The Subjunctive Mood
The subjunctive in English is restricted nowadays to only a few instances, for example:
If I were you…
If it were to rain…
However, the subjunctive is a fundamental element in Spanish language and widely used. That is one of the reasons why students should study this mood thoroughly in order to have a good command of the language. We must also bear in mind that the subjunctive in Spanish should be considered as a ‘mood’ rather than a tense. In fact it exists in four tenses (present, imperfect, perfect and pluperfect). I will assume that you already know the correct conjugations and just need to know when to use them, but if you need a reference, you can check these verb charts on: Spanish Conjugation.net
Here, I am glad to provide you with this list where I give 10 different scenarios in order to explain how to use the subjunctive mood in Spanish. Through the following list you will see how present subjunctive is easily and commonly used in everyday situations.
Let’s start! Enjoy!
1. Wishes and Hopes
Some verbs in Spanish such as ‘querer’ (to want), ‘esperar’ (to hope) are frequently used to discuss wishes and hopes. When using these verbs, if the subject of the sentences changes after ‘que’, then the verb that follows ‘que’ must be in the subjunctive mood.
Yo quiero que Jennifer me ayude.
I want Jennifer to help me.
Yo espero que Daniel pueda ir allí.
I hope that Daniel can go there.
The word ‘ojalá’ (derived from Arabic for “God willing”) also includes the use of subjunctive.
I hope it rains
Ojalápudiera ir. (Note that ‘pudiera’ is the form of imperfect subjunctive tense)
I wish I could go.
2. Possibilities and Probability
When expressing the likelihood of an event, words meaning ‘perhaps’ (quizás, tal vez, puede que, es posible que…) may be followed by the subjunctive.
Puede que yo vaya allí.
I might go there.
Es posible que ella esté embarazada.
It is possible for her to be pregnant.
3. Doubting and Negative Sentences.
When doubting in Spanish, we may use the subjunctive. Some verbs such as ‘dudar’ (to doubt), ‘no creer’ or ‘no pensar’ (not to think) and ‘no parecer’ (not seem to) indicate that the subjunctive must be used.
No creo que vaya a llover.
I don’t think it’s going to rain.
When suggesting another person to do (or not to do) something, the subjunctive is used. In this case, ‘que’ separates the recommender from the recommendation.
Laura me recomienda que (yo) beba más agua.
Laura recommends for me to drink more water.
Me sugieren que (yo) vea esa película.
They suggest for me to watch that film.
5. Requests and Demands
When we insist or demand that another person must do something, the subjunctive will be needed. Some verbs that we usually use are: ‘insistir’ (to insist), ‘demandar’ (to demand), ‘pedir’ (to ask, to request). Let’s see a couple of examples:
El sargento exige que todos los soldados marchen.
The sargent demands that all the soldiers march.
Insisto en que termines tu tarea.
I insist that you finish your homework.
6. Permission and Prohibition
The subjunctive must be used in all cases when someone is trying to influence the action of another person in some way through permission and prohibition.
Su madre le prohíbe que vaya allí.
His mother forbids him to go there.
Te permito que salgas esta noche.
I allow you to go out tonight.
7. Impersonal expressions
An impersonal expression is one which does not have a personal subject, introduces an aspect of uncertainty or subjectivity, and then triggers the use of subjunctive.
Es importante quetermines a tiempo.
It is important that you finish on time.
8. Verbs of Emotion
Because emotions are not necessarily facts, you can expect to find the subjunctive used when emotions are being expressed.
María siente mucho que no puedas venir.
Maria is very sorry (that) you are unable to come.
9. Negative Commands and Formal Imperatives
When telling someone not to do something (negative commands), the present subjunctive is required. Imperatives using the polite ‘you’ (‘usted’ or ‘ustedes’) need subjunctive, too.
Don’t go there.
Cierre (usted) la ventana, por favor.
Close the window, please.
10. Subordinating Phrases and Conjunctions
Uncompleted or prospective actions require subjunctive, too. These expressions give the condition that something will be done at a certain time. Let’s see an example:
Llámame cuando termines la reunión.
Call me when you have finished the meeting.
Then, we can see that he/she will only call once he/she has finished the meeting. That is the reason why subjunctive must be used after ‘cuando’.
Easy, right? Want more?