Understanding the Spanish Subjunctive in Noun Clauses
Do you know how to use the subjunctive in noun clauses? It’s actually an easy topic to grasp if you already have a foundation in Spanish grammar.
To access a quick but thorough overview of the subjunctive in noun clauses, keep reading!
I cover all the grammar elements necessary to master the topic and give you lots of examples of the subjunctive in noun clauses.
At the end of the post, you can check your understanding with a multiple-choice quiz.
What are Noun Clauses?
Before we jump into the subjunctive in noun clauses in Spanish, let’s review some of the basics.
A noun is a person, place, thing, or idea. And a clause is the smallest part of a sentence that still makes sense on its own. Usually, a clause has a subject, a verb, and other elements.
Mis papás quieren que mi hermano estudie español.
My parents want me to study Spanish.
Clause 1: Mis papás quieren
Clause 2: mi hermano estudie español.
Both clauses have a subject (mis papás, mi hermano) and a verb (quieren, estudie).
Now, a noun clause (cláusula nominal or cláusula sustantiva) is a clause that works as a noun. It may be either a subject or an object in a sentence.
1. Noun Clause as a Subject
Lo que haces no es bueno.
What you do is not good.
¿Qué no es bueno? What is not good? Lo que tú haces. What you do.
2. Noun Clause as an Object
Me gusta lo que haces.
I like what you do.
¿Me gusta qué? I like what? Lo que haces. What you do.
What is the Subjunctive?
You can find a comprehensive guide on the subjunctive and the Spanish subjunctive uses here, but let’s go through some basic issues to make sure your baselines are covered.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that the subjunctive mood expresses uncertainty. The speaker gives information that they’re not sure about the information they’re giving.
Llámame cuando ganes este torneo.
Call me when you win this tournament.
Here, the speaker asks the other person to call him after winning the tournament, but the subjunctive mood emphasizes that the positive outcome is uncertain.
The subjunctive mood can also stress the attitude or emotion of the speaker toward the information given.
Me emociona enormemente que tengas un trabajo nuevo.
I am extremely excited that you have a new job.
Now that you have all the elements of the structure of subjunctive in noun clauses, we can get right to the point.
How to Use the Subjunctive in Noun Clauses
Ready to tackle the subjunctive mood in noun clauses?
There are just two things you have to do to use the subjunctive in a noun clause:
1. The two clauses in the sentence need to have a different subject
2. The verb in the main clause is the WEIRDO verb
Let’s take a closer look at these two rules, because especially the second one may sound a bit cryptic to you.
RULE #1: Subject 1 Must be Different from Subject 2
What does it mean that you have two different subjects in a two-clause sentence? Look:
Quiero estudiar español.
I want to study Spanish.
Quiero que estudies español.
I want you to study Spanish.
In the first example, the person who wants and the person who is supposed to study Spanish is the same. But in the second example, the person who wants it is different from the one who will study Spanish.
This is the first rule to remember if you want to use the subjunctive in noun clauses. However, it’s not enough.
No me dijiste que querías papas.
You didn’t tell me you wanted chips.
We have a noun clause and two subjects, but the noun clause is in the indicative mood. Why? Because the second element is missing.
RULE #2: WEIRDO Verb in the Main Clause
Now let’s take a closer look at the verb in the main clause.
The verb that introduces the noun clause needs to be a WEIRDO verb. WEIRDO is an acronym for the types of verbs that trigger the subjunctive mood:
Doubt and Negation
Let’s see each of the WEIRDO verbs that provoke the subjunctive mood in noun clauses.
These verbs help you express what you want; your wishes and desires. Verbs like querer (to want), desear (to desire), necesitar (to need), and others.
Quiero que me ayudes.
I want you to help me.
Necesito que lo hagas.
I need you to do it.
Deseo que no tengamos que pasar por esto.
I wish we didn’t have to go through this.
All the verbs that express emotions, no matter if positive or negative, fit in here. The verbs in this group include gustar (to like), alegrarse (to be glad, happy), molestarse (to be bothered), enojarse (to get angry), odiar (to hate), sorprenderse (to be surprised), etc.
Me gusta que comas verduras.
I like that you eat vegetables.
Me alegra que tengas ganas de trabajar.
I’m glad you feel like working.
Me molesta que no me hagas caso.
It bothers me that you don’t listen to me.
Me sorprende que todavía no lo entiendas.
I’m surprised you still don’t understand.
Impersonal expressions that use the formula
es + adjective + que
trigger the subjunctive in noun clauses.
- Es bueno que – It’s good that
- Es increíble que – It’s incredible that
- Es maravilloso que – It’s wonderful that
- Es necesario que – It’s necessary that
Es bueno que tengas ganas de mejorar.
It’s good that you want to improve.
Es increíble que la gente tenga que pasar por esto.
It’s incredible that people have to go through this.
Es maravilloso que tengamos estas oportunidades.
It’s wonderful that we have these opportunities.
Es necesario que cambies la contraseña de tu cuenta.
You need to change your account password.
Request verbs require some kind of action or reaction from the person you’re talking to or about.
These verbs include pedir (to ask), querer (to want), insistir (to insist), preferir (to prefer), and requerir (to require).
Te pido que no me hables así.
I ask you not to talk to me like that.
Quiero que lo repitas.
I want you to repeat it.
Prefiero que lo hagas tú.
I prefer that you do it.
Requiero que se me ayude.
I require help.
Doubt and Negation
Remember, the subjunctive mood is all about uncertainty about the message given. That’s why the verbs that express doubt and negation trigger the subjunctive in noun clauses. These verbs include dudar (to doubt), no creer (to not believe), and negar (to deny).
Dudo que me ganes.
I doubt you will beat me.
No creo que pases el examen.
I don’t think you will pass the exam.
Mis papás niegan que tengan algo que ver con la sorpresa.
My parents deny that they have anything to do with the surprise.
This is a Spanish word of Arabic origin that means “may god (Allah) will it.” That’s why there’s a hidden subject (Allah) already included in this clause. This word triggers present or imperfect subjunctive in noun clauses. It’s optional to follow ojalá with que.
Ojalá (que) tengas tiempo para ayudar a tu abuela.
Hopefully, you have time to help your grandmother.
Ojalá (que) tuviera más dinero para viajar.
I wish I had more money to travel.
Subjunctive in Noun Clauses Quiz
Let’s check if you can correctly answer 10 questions about the subjunctive in noun clauses. Choose whether the noun clause should be in the infinitive or subjunctive mood.
1. Quiero que ________________.
2. Ojalá ________________ por la noche.
3. Creo que ________________ el examen.
4. No creo que ________________ el examen.
5. Me dice que ________________ su amigo.
6. Temo que se ________________ las excusas.
7. Insisto en que ________________.
8. Estoy segura que ________________ ella.
9. Dudo que ________________ ella.
10. No me gusta que ________________.
Practice Speaking Spanish
Practice makes perfect, and now it’s time to polish your skills related to the subjunctive in noun clauses. It’s really the only way to learn new grammar topics.
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