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When Do You Use Subjunctive in Spanish

Let’s learn how and when to use the subjunctive in Spanish.

When do you use subjunctive in the Spanish language? | Subjunctive 1

Subjunctive in Spanish

The subjunctive is not a tense; rather, it is a mood. Tense refers to when an action takes place (Past, Present, Future), while mood merely reflects how the speaker feels about the action. 

Note: The difference between “indicative” and “subjunctive” is the difference between certainty/objectivity (indicative) and possibility/subjectivity (subjunctive).

Indicative:

Paola va a la escuela – Paola goes to school
(This sentence merely states the certain, objective fact that Paola goes to the school.)

Yo sé que Paola va a la escuela – I know that Paola goes to school.
(The clause “I know” tells us that the speaker feels that it is a certain, objective fact that Paola goes to the school.)

No hay duda de que Paola va a la escuela – There is no doubt that Paola goes to school.
(The clause “there is no doubt” tells us that the speaker feels that it is a certain, objective fact that Paola goes to the school.)

Subjunctive in Spanish:

Yo quiero que Paola vaya a la escuela – I want Paola to go to school.
(The clause “I want” tells us that the speaker feels that there is uncertainty as to whether Paola goes to the school.)

Yo espero que Paola vaya a la escuela – I hope that Paola goes to school
(The clause “I hope” tells us that the speaker feels that there is uncertainty as to whether Paola goes to the school.)

Es possible que Paola vaya a la escuela – It is possible that Paola will go to school.
(The clause “it is possible” tells us that the speaker feels that there is uncertainty as to whether Paola goes to the school.)

Es bueno que Paola vaya a la escuela – It’s good that Paola goes to school
(The clause “it’s good” alerts us that the speaker is about to express a subjective opinion.)

Es importante que Paola vaya a la escuela – It’s important that Paola goes to school.
(The clause “it’s important” alerts us that the speaker is about to express a subjective opinion.)

Note: Because there must be some uncertainty or subjectivity to warrant the use of the subjunctive, you will usually see it in sentences that contain a main clause which introduces a quality of uncertainty or subjectivity.

Yo espero  I hope...she will come.
I hope = main clause

Yo sé I know ...she will come.
I know = main clause

Yo siento  I feel… she will come.
I feel = main clause.

The following is a list of clauses commonly associated with the use of the subjunctive:

a menos queunless 
antes (de) que  before…
con tal (de) que provided that 
cuando when…
conviene que it is advisable that
después (de) que after 
dudar que to doubt that 
en caso de que in case 
en cuanto as soon as 
es aconsejable que it’s advisable that 
es bueno queit’s good that 
es difícil que it’s unlikely that 
es dudoso que it is doubtful that 
es fácil que it’s likely that 
es fantástico que it’s fantastic that 
es importante queit’s important that 
es imposible que it’s impossible that 
es improbable que it’s unlikely that 
es incierto queit’s uncertain that 
es increíble que it’s incredible that 
es (una) lástima que it’s a pity that 
es malo que it’s bad that 
es mejor que it’s better that 
es menester que it’s necessary that 
es necesario que it’s necessary that 
esperar que to wish that 
es posible que it’s possible that 
es preciso que it’s necessary that 
es preferible que it’s preferable that 
es probable que  it’s probable that 
es raro que it’s rare that 
es ridículo que it’s ridiculous that 
estar contento que to be happy that 
es terrible que it’s terrible that 
hasta que until 
insistir en que to insist that 
mandar que  to order that 
más vale que it’s better that 
mientras que while 
negar que to deny that 
no creer que not to believe that 
no es cierto que it’s not certain that 
no estar convencido de que to not be convinced that 
no estar seguro de que to not be sure that 
no es verdad que it’s not true that
no imaginarse que – to not imagine that 
no parecer que to not seem that 
no pensar que  to not think that 
no suponer que – to not suppose that 
ojalá que if only he would
 

para que in order that
pedir que to ask that 
preferir que to prefer that 
prohibir que to prohibit that 
puede ser que it may be that 
querer que to want that 
recomendar que  to recommend that 
rogar que to plead that 
sentir que to regret that 
sin que without 
sugerir queto suggest that 
tan pronto como as soon as 
temer que to fear that
tener miedo de que – to be afraid that
 


Expressions with which the subjunctive is “not” used

creer que to believe that 
no dudar que to not doubt that 
es cierto que it is certain that 
es claro que it is clear that 
es evidente que it is certain that
es obvio que  it is obvious that 
estar seguro que – to be sure that 
es verdad que it is true that
no cabe duda que there’s no doubt that 
no es dudoso que it is not doubtful that 
no hay duda que there is no doubt that
 

 

grammar

When do you use subjunctive in Spanish? | Subjunctive 2

In this lesson you will begin to learn how to conjugate verbs in the Present subjunctive.

 For most verbs, the Present subjunctive is formed by following these three steps:

  1. Start with the yo form of the Present indicative.
  2. Then drop the – o ending.
  3. Finally, add the following endings:

 

Subject-hablar (to speak) / comer (to eat) / vivir (to live)
Yo (I)-habl+e / com+a / viv+a
Tú (You)(informal)-habl+es / com+as / viv+as
Usted (You)(formal)-habl+e / com+a / viv+a
Él/Ella(He/She)-habl+e / com+a / viv+a
Nosotros(as)(We)-habl+emos / com+amos / viv+amos
Vosotros(as)(You)(informal)-habl+éis / com+áis / viv+áis
Ustedes(You)(formal)-habl+en / com+an / viv+an
Ellos(as)(they)-habl+en / com+an / viv+an


Note: The formula also works for verbs that have irregular “yo” forms in the Present indicative. 

conocer (yo conozco)
conozco – o = conozc

tener (yo tengo)
tengo – o = teng

salir (yo salgo)
salgo – o = salg

Subject- Conocer (to know) / Tener (to have) / Salir (to get out)

Yo(I)-conozc +a / teng +a / salg +a
Tú(You)(Informal)-conozc +as / teng +as / salg +as
Usted(You)(Formal)-conozc +a / teng +a / salg +a
Él/Ella(He/She)-conozc+a / teng +a / salg +a
Nosotros(as)(We)-conozc+amos / teng +amos / salg +amos
Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)-conozc+áis / teng +áis / salg +áis
Ustedes(You)(Formal)-conozc+an / teng +an / salg +an
Ellos(as)(They)-conozc+ an / teng +en / salg +en

Note: For “-ar” and “- er” stem-changing verbs, the formula applies except that there is no stem change in the “nosotros” and “vosotros” forms.

pensar (yo pienso)
pienso – o = piens

perder (yo pierdo)
pierdo – o = pierd

Subject-pensar (to think) / perder (to lose)

Yo(I)-piens +e / pierd+a
Tú(You)(Informal)-piens +es / pierd+as
Usted(You)(Formal)-piens +e / pierd+a
Él/Ella(He/She)-piens+e / pierd+a
Nosotros(as)(We)-pens+emos / perd+amos
Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)-pens+éis / perd+áis
Ustedes(You)(Formal)-piens+en / pierd+an
Ellos(as)(They)-piens+en / pierd+an

contar (yo cuento)
cuento – o = cuent

volver (yo vuelvo)
vuelvo – o = vuelv

Subject-Contar(to count) / Volver (to return)

Yo(I)-cuent +e / vuelv +a
Tú(You)(Informal)-cuent +es / vuelv +as
Usted(You)(Formal)-cuent +e / vuelv +a
Él/Ella(He/She)-cuent+e / vuelv+a
Nosotros(as)(We)-cont+emos / volv +amos
Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)-cont+éis / volv +áis
Ustedes(You)(Formal)-cuent+en / vuelv +an
Ellos(as)(They)-cuent+en / vuelv +an

Note: For “-ir” stem-changing verbs, the formula applies except that the stem change in the “nosotros” and “vosotros” forms follows these patterns: “o:ue” verbs change “o” to “u”; “e:ie” verbs change “e” to “i”; “e:i” verbs change “e” to “i”.

dormir (yo duermo)
duermo – o = duerm

sentir (yo siento)
siento – o = sient

pedir (yo pido)
pido – o = pid

Subject-Dormir (to sleep) / Sentir (to feel) / Pedir (to ask)

Yo(I)-duerm +a / sient +a / pid +a
Tú(You)(Informal)-duerm +as / sient +as / pid +as
Usted(You)(Formal)-duerm +a / sient +a / pid +a
Él/Ella(He/She)-duerm+a / sient +a / pid +a
Nosotros(as)(We)-durm+amos / sint +amos / pid +amos
Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)-durm+áis / sint +áis / pid +áis
Ustedes(You)(Formal)-duerm+an / sient +an / pid +an
Ellos(as)(They)-duerm+en / sient +en / pid +en

 

subjunctive lesson

When do you use subjunctive in Spanish? | Subjunctive 3

Note: For verbs that end in “-zar”, the “z” changes to “c” when it comes before the letter “e”

empezar (e:ie) (to start)

Subject – Empezar (to start)

Yo (I)  empiece

Tú (You)(Informal) – empieces

Usted (You)(Formal)  empiece

Él/Ella(He/She)  empiece

Nosotros(as)(We)  empecemos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)  empecéis

Ustedes(You)(Formal)  empiecen

Ellos(as)(They)  empiecen

 

Note: For verbs that end in “-ger” or “-gir”, the “g” changes to “j” when it comes before the letter “a”.

escoger (to choose)

Subject – Escoger (to choose)

Yo (I) – escoja

Tú (You)(Informal) – escojas

Usted (You)(Formal) – escoja

Él/Ella(He/She) – escoja

Nosotros(as)(We) – escojamos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal) – escojáis

Ustedes(You)(Formal )– escojan

Ellos(as)(They)  – escojan

 

elegir (e:i) (to choose)

SubjectEligir ( to choose)

Yo (I)elija

Tú (You)(Informal)elijas

Usted (You)(Formal)elija

Él/Ella(He/She)elija

Nosotros(as)(We)elijamos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)elijáis

Ustedes(You)(Formal)elijan

Ellos(as)(They)elijan


Note: 
For verbs that end in “-guir”, the “gu” changes to “g” when it comes before the letter “a”.

seguir (e:i) (to follow)

SubjectSeguir (to follow)

Yo (I)siga

Tú (You)(Informal)sigas

Usted (You)(Formal)siga

Él/Ella(He/She)siga

Nosotros(as)(We)sigamos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)sigáis

Ustedes(You)(Formal)sigan

Ellos(as)(They)sigan


Note: For verbs that end in “-car”, the “c” changes to “qu” when it comes before the letter “e”.

buscar (to search)

SubjectBuscar (to search)

Yo (I)busque

Tú (You)(Informal)busques

Usted (You)(Formal)busque

Él/Ella(He/She)busque

Nosotros(as)(We)busquemos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)busquéis

Ustedes(You)(Formal)busquen

Ellos(as)(They)busquen


Note:
For verbs that end in “-gar”, the “g” changes to “gu” when it comes before the letter “e”.

pagar (to pay)

SubjectPagar (to pay)

Yo (I)pague

Tú (You)(Informal)pagues

Usted (You)(Formal)pague

Él/Ella(He/She)pague

Nosotros(as)(We)paguemos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)paguéis

Ustedes(You)(Formal)paguen

Ellos(as)(They)paguen


Note:
For verbs that end in “uir”, add the letter “y” before the letter “a”.

huir (to run away)

SubjectHuir (to run away)

Yo (I)huya

Tú (You)(Informal)huyas

Usted (You)(Formal)huya

Él/Ella(He/She)huya

Nosotros(as)(We)huyamos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)huyáis

Ustedes(You)(Formal)huyan

Ellos(as)(They)huyan



 

subjunctive

When do you use subjunctive in Spanish? | Subjunctive 4

Here are the six verbs that are irregular in the Present subjunctive:

dar – to give

SubjectDar (to give)

Yo (I)

Tú (You)(Informal)des

Usted (You)(Formal)

Él/Ella(He/She)

Nosotros(as)(We)demos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)deis

Ustedes(You)(Formal)den

Ellos(as)(They)den

 

estar – to be

SubjectEstar (to be)

Yo (I)esté

Tú (You)(Informal)estés

Usted (You)(Formal)esté

Él/Ella(He/She)esté

Nosotros(as)(We)estemos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)estéis

Ustedes(You)(Formal)estén

Ellos(as)(They)estén

haber – to have (auxiliary verb)

SubjectHaber (to have)

Yo (I)haya

Tú (You)(Informal)hayas

Usted (You)(Formal)haya

Él/Ella(He/She)haya

Nosotros(We)hayamos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)hayáis

Ustedes(You)(Formal)hayan

Ellos(as)(They)hayan

ir – to go

SubjectIr (to go)

Yo (I)vaya

Tú (You)(Informal)vayas

Usted (You)(Formal)vaya

Él/Ella(He/She)vaya

Nosotros(as)(We)vayamos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)vayáis

Ustedes(You)(Formal)vayan

Ellos(as)(They)vayan

saber – to know

Subject-Saber(to know)

Yo (I)sepa

Tú (You)(Informal)sepas

Usted (You)(Formal)sepa

Él/Ella(He/She)sepa

Nosotros(as)(We)sepamos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)sepáis

Ustedes(You)(Formal)sepan

Ellos(as)(They)sepan

ser – to be

SubjectSer(to be)

Yo (I)sea

Tú (You)(Informal)seas

Usted (You)(Formal)sea

Él/Ella(He/She)sea

Nosotros(as)(We)seamos

Vosotros(as)(You)(Informal)seáis

Ustedes(You)(Formal)sean

Ellos(as)(They)sean

 

vocabulary

When do you use subjunctive in Spanish? | Subjunctive 5

List of common expressions that introduce an aspect of desire to the sentence, and therefore trigger the use of the subjunctive.

esperar que – to wish that 

insistir en que – to insist that 

mandar que – to order that 

preferir que – to prefer that 

prohibir que – to prohibit that 

querer que – to want that 

es aconsejable que – it’s advisable that …

es necesario que – it’s necessary that 

pedir que – to ask that 

recomendar que – to recommend that 

rogar que – to plead that 

sugerir que – to suggest that 

 

List of expressions that trigger the use of the indicative mood, since they introduce a quality of certainty or objectivity.

creer que – to believe that 

no dudar que – to not doubt that 

estar seguro que – to be sure that 

no es dudoso que – it is not doubtful that 

no hay duda que  there is no doubt that 

 

study grammar

When do you use subjunctive in Spanish? | Subjunctive 6

Here is a list of common expressions that introduce an aspect of ignorance or doubt to the sentence, and therefore trigger the use of the subjunctive.

dudar que to doubt that 

es dudoso que  it is doubtful that 

es improbable que it’s unlikely that 

es incierto que it’s uncertain that 

es posible que it’s possible that 

no creer que not to believe that 

no es cierto queit’s not certain that 

no estar convencido de que to not be convinced that 

no estar seguro de que to not be sure that 

no parecer que to not seem that 

no pensar que to not think that 

no suponer que to not suppose that 

puede ser que it may be that 

negar queto deny that 

no es verdad que it’s not true that 

no es cierto que it’s not certain that 

no imaginarse que to not imagine that 

temer que to suspect that 

 

There are also expressions that trigger the use of the indicative mood, since they introduce a quality of certainty.

no dudo que to not doubt that 

estar seguro de queto be certain that 

creer que to think that 

no negar que to not deny that 

es verdad que it’s true that 

 

learn subjunctive

When do you use subjunctive in Spanish? | Subjunctive 7

Here is a list of common impersonal expressions that introduce an aspect of uncertainty or subjectivity, and therefore trigger the use of the subjunctive.

conviene que it is advisable that 

es aconsejable que it is advisable that 

es bueno que it’s good that 

es difícil queit’s unlikely that 

es dudoso que it’s doubtful that 

es fácil que it’s likely that 

es fantástico que it’s fantastic that 

es importante que it’s important that 

es imposible que it’simpossible that 

es improbable que it’s unlikely that 

es incierto que it’s uncertain that 

es increíble que it’s incredible that 

es (una) lástima que it’s a shame that 

es malo que it’s bad that 

es mejor que it’s better that 

es menester que it’s necessary that 

es necesario que it’s necessary that 

es posible que it’s possible that 

es preciso queit’s necessary that 

es preferible que it’s preferable that 

es probable que it’s likely that 

es raro que it’s rare that 

es ridículo que it’s ridiculous that 

es terrible queit’s terrible that 

más vale que it’s better that 

ojalá que if only he would 

puede ser que it could be that 

 

There are also impersonal expressions that trigger the use of the indicative mood, since they introduce a quality of certainty or objectivity.

es evidente que it is certain that 

es obvio que it is obvious that 

es verdad que it’s true that 

no es dudoso que it is not doubtful that 

no hay duda que there is no doubt that 

 

learn grammar

When do you use subjunctive in Spanish? | Subjunctive 8

Here is a list of common expressions that may indicate that the action that follows has not yet been completed.

a menos que – unless 

antes (de) que – before 

con tal (de) que – provided that 

en caso de que – in case 

para que – so that 

sin que – without 

 

The following expressions only invoke the subjunctive when they indicate that the action that follows has not yet been completed.

después de que – after

en cuanto – as soon as

hasta que  until

mientras que – while

tan pronto como – as soon as

 

Remember, there are also expressions that trigger the use of the indicative mood, since they introduce a quality of certainty or objectivity.

es cierto que – it is certain that 

es claro que – it is clear that 

es evidente que – it is certain that 

es obvio que – it is obvious that 

es verdad que – it is true that 

Read more about the Spanish grammar

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