Master The Spanish Subjunctive Tense With Ultimate Guide & Examples

Spanish subjunctive is one of the most challenging topics in Spanish grammar. Here, on Effortless Conversations, we teach you with a different method, that’s not like textbook Spanish.

With Conversation Based Chunking, you don’t need to remember grammar definitions or learn Spanish vocabulary lists by heart. Instead, you learn Spanish subjunctive by immersing yourself in the language.

Maura from Spring Spanish simply explains what’s the difference between Spanish subjunctive and Spanish Indicative:

And now, in a few steps, we’ll explain the subjunctive in Spanish, and give you chunks to learn it effortlessly!

1. What is the Spanish subjunctive?

Effortless Answers

The Spanish subjunctive is a grammatical mood. It expresses states like wishes, doubts, emotions, possibilities, and hypothetical situations. The subjunctive in Spanish is used in scenarios where the outcome or action is not guaranteed.

Spanish subjunctive is used in dependent clauses. The whole mood is introduced with certain expressions or Spanish conjugations. And these little words signal the need for the Spanish subjunctive mood.

Enough of the talk already. Let’s review an example:

SpanishEnglish
Espero que tengas un buen día.I hope you have a good day.

In this Spanish sentence, the verb “tengas” is in the subjunctive mood. Tengas illustrates a wish or desire, rather than a statement of fact – a definition for the Spanish indicative.

2. Is the subjunctive in Spanish another tense?

Simply answered: no.

The Spanish subjunctive is not a verb tense. Rather, it’s a grammatical mood. Spanish tenses are about actions that happen in the past, present or future, while the moods are about how someone or something deals with the nature of these actions.

For these actions, it doesn’t matter if they’re real or hypothetical.

Let’s check a few examples:

TenseSpanishEnglish
Present SubjunctiveEspero que vengas mañana.I hope you come tomorrow.
Imperfect SubjunctiveSi vinieras, estaríamos felices.If you came, we would be happy.
Present Perfect SubjunctiveDudo que hayan terminado.If you came, we would be happy.
Past Perfect SubjunctiveSi hubieras venido, habríamos celebrado.If you had come, we would have celebrated.

Can you already tell the difference between the Spanish subjunctive and the Spanish indicative? No?

Don’t worry! It’s time to explore that question!

3. Subjunctive mood in Spanish vs Spanish indicative

The indicative and subjunctive are both grammatical moods in Spanish. That’s the only common thing about them, because they have different purposes and are used in totally different contexts.

a closed, empty notebook that can be used to practice the spanish subjunctive

Express facts with indicative mood in Spanish

The Spanish indicative mood is used to show facts, certainty, and objective reality. It’s used when talking about actions, events, or states that are real or definite.

You’ll run into the indicative mood in Spanish a lot.

All of these sentences in Spanish are in the indicative mood:

TenseSpanishEnglish
Present IndicativeElla come sushi.She eats sushi.
Past IndicativeEllos fueron al cine.They went to the movies.
Future IndicativeMañana lloverá.It will rain tomorrow.

Use the subjunctive mood to express doubts

The subjunctive mood, on the other hand, is used to express subjective situations. We already mentioned it in this article, so for now, let’s just go deeper with the examples:

TenseSpanishEnglish
Present SubjunctiveEspero que ella coma sushi.I hope she eats sushi.
Imperfect SubjunctiveSi ella comiera susi, estaría feliz.If she ate sushi, she would be happy.
Present Perfect SubjunctiveDudo que ellos hayan ido al cine.I doubt that they have gone to the movies.

4. Use the Spanish subjunctive with subordinate clauses

So far, this has been pretty straightforward, and you wonder: why would anyone say the subjunctive is a complex grammar topic?

Well, you can learn it easily, but here’s the catch!

The Spanish subjunctive doesn’t function independently: it appears in subordinate clauses. The most common words and Spanish conjunctions that go together with the Spanish subjunctive are the following:

SpanishEnglishExpression
Querer queTo want thatDesire
Esperar queTo hope thatHope
Desear queTo wish thatDesire
Preferir queTo prefer thatPreference
Dudar queTo doubt thatDoubt
No creer queNot to believe thatDoubt
No estar seguro de queNot to be sure thatUncertainty
Alegrarse de queTo be glad thatEmotion
Sentir queTo be sorry thatEmotion
Temer queTo fear thatEmotion
Es necesario queIt is necessary thatNecessity
Es importante queIt is important thatNecessity
Es mejor queIt is better thatPreference

And a few example sentences to illustrate them:

  • Quiero que vengas conmigo. (I want you to come with me.)
  • Dudo que él sepa la respuesta. (I doubt that he knows the answer.)
  • Temo que llueva mañana. (I fear that it will rain tomorrow.)
  • Es importante que hagas ejercicio. (It is important that you exercise.)

In each of these sentences, the subordinate clause follows “que” and gives additional information to the context that completes the meaning of the main clause.

5. Spanish subjunctive mood independent usage and commands

There some limited cases where the subjunctive can appear in independent clauses. It’s rare, but it happens! These are often fixed expressions or commands, and they are populous in formal or literary contexts.

Ojalá + [subjuntivo]

SpanishEnglish
¡Ojalá haga buen tiempo mañana!I hope the weather is good tomorrow!

Que… + [subjuntivo]

SpanishEnglish
¡Que tengas un buen día!Have a good day!

Commands, especially negative commands, often use the subjunctive, too

No… + [subjuntivo]

SpanishEnglish
¡No hables!Don’t speak!

In these cases, the subjunctive form is used directly, but it is important to understand that this is a specific usage tied to imperative cases or fixed expressions.

6. How to use the subjunctive in Spanish

The Spanish subjunctive mood used in different tenses:

  • Present
  • Imperfect
  • Present Perfect
  • Past Perfect
  • (+1 Future)
a close-up view of a closed Spanish dictionary that holds all the secrets to learn spanish subjunctive

All of them have their own rules on how to form the subjunctive.

Present Subjunctive (Presente de Subjuntivo)

Used for actions that are happening now or in the near future and are uncertain or subjective. Forming the present subjunctive is pretty simple: you just have to add the endings to the verbs:

PersonHablar
yohable
hables
él/ella/ustedhable
nosotros/nosotrashablemos
vosotros/vosotrashabléis
ellos/ellas/ustedeshablen

Example Sentence:

  • Espero que hables con él. (I hope you talk to him.)

Imperfect Subjunctive (Imperfecto de Subjuntivo)

Used for past actions that are uncertain, hypothetical, or subjective. It appears in “if” clauses and expressions of wishing or doubting about the past.

There are two conjugation forms for the imperfect subjunctive:

PersonHablar
yohablara / hablase
hablaras / hablases
él/ella/ustedhablara / hablase
nosotros/nosotrashabláramos / hablásemos
vosotros/vosotrashablarais / hablaseis
ellos/ellas/ustedeshablaran / hablasen

Example Sentence:

  • Si hablaras más, entenderías mejor. (If you spoke more, you would understand better.)

Present Perfect Subjunctive (Pretérito Perfecto de Subjuntivo)

Used for actions that are viewed as completed but are uncertain or subjective, often about recent past or actions affecting the present.

You form the present perfect subjunctive with haber + past participle:

PersonHablar
yohaya hablado
hayas hablado
él/ella/ustedhaya hablado
nosotros/nosotrashayamos hablado
vosotros/vosotrashayáis hablado
ellos/ellas/ustedeshayan hablado

Example Sentence:

  • Dudo que hayas hablado con él. (I doubt that you have talked to him.)

Past Perfect Subjunctive (Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto de Subjuntivo)

Used for hypothetical situations in the past, unreal past conditions, and past actions that precede other past actions.

PersonHablar
yohubiera/hubiese hablado
hubieras/hubieses hablado
él/ella/ustedhubiera/hubiese hablado
nosotros/nosotrashubiéramos/hubiésemos hablado
vosotros/vosotrashubierais/hubieseis hablado
ellos/ellas/ustedeshubieran/hubiesen hablado

Example Sentence:

  • Si hubieras hablado con él, lo sabrías. (If you had talked to him, you would know.)

Future Subjunctive (Futuro de Subjuntivo)

The future subjunctive is an archaic form in Spanish and is rarely used in written Spanish or spoken Spanish.

It still has its use cases in legal documents, sometimes in contemporary literature, and in historical texts. Modern Spanish typically uses an altered version of the present subjunctive to talk about future tenses.

However, for the sake of completeness, here is the conjugation of the verb “hablar” in the future subjunctive:

PersonHablar
yohablare
hablares
él/ella/ustedhablare
nosotros/nosotrashabláremos
vosotros/vosotrashablareis
ellos/ellas/ustedeshablaren

An example sentence in legal context:

  • El que hablare en la asamblea sin permiso será sancionado. (He who speaks in the assembly without permission will be sanctioned.)

7. Practice the Spanish subjunctive with our Full Practice Worksheet Library

Fill in the blanks with the correct form of the Spanish subjunctive!

If you want to learn more, you can get access to our Full Practice Worksheet Library!

8. Ultimate Guide to Spanish Subjunctive with Conversation Based Chunking

You’re in a lucky spot now. After reading through this blog post, you know the basics about the subjunctive in Spanish. There are two ways to go from here: you either learn all of this by heart, and then you’ll have to think all the time about the grammar rules and definitions when engaging in real conversations…

OR…

You join Effortless Conversations, and download your first Spanish Chunking Starter Pack! This pack contains all the secrets you need to learn even the most complex grammar topics without actually learning the grammar rules and remembering vocabulary lists. How?

Conversation Based Chunking is a method that’s based on lexical chunks – the most common Spanish phrases and expressions used in the language, so you can automatically learn their correct usage. The Chunking Starter Pack has everything you need for FREE: an essential chunking list, my favorite resources to learn Spanish, access to our Full Practice Worksheet Library and many more!

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