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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.


Translate to Spanish:

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.

Translate to Spanish:

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.

Translate to Spanish:

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).

Translate to Spanish:

The child demands his food when he's hungry

El niño exige su comida cuando tiene hambre

to demand - exigir

Translate to Spanish:

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.

Translate to Spanish:

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

Translate to Spanish:

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.


Translate to Spanish:

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.

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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.

Translate to Spanish:

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.

Translate to Spanish:

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.

Translate to Spanish:

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.

Translate to Spanish:

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.

Translate to Spanish:

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.

Translate to Spanish:

My teacher wants me to write an essay

Mi maestra quiere que yo escriba un ensayo

Translate to Spanish:

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.

Translate to Spanish:

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.

Translate to Spanish:

My sister surprised me with a gift

Mi hermana me sorprendió con un regalo

to surprise - sorprender

Translate to Spanish:

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.

Translate to Spanish:

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.

Translate to Spanish:

He gets upset by any little thing

Él se enoja por cualquier cosa

to get upset, get angry - enojar

Translate to Spanish:

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.

Translate to Spanish:

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"

Translate to Spanish:

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.

Translate to Spanish:

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.