Common Ways to Use the Spanish Subjunctive to Enhance Conversation
In our three-part series about the Spanish subjunctive, we explore the most pressing questions about it, such as what is it? When and how to use it? Then, we dig a bit deeper and focus on the present and imperfect tenses of the feared subjuntivo.
Let’s assume that you’ve mastered the theory about the Spanish subjunctive and now you want to go directly to the action of using it in speech. No more conjugations, explanations, or definitions, you say! What you need now are practical examples of ways to use the Spanish subjunctive and I am here to give them to you.
Wishes & Desires
When you wish or desire something in Spanish you will use the subjunctive to express it. Expectations and preferences also fit into this category.
The wishing phrases include two verbs:
- The wishing verb in the main clause of the sentence (in indicative).
- The following verb in the dependent clause of the sentence (in subjunctive).
El maestro quiere que hagas la tarea.
The teacher wants you to do your homework.
Wishing verb: quiere (querer)
Following verb: hagas (hacer).
Espero que sepas lo que haces.
I hope you know what you are doing.
Wishing verb: espero (esperar).
Following verb: sepas (saber).
Note the use of the relative pronoun que, it’s constantly around the subjunctive.
Think about a time when you doubted that something would happen, and you’ll understand this use of the Spanish subjunctive. It’s when you express a belief about how true an assertion might be.
No creo que Juan apruebe el examen.
I don’t believe Juan will pass the exam.
Dudo que Marco venga.
I doubt that Marco will come.
This case is tricky because it only works when you don’t believe something is true or will happen. It’s essential to realize that if you think it is true or it will happen, then we go back to the indicative:
Creo que Juan sí aprueba el examen.
I believe Juan will pass the exam.
Creo que Marco viene.
I think Marco comes.
In conclusion, if you doubt something, use the subjunctive. Contrarily, if you believe something is true, use the indicative.
Ojalá – I hope
Ojalá is one of the Spanish subjunctive’s best friends. Whenever you see this Arabian word meaning “if God wills,” a subjunctive verb will follow.
In Spanish, ojalá means something more like “hopefully something will happen.” The best translation in English might be “I hope.”
Ojalá llueva pronto.
I hope it rains soon.
Ojalá consiga el empleo.
I hope I get the job.
Me parece – It seems (to me)
In Spanish, we use me parece (it seems to me) to express an opinion. Opinions are subjective, and the subjective world is part of the realm of the subjunctive.
Me parece bien que vayas a la biblioteca.
It seems ok to me that you go to the library.
Me parece terrible que haga tanto frío.
It seems terrible to me that it’s so cold.
Maybe, perhaps, probably
To express something that is vague or unclear, we have these handy adverbs that provide the element of doubt. When you use the adverbs tal vez, quizás, probablemente (maybe, perhaps, probably) in an independent sentence, you will likely use a verb in subjunctive. On the other hand, if the sense of doubt is small, the indicative may be used instead of the subjunctive to make this distinction.
Tal vez me gradúe el próximo año.
Maybe I’ll graduate next year.
Quizás la invite a salir conmigo.
Perhaps I’ll invite her for a date.
Probablemente vaya a México pronto.
Probably I’ll go to México soon.
Tal vez voy mañana.
Maybe I’ll go tomorrow.
Quizás veo la televisión un rato y me duermo.
Perhaps I’ll watch TV for a while and go to sleep.
Probablemente eres como los demás.
Probably you are like everybody else.
Suggestions & Proposals
If you are going to give an order in Spanish, you’ll use the imperative mood. That’s because an order leaves no room for confusion or interpretation. It’s a fact that you have to do what you were ordered to.
But suggestions leave plenty of room for interpretation. The subject receiving the suggestion may decide to follow it or not. It becomes a subjective situation once again, and that’s why we use the subjunctive mood here.
Te sugiero que leas este libro.
I suggest you read this book.
Pedro sugiere que vayamos al cine.
Pedro suggests that we go to the movies.
Defining a moment in the future
Think about that time when you decided to start going to the gym “as soon as the holidays are over.” To express that in Spanish, we use the subjunctive.
In order to form these sentences, we use cuando (when), apenas (as soon as), tan pronto como (as soon as), en cuanto (as soon as), and hasta que (until).
Cuando termine de comer nos vamos a casa.
When I finish eating we’ll go home.
Apenas llegues a casa, me llamas.
As soon as you get home, call me.
Tan pronto como tenga dinero, te pagaré.
As soon as I have some money, I’ll pay you.
En cuanto te vayas me pondré a trabajar.
As soon as you leave, I’ll start working.
No descansaré hasta que sea presidente.
I won’t rest until I am president.
Petitions & Begging
Sometimes when you ask for a favor or beg for something in Spanish, you use a subjunctive verb in the dependent clause of the sentence.
Te pido que me hagas un favor.
I ask you to do me a favor.
Te ruego que olvides lo que dije.
I beg you to forget what I just said.
After some common conditional conjunctions such as a no ser que (unless), a menos que (unless), and the impossible to translate siempre y cuando (something like “as long as”), you can use a verb in subjunctive.
A no ser que pase algo inesperado, mañana tenemos partido de fútbol.
Unless something unexpected happens, we’ll have a football match tomorrow.
A menos que esté equivocado, ese libro es de Mario.
Unless I’m wrong, that book belongs to Mario.
Ese coche será tuyo, siempre y cuando apruebes el examen.
That car will be yours, as long as you pass the exam.
You don’t need the subjunctive to express an emotion. But when you want to express an emotion about someone else’s situation, then that’s when the subjunctive comes to the rescue.
Me duele que estés tan triste.
It hurts me that you are so sad.
Me alegra que hayas venido.
I’m happy that you came.
Me molestó que no fueras a la fiesta.
It upset me that you didn’t go to the party.
Practice the Subjunctive Today!
The Spanish subjunctive is like learning to drive a car. At first, you think of every little step in the process of driving, but later it just becomes natural. Same thing with the subjunctive, it feels weird at the beginning, but once you get a feeling for it, it will start flowing naturally. Just keep trying and learning new ways to use it. A free class with us will give you the opportunity to practice with a native speaker in a live conversation!
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