Estar Subjunctive: Present and Past Tense Subjunctive
The Spanish subjunctive is often mysterious, curious, and challenging for many Spanish learners.
Luckily, if you tackle one verb at a time, eventually you’ll master the Spanish subjunctive to a point where it becomes a distinctive response.
The first verb you tackle should be one you can use constantly and in many different situations—a verb like estar. In this blog post, you’ll learn how to understand and use the estar subjunctive conjugations.
But First—What Is the Subjunctive?
Before we jump into the nitty-gritty details of the subjunctive, we need to talk about a common misconception.
The Spanish subjunctive is not a tense.
By now you’ve probably learned about the present and preterite tenses and possibly even the imperfect and future tenses as well.
All of these Spanish tenses divide into three different moods:
Which moods do you already know?
Well, most of the tenses you learn as a Spanish beginner are indicative, which makes factual statements or describes qualities of a person, thing, or situation.
In terms of tenses, there is a present indicative tense (meaning that the indicative mood is happening in the present) as well as a present subjunctive tense (meaning that the subjunctive mood is happening in the present).
While the indicative is factual and descriptive in mood, the subjunctive is hypothetical and abstract. As such, it doesn’t have as many tenses as the indicative mood.
More specifically, you use the subjunctive when you discuss unknown things, doubts, desires, and abstract things.
Elements of the Subjunctive
When you use the subjunctive, there are usually three components in the sentence:
- Two subject pronouns
- Two verbs – one expressive verb and one subjunctive
- A relative pronoun that connects the verbs (que, como, quien)
Yo quiero que tú vengas a visitarme.
I want you to come visit me.
This sentence above has two subject pronouns: Yo quiero que tú vengas a visitarme.
It also has two verbs: Yo quiero que tú vengas a visitarme.
Finally, it has a relative pronoun to connect the two phrases: Yo quiero que tú vengas a visitarme.
The first verb is an expressive one. You can use the acronym WEIRDO to know what kind of verbs often precede a subjunctive verb.
- W – wishes (esperar, querer)
- E – emotions (temer, alegrarse, entristecer)
- I – impersonal expressions (es necesario, requerir)
- R – recommendations (recomendar, pedir)
- D – doubt and denial (dudar, negar)
- O – ojalá (if only, I hope)
PRO TIP! Both ojalá que and ojalá (without a connecting relative pronoun) are followed by a subjunctive verb.
Example: Ojalá tengamos tiempo para hacer eso.
I hope we have time for that.
More Example Sentences
Any verb that expresses an element from the WEIRDO acronym is likely to be followed by a verb in the subjunctive mood.
Espero que te sientas bien.
I hope you feel well.
Temo que no vaya a llegar a tiempo.
I’m afraid he’s not going to come on time.
Es necesario que estudies más.
You need to study more.
Te pido que me pongas más atención.
I ask that you pay more attention to me.
Dudo que entiendas todo.
I doubt you understand everything.
Let’s Explore the Verb Estar
Estar: to be
Present participle: estando
Past participle: estado
Estar is one of the two Spanish verbs that means “to be.” We use it to express temporal states, like feelings and weather.
Yo estoy enojado.
Está nublado hoy.
It’s cloudy today.
Estar Subjunctive Tenses
Since estar is one of the more common verbs in Spanish, using this verb in the subjunctive mood is a regular occurence.
Below, we will explore the following tenses in the subjunctive mood of estar:
- Present subjunctive
- Imperfect subjunctive
- Present perfect subjunctive
- Preterite subjunctive
1. Present Estar Subjunctive
In everyday conversation, the estar subjunctive in its present tense form is pervasive and universal.
You can easily form this tense by taking the present indicative tense and changing the letter a to e in each of the forms, whereas the accent remains.
You usually use the present subjunctive in Spanish after a present indicative verb. If one of the WEIRDO verbs is in the present indicative tense, then the following verb will be in the present subjunctive tense.
Yo quiero que estés bien.
I want you to be okay.
Yo temo que ella esté enojada conmigo.
I’m afraid she’s angry with me.
Es necesario que estés aquí a las ocho en punto.
You need to be here at eight o’clock on the dot.
Ella recomienda que estemos más tranquilos.
She recommends that we be calmer.
Ellos dudan que yo esté listo.
They doubt that I’m ready.
Ojalá esté soleado mañana.
I hope it’s sunny tomorrow.
2. Imperfect Estar Subjunctive
The imperfect estar subjunctive form takes the third person preterite form (estuvieron) and removes the final -on, giving you a base form (estuvier-) for the imperfect subjunctive.
To this base, you add the regular present tense endings -a, -as, -a, -amos, and -an.
The unique part of these endings is the nosotros form, which has an accent over the second -e-. Instead of estuvieramos, the correct form is estuviéramos.
You can use the imperfect estar subjunctive tense with a preterite, imperfect, conditional, or past perfect WEIRDO verb, as in the examples below:
Yo quise que estuvieras allá conmigo.
I wanted you to be there with me.
Ella temía que no estuviéramos listos para la presentación.
She feared that we weren’t ready for the presentation.
La compañía requería que todos los empleados estuvieran en la reunión corporal.
The company required all of the employees to be at the corporate meeting.
Ellos recomendaron que yo estuviera lista para lo que sea.
They recommended that I be ready for anything.
Yo dudé que estuvieran felices
I doubted that they were happy.
Conditional “Si” Usage
Another common usage of the imperfect Spanish subjunctive is in conditional phrases, often following the word si (if). The other verb in the sentence is usually in the conditional tense.
Si estuviera menos ocupado, te ayudaría más.
If I were less busy, I would help you more.
Ella saldría más a menudo si estuviera más feliz.
She would go out more often if she were happier.
“As If You Were” Usage
A final usage of the imperfect Spanish subjunctive is common with the verb estar: the phrase como si estuvieras (or another conjugation form), which means “as if you were” or “like you were.”
Hablas como si estuvieras confundido.
You talk as if you were confused.
Era como si estuviera paralizado.
It was as if I was paralyzed.
Literary Form of the Spanish Imperfect Subjunctive
This form is rarely heard in speech, but common in literature. While it may not be the most common tense in conversation, it’s important to realize that it exists and to understand what it means when you read it or hear it.
To make this form, swap the -ra- for -se-:
Yo estuviera becomes yo estuviese.
Don’t forget the accent over second -e- in the nosotros form.
3. Present Perfect Estar Subjunctive
The present perfect subjunctive tense is a compound form that uses two verbs:
- The first verb, haber, is the one that receives the subjunctive conjugation.
- The second verb, which in this case would be estar, remains in the past participle (estado) form for every conjugation.
To form the subjunctive form of haber, take the present tense form hay and add regular present tense endings starting with -a.
|Él, ella||Haya estado|
|Ellos, ellas||Hayan estado|
Similar to all other estar subjunctive forms, the present perfect subjunctive follows a WEIRDO verb (most often in the present indicative tense) and its connecting relative pronoun.
This combination connects past actions to the present or allows us to discuss things that will be completed by a certain point in the future.
Espero que hayas estado feliz aquí.
I hope you have been happy here.
Me alegro que ellos hayan estado contentos en la nueva casa.
I’m happy that they have been content in the new house.
Es posible que hayan estado ocupados.
It’s possible that they have been busy.
Dudo que hayan estado en la oficina todo este tiempo.
I doubt that they have been in the office all this time.
Ojalá hayas estado cómodo con las acomodaciones.
I hope you’ve been comfortable with the new accomodations.
4. Preterite Perfect Subjunctive
The preterite perfect subjunctive, like the present perfect subjunctive, uses two verbs. Again, the first verb, haber, is the only one conjugated in the subjunctive mood, while the second verb estar is always in the past participle form estado.
To form the preterite subjunctive form of haber, take the third person plural form (hubieron) and remove -on. Then add normal present tense endings starting with -a. Again, the nosotros form has an accent mark over the -e-.
|Él, ella||Hubiera estado|
|Ellos, ellas||Hubieran estado|
Just like the present perfect subjunctive tense, the preterite perfect subjunctive has numerous uses. The three main ones are hypotheticals, conditionals, and actions that happened before another past action.
Ojalá hubieras estado con nosotros.
I wish that you had been with us.
¿Qué tal si ella no hubiera estado ahí en ese momento?
What if she hadn’t been there at that moment?
Si hubiéramos estado juntos, no habría pasado nada.
If we had been together, nothing would have happened.
No me habría dicho nada si yo no hubiera estado presente.
She wouldn’t have said anything if I hadn’t been present.
Previous Past Actions:
Él me dijo que hubiera estado con ella toda la tarde si no habría tráfico.
He told me that he would have been with her all afternoon if there hadn’t been traffic.
Ellos no me creyeron que hubiera estado viajando mucho.
They didn’t believe that I had been traveling a lot.
Practice Makes Perfect
With all that information about how to use the estar subjunctive forms, it’s time to practice!
Here are a few short exercises to check your comprehension with answers that you can check below.
Exercise 1: Write the appropriate conjugation of verb estar.
- Present subjunctive, ustedes
- Imperfect subjunctive, tú
- Present perfect subjunctive, nosotros
- Present subjunctive, yo
- Past perfect subjunctive, usted
- Imperfect subjunctive, ella
- Past perfect subjunctive, tú
- Present perfect subjunctive, ellas
- Imperfect subjunctive, ustedes
- Present subjunctive, nosotras
Exercise 2: Write whether each sentence is verdadero, or falso. If the statement is falso, rewrite the sentence so it is accurate.
- The Spanish subjunctive is a tense.
- The Spanish subjunctive is used to talk about emotions, desires, and hypothetical situations.
- In the present perfect subjunctive has two verbs, and the second one is always conjugated in the subjunctive.
- The subjunctive often follows WEIRDO verbs and a relative pronoun.
- Verbs that follow ojalá are not in the subjunctive mood.
Exercise 3: Translate the following sentences to English.
- Espero que estés contento.
- Necesito que ustedes estén aquí a las siete.
- Si yo hubiera estado contigo, eso no habría pasado.
- Si estuviera en casa, estaría más feliz.
- Ojalá hubiera estado contigo.
- Dudo que ella esté ocupada.
- Ella me pide que yo esté en la oficina más temprano.
- Él está hablando como si estuviera encargado de todo.
- Ojalá hayan preparado todo.
- No creí que ella hubiera ido a España.
How did you do with the practice exercises? While it is fantastic to practice on your own, nothing really beats interacting with a native Spanish speaker.
Whether you want to ask some follow-up questions or just try some practice conversations with the estar subjunctive, try a class with Homeschool Spanish Academy! All of our teachers are native speakers with tons of insight into Spanish grammar. Sign up for a free class today and see how they can take your Spanish skills to the next level.
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Exercise 1: 1) estén, 2) estuvieras, 3) hayamos estado, 4) esté, 5) hubiera estado, 6) estuviera, 7) hubieras estado, 8) hayan estado, 9) estuvieran, 10) estemos
Exercise 2: 1) falso – the Spanish subjunctive is a mood. 2) verdadero, 3) falso – the first verb, haber, is conjugated in the subjunctive. 4) verdadero, 5) falso – verbs following ojalá are in the subjunctive moodExercise 3: 1) I hope you are content. 2) I need you to be here at 7. 3) If I had been with you, that wouldn’t have happened. 4) If I was at home, I would be happier. 5) I wish I had been with you. 6) I doubt that she’s busy. 7) She is asking me to be at the office earlier. 8) He is talking as if he were in charge of everything. 9) I hope they have prepared everything. 10) I didn’t believe that she had gone to Spain.
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