will finally be sunny. / I hope so!

Ojalá in Spanish: Usage

Now that we’re clear on the meaning of ojalá in Spanish, let’s look at some of the grammar and pronunciation rules when we use it.

Ojalá and the subjunctive mood

As you may have noticed, being an expression of a wish or desire, ojalá in Spanish is always used with the subjunctive mood. But please, don’t let this put you off from using it!

Knowing when to use the subjunctive in Spanish is probably the most difficult part about it, and with ojalá it’s easy because you always know you’ll need the subjunctive. For further explanations and some straightforward lessons on subjunctive conjugations, check out our dedicated post: Spanish subjunctive simplified for beginners.

Meanwhile, let’s see more examples where we highlight the verbs in the subjunctive:

  • Ojalá mi papá venga pronto. – I hope my dad comes soon.
  • Ojalá que mi caballo gane la carrera. – I hope my horse wins the race.
  • Ojalá nuestras vacaciones hubieran sido un poco más largas. – I wish our vacations could have been a bit longer.

Ojalá [que]

You may have noticed that many of our example sentences start with ojalá que, while many just start with ojalá. The use of que after ojalá is entirely optional. Whether we use it or not doesn’t make any difference!

  • Ojalá [que] tengas suerte en el examen. – I wish you luck in the exam.
  • Ojalá [que] podamos ir al cine mañana. – Let’s hope we can go to the cinema tomorrow.

¡Ojalá! punctuation

As we’ve seen already in many of our examples, sometimes sentences based on ojalá have exclamation marks, and sometimes they don’t. While adding the Spanish exclamation marks is indeed common, it’s not obligatory. It all depends on the intention of the speaker, and the emphasis they want to convey.

  • Ojalá no tengamos problemas. – Let’s hope we don’t have any problems.
  • ¡Ojalá vinieras ahora! – I wish you would come now!

Ojalá pronunciation

As you can see, ojalá has a written accent mark (a tilde) on the final á. Although such an accent normally indicates that we stress that syllable when we pronounce the word, ojalá is an exception in some regions. In many Spanish-speaking countries, from Mexico to Chile, the standard ojalá pronunciation puts the emphasis on the initial o rather than the final á.

Common ojalá phrases with poder and tener

The use of ojalá with the verbs poder – can and tener – to have is very common when expressing wishes or desires.

Spanish speakers use these a lot to create phrases starting with I wish you could… and I hope you have…!

  • Ojalá pudieras venir a verme. – I wish you could come to see me.
  • Ojalá que tengas un hermoso día. – I hope you have a beautiful day.

Alternatives to ojalá in Spanish

We’ve seen that ojalá in Spanish is used to express wishes and desires. We have a couple of other options for saying the same thing that we’ll include here.

Remember that these ways of expressing desires all still require the use of the subjunctive!

Esperar – To hope

  • Espero que tengamos muchos seguidores. – I hope we have many followers.

Desear – To wish

  • Deseamos que no pase el tiempo. – We wish that time doesn’t go by.

Dios quiera, Qiera Dios – God willing

This religious expression brings us full circle back to the Arabic roots of ojalá as insha’Allah. In Spanish today, we have these direct translations of God willing that are still used as a religious alternative to ojalá.

  • Dios quiera que no haya guerra. – God willing, there’s no war.
  • Quiera Dios que los niños no se enfermen. – God willing, the kids don’t fall ill.

Conclusion: Ojalá in Spanish

So far so good! In this post on ojalá we started off by looking at the Arabic origins of this common Spanish word, where it once meant God willing. Through the rest of the post, we considered its non-religious meaning in everyday Spanish to express wishes and desires.

We saw how ojalá always takes the subjunctive, and then looked at some other optional usage rules like using Spanish exclamation marks, including or omitting que, or pronouncing ojalá with the stress on the first or last syllable.

To create phrases with ojalá, we saw that poder and tener are the verbs we use most often. Finally, we looked at alternatives for expressing wishes and desires, including the contemporary religious expression for God willing.

¡Ojalá puedas poner en práctica todo lo que has aprendido hoy! – We hope you can put into practice everything you’ve learned today! In the meantime, what about doing the following exercises?

Ojalá exercises

Rearrange the following words to form sentences to emphasize the correct ojalá meaning:

1. que / será / día / lindo / ¡Ojalá! / Parece / hoy / un

2. Pedro / Ojalá / llame / pronto / me / que

3. acuerdo / Ojalá / a / lleguemos / un

4. esto / yo / Ojalá / respuesta / una / a / tuviera

5. antes / lleguen / Ojalá / de / doce / las


1. Parece que hoy será un lindo día. ¡Ojalá! – It seems that today will be a nice day. If only!

2. Ojalá que Pedro me llame pronto. – I hope Pedro calls me soon.

3. Ojalá lleguemos a un acuerdo. – Hopefully we reach an agreement.

4. Ojalá yo tuviera una respuesta a esto. – I wish I had an answer to this.

5. Ojalá lleguen antes de las doce. – I hope they arrive before twelve.


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