20 Most Common Subjunctive Triggers in Spanish
In your Spanish-learning process, chances are that you’ve faced some challenges while dealing with the subjunctive. The secret to mastering this mood is to simply start using it, instead of trying to understand exactly how it works. And you can achieve this by learning the subjunctive triggers!
Sometimes grammar rules are too dry. If you have a chance to put what you’re learning into practice immediately, you’ll understand it better.
Remember that scene from the film Blast from the Past starring Brendan Fraser and Alicia Silverstone? The father (Fraser’s character) explains the rules of baseball to his son Adam while living in a nuclear bunker, but Adam can’t seem to understand. One day, when he leaves the bunker and watches a baseball game, he finally gets it.
He had to see it to understand it. Same thing with the subjunctive: you’ve got to see it to understand it. What’s more, you’ve got to use it to understand it. For that reason, today we’ll learn 20 of the most commonly used subjunctive triggers in Spanish to help you master this tricky mood and start using it today.
The Subjunctive in Spanish
In Spanish, three moods exist to conjugate verbs: indicative, subjunctive, and imperative. The subjunctive is the one that causes headaches to Spanish learners, as it deals with vague and non-existent situations.
Here at Homeschool Spanish Academy (HSA), we have deeply explored the question of what the subjunctive is and how it works in a three-part series. I strongly recommend reading it if you haven’t done so yet.
What Is a Subjunctive Trigger?
Subjunctive triggers are words that force the verb in a sentence to be used in its subjunctive form. Sometimes, these subjunctive triggers already contain the subjunctive verb within them.
In other words, when you see one of these subjunctive triggers, you must use the subjunctive. Learning these words and phrases is a useful practice to help Spanish students master the use of the subjunctive mood.
Subjunctive Triggers vs Subjunctive Phrases
In a previous post, I provided our readers with 25 common subjunctive phrases to use in real-life conversations in Spanish. Learning complete phrases is like learning new words. It increases your vocabulary, and you can practice adding them to your conversations when needed.
Learning subjunctive triggers is different. They are not “ready-to-use” phrases, but rather words that help you identify the use of this mood. It happens with the Spanish word ojalá which means “God willing” or “hopefully.” Every time you see or hear that word, you can be sure that you’re in the land of the non-existent, and you should switch to the subjunctive mood.
Both subjunctive phrases and subjunctive triggers are useful, the former as ready-to-use blocks for your conversations, the latter as clues or warnings to switch to subjunctive and as formulas that allow you to create your own sentences in Spanish.
20 Common Subjunctive Triggers in Spanish
Now let’s learn some of the most frequently used subjunctive triggers in Spanish. The conjugated verb in subjunctive form is in bold.
1. Quiero que – I want that
This is one of the most common subjunctive triggers in Spanish, as we use the verb querer to express wishes and desires, which are by definition the realm of the subjunctive.
Quiero que gane el Real Madrid.
I want Real Madrid to win.
2. Ojalá – Hopefully
This word of Arabic origin that, as mentioned before, means “God willing.” However, in practice, it translates as “hopefully.”
Ojalá can be followed by a verb or a noun. Let’s see an example of each case:
Ojalá pierda el Real Madrid.
I hope Real Madrid lose. (ojalá + verb)
Ojalá que Ronaldo meta un gol.
I hope Ronaldo scores. (ojalá + noun)
3. Evitar que – To avoid that
Quería evitar que se rompiera el florero.
I wanted to avoid breaking the vase.
4. Necesitar que – To need that
With this trigger, you use the subjunctive when there’s doubt as to something’s existence.
Necesitamos un presidente que sea honesto.
We need a president who’s honest.
5. A menos que – Unless
Este teléfono es para ti, a menos que prefieras otro regalo.
This phone is for you, unless you prefer another gift.
6. Antes de que – Before
Me voy a casa antes de que empiece a llover.
I’m going home before it starts raining.
7. Después de que – After
Después de que acabe la película, pido la pizza.
After the movie ends, I’ll order the pizza.
8. Tener miedo de que – To be afraid that
Tengo miedo de que te vayas.
I’m afraid that you may leave.
9. Para que – In order to, for
Te compré este libro para que lo leas.
I bought you this book for you to read it.
10. Tal vez, quizás – Maybe
Tal vez esto sea lo mejor para todos.
Maybe this is the best for everyone.
11. Más vale que – It’s better that
Más vale que pongas atención.
It’s better that you pay attention.
12. Preferir que – To prefer that
Prefiero que no me compres nada.
I prefer that you don’t buy me anything.
13. Siento (mucho) que – To be (very) sorry that
The verb sentir in Spanish means “to feel.” However, when accompanied by mucho (“very”), it’s used to express that you’re sorry or that you regret something.
Siento mucho que pienses así.
I’m very sorry that you think that way.
14. Me molesta que – It bothers me that
Me molesta que digas eso de mí.
It bothers me that you say that about me.
15. Hacer gracia que – It’s funny that
Me hace gracia que lo menciones.
It’s funny that you mention it.
16. Alegrarse de que – To be pleased that
Me alegro de que estés aquí.
I’m pleased that you’re here.
17. Insistir en que – To insist on
Insisto en que te pongas la vacuna.
I insist on you getting the vaccine.
18. Dudar que – To doubt that
Dudo que él me escuche.
I doubt that he listens to me.
19. Estar… – To be…
The verb “to be” in Spanish translates as both estar and ser. Each one has different subjunctive triggers depending on the words that follow it. In the case of estar, you should use the subjunctive when it’s followed by:
- contento de que – happy that
- molesto de que – annoyed that
- triste de que – sad that
- a favor de que – in favor of
- en contra de que – against that
Estoy contento de que vinieras.
I’m happy that you came.
Estamos en contra de que lastimen animales.
We’re against hurting animals.
20. Es… – It’s…
The other Spanish “to be” verb is ser. We use ser in impersonal expressions that follow the formula es + adjective + que. The adjectives that trigger the subjunctive with this formula include:
- absurdo – absurd
- bueno – good
- difícil – hard
- dudoso – doubtful
- fácil – easy, likely
- importante – important
- increíble – incredible
- interesante – interesting
- justo – fair
- malo – (too) bad
- mejor – better if
- natural – natural
- posible – possible
- ridículo – ridiculous
- una lástima – a pity
Es bueno que hagas ejercicio.
It’s good that you exercise.
Es una lástima que te vayas.
It’s a pity that you’re going.
Practice with Subjunctive Triggers Today
The subjunctive is a concept that becomes easier with practice, and these 20 subjunctive triggers give you a lot of flexibility to create your own expressions in Spanish and start mastering this mood.
Sign up for a free trial class with one of our native Spanish-speaking teachers, and start practicing your subjunctive triggers today! You’ll be thrilled by how quickly you can progress and attain fluency in Spanish.
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