What is the present subjunctive mood in Spanish?
The present subjunctive in Spanish is not a tense, but rather a mood. A mood conveys a speaker's attitude and feeling toward a statement or an action.
How is the subjunctive used?
The subjunctive is used to express desires, emotions, recommendations, doubt, and denial; with certain impersonal expressions; and with ojalá: "I doubt Miguel is in Spain" --> Dudo que Miguel esté en España.
What is the indicative mood?
The indicative is used to refer to objective reality, factual statements, and declarations. Most of what you've learned so far has been in the indicative: "Miguel is in Spain (as far as I know)" --> Miguel está en España.
What are the endings of regular present subjunctive -ar verbs?
Regular present subjunctive -ar endings: -e (yo) -es (tú) -e (él) -emos (nosotros) -éis (vosotros) -en (ellos). Simply strip the -ar ending off of any regular infinitive and apply the above endings.
She hopes that I speak
Ella espera que yo hable
that I speak (present subjunctive) - que yo hable. In this example, the subject is expressing a wish or desire (volition), which calls for the subjunctive.
I want you to speak with her tomorrow
Quiero que tú hables con ella mañana
that you speak (present subjunctive) - que tú hables. This sentence is also expressing volition—to want. This translates literally as "I want that you speak with her tomorrow," though it sounds a bit strange since the subjunctive is uncommon in English.
His aunt prefers that he speak to her over the phone
Su tía prefiere que él le hable por teléfono
that he/she speak (present subjunctive) - que él/ella/Ud hable. Note that the subjunctive is employed here in English, too, so the verb in English changes accordingly: "he speaks" (indicative mood); "that he speak" (subjunctive mood).
The child demands his food when he's hungry
El niño exige su comida cuando tiene hambre
to demand - exigir
Our teacher demands that we speak in class
Nuestra maestra exige que hablemos en clase
that we speak (present subjunctive) - que nosotros hablemos. Demands require the use of the subjunctive.
I prefer that you all speak to your teachers about your homework
Prefiero que habléis con vuestros maestros sobre la tarea
that you all speak (present subjunctive) - que vosotros habléis
I want them to walk home after the lesson
Quiero que caminen a casa después de la lección
that they walk (present subjunctive) - que ellos/ellas/Uds caminen
What are the endings of regular present subjunctive -er and -ir verbs?
Regular present subjunctive -er and -ir endings: -a (yo) -as (tú) -a (él) -amos (nosotros) -áis (vosotros) -an (ellos). Simply strip the -er or -ir ending off of any regular infinitive, and apply the above endings.
My girlfriend wants me to eat with her friends tonight
Mi novia quiere que yo coma con sus amigas esta noche
that I eat (present subjunctive) - que yo coma. The subject of this sentence, mi novia, is expressing an expectation, which calls for the subjunctive in Spanish.
It's a shame
Es una lástima
It's a shame - Es una lástima. When this expression is followed by que, the subjunctive is required.
It's a shame that you won't eat the food
Es una lástima que no comas la comida
that you eat (present subjunctive) - que tú comas. In this example, the subject is expressing lament. When conveying feelings and emotions—anger, happiness, fear, or surprise—the subjunctive is used.
I'm happy that the child eats so much
Estoy feliz de que el niño coma tanto
that he/she eat (present subjunctive) - que él/ella/Ud coma. Reactions that express a subjective opinion or judgement require the subjunctive.
It's good that we're eating fruits and vegetables today
Es bueno que comamos frutas y vegetales hoy
that we eat (present subjunctive) - que nosotros comamos. The impersonal expression "It's good that," es bueno que, should be followed by the subjunctive.
I'm sorry that you (vosotros) aren't eating these delicious desserts
Siento que no comáis estos ricos postres
that you all eat (present subjunctive) - que vosotros comáis. In this example, "I'm sorry that" is an impersonal expression that requires the use of the subjunctive.
I want the kids to eat dinner before dessert
Quiero que los niños coman la cena antes del postre
that they eat (present subjunctive) - que ellos/ellas/Uds coman. This example uses the subjunctive after an expression of desire, quiero que.
My teacher wants me to write an essay
Mi maestra quiere que yo escriba un ensayo
It's incredible that you're writing so much in Spanish!
¡Es increíble que escribas tanto en español!
that you write (present subjunctive) - que tú escribas. Impersonal expressions like es increíble que require the use of the subjunctive.
It's strange that he's writing at this hour
Es raro que él escriba a esta hora
that he/she write (present subjunctive) - que él/ella/Ud escriba. Impersonal expressions like es raro que require the use of the subjunctive. Note that because yo and él share the same present subjunctive form, it is wise to include the subject pronoun to avoid ambiguity.
My sister surprised me with a gift
Mi hermana me sorprendió con un regalo
to surprise - sorprender
I'm surprised that we don't write to each other more
Me sorprende que no nos escribamos más
that we write (present subjunctive) - que nosotros escribamos. Surprise, considered an expression of emotion, requires the use of the subjunctive.
I don't think that you all write so poorly
No creo que escribáis tan mal
that you all write (present subjunctive) - que vosotros escribáis. No creo is an expression of doubt, and therefore requires the use of the subjunctive.
He gets upset by any little thing
Él se enoja por cualquier cosa
to get upset, get angry - enojar
It upsets me that they write such terrible essays
Me enoja que escriban ensayos tan terribles
that they write (present subjunctive) - que ellos/ellas/uds escriban. Anger, considered an expression of emotion, requires the use of the subjunctive.
You shouldn't doubt yourself
No deberías dudar de ti mismo
to doubt - dudar. Note that the expression in Spanish is dudar de sí mismo --> "to doubt (in) oneself"
I doubt that he studies that much
Dudo que él estudie tanto
To express doubt, denial, or probability, use the subjunctive mood. Therefore, dudo que must be followed by the subjunctive. Also note the third-person singular conjugation of estudiar in the present subjunctive.
Can you recommend a good wine?
¿Me puedes recomendar un buen vino?
to recommend - recomendar. Note that "to me" is implied in the English phrase "Can you recommend," though in Spanish you must include the indirect object pronoun me.
I recommend that you drink more water
Recomiendo que bebas más agua
Recommendations, suggestions, and demands require the use of the subjunctive. The construction recomendar que should thus be followed by the subjunctive.
I suggest a red wine with dinner
Sugiero un vino rojo con la cena
to suggest - sugerir. Recall that sugerir is an e to ie stem-changing verb.
So you suggest that I speak faster?
¿Entonces, sugieres que yo hable más rápido?
The construction sugerir que requires the subjunctive.
I hope to God (that) it doesn't rain today
Ojalá que no llueva hoy
Hopefully, I hope to God that - ojalá que. Ojalá que, which comes from the Arabic for "may God will it," is a common expression denoting hope. It is followed by the subjunctive.
Which verbs are irregular in the present subjunctive?
There are only six irregular verbs in the subjunctive, and their forms must be memorized in order to be used correctly. The six verbs are estar, ser, haber, ir, saber, dar.
TO BE (ser) (Present Subjunctive)
- that I be
- that you be
- that he/she be
- that we be
- that you all be
- that they be
SER (Presente de Subjuntivo)
- que yo sea
- que tú seas
- que él/ella/Ud sea
- que nosotros seamos
- que vosotros seáis
- que ellos/ellas sean
My girlfriend wants me to be a happy person
Mi novia quiere que yo sea feliz
that I be (present subjunctive) - que yo sea. Remember that this is a desire, so the subjunctive is used. Also note that estar feliz means "to be happy now" and ser feliz means "to be happy generally / to be a happy person."
TO BE (estar) (Present Subjunctive)
- that I be
- that you be
- that he/she be
- that we be
- that you all be
- that they be
ESTAR (Presente de Subjuntivo)
- que yo esté
- que tú estés
- que él/ella/Ud esté
- que nosotros estemos
- que vosotros estéis
- que ellos/ellas estén
I'm sorry that you're sick
Siento que estés enfermo
that you be (present subjunctive) - que tú estés. Remember that this is an expression of emotion, so the subjunctive is used. Also note that while it sounds strange, "that I be" is an example of the subjunctive in English: "The memo requires that I be here on time" --> El memo requiere que yo esté aquí a tiempo. Compare with the more common phrase: "The memo says to be here on time."
TO HAVE, THERE IS/ARE (Present Subjunctive)
- that I have
- that you have
- that he/she have
- that we have
- that you all have
- that they have
HABER (Presente de Subjuntivo)
- que yo haya
- que tú hayas
- que él/ella/Ud haya
- que nosotros hayamos
- que vosotros hayáis
- que ellos/ellas hayan
I don't think that there are people in that room
No pienso que haya gente en ese cuarto
that there be / are- que haya
I hope that they've already eaten
Espero que ya hayan comido
that they have eaten - que hayan comido. Haber is used as a helping verb in the past perfect subjunctive, just like it is in the past perfect indicative.
TO GO (Present subjunctive)
- that I go
- that you go
- that he/she go
- that we go
- that you all go
- that they go
IR (Presente de Subjuntivo)
- que yo vaya
- que tú vayas
- que él/ella/Ud vaya
- que nosotros vayamos
- que vosotros vayáis
- que ellos/ellas vayan
Note the similarity to haber in conjugation.
I suggest that we go to the store before 10PM
Sugiero que vayamos a la tienda antes de las diez
that we go - que nosotros vayamos. Remember that suggestions and recommendations take the subjunctive.
TO KNOW (Present Subjunctive)
- that I know
- that you know
- that he/she know
- that we know
- that you all know
- that they know
SABER (Presente de Subjuntivo)
- que yo sepa
- que tú sepas
- que él/ella/Ud sepa
- que nosotros sepamos
- que vosotros sepáis
- que ellos/ellas sepan
It's important that you all know how to speak Spanish
Es importante que sepáis hablar español
that you all know - que vosotros sepáis. Remember that impersonal phrases like "it's important that," es importante que, as a rule, take the subjunctive.
TO GIVE (Present Subjunctive)
- that I give
- that you give
- that he/she give
- that we give
- that you all give
- that they give
DAR (Presente de Subjuntivo)
- que yo dé
- que tú des
- que él/ella/Ud dé
- que nosotros demos
- que vosotros deis
- que ellos/ellas den
My brother wants me to give him the money
Mi hermano quiere que yo le dé el dinero
that I give - que yo dé. The accent in dé is used to distinguish it from de, "of."Dé is pronounced with slightly more force than its accentless counterpart.
I don't doubt that she speaks Spanish well
No dudo que ella habla bien español
I don't doubt that - no dudo que. Note the expression "I don't doubt that" must be followed by the indicative, instead of the subjunctive. This is because it essentially expresses certainty.
I think that my brother is sick
Pienso que mi hermano está enfermo
Note that the construction pensar que is followed by the indicative.
I don't think that my brother is sick
No pienso que mi hermano esté enfermo
Note that the construction no pensar que is followed by the subjunctive because it denotes doubt or uncertainty.