Discovering the Subjunctive Mood in Spanish: A Comprehensive Guide

Discovering the Subjunctive Mood in Spanish: A Comprehensive Guide

The subjunctive mood in Spanish, unlike verb tenses, portrays the speaker's attitude towards a given action. It has distinct forms and tenses, less numerous than the indicative mood, which are the present, imperfect, present perfect, and pluperfect subjunctive. Read the below and then book a free Drill to practice live with our native Spanish instructors. 

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Forming the Present Subjunctive

Creating the present subjunctive involves removing the -o ending from the 'yo' form of the present simple tense and appending specific endings. For -ar verbs such as 'hablar' (to speak), employ: -e, -es, -e, -emos, -éis, -en. For -er and -ir verbs like 'comer' (to eat) and 'vivir' (to live), use: -a, -as, -a, -amos, -áis, -an. Notably, verbs with irregular ‘yo’ forms in the ordinary present tense maintain these irregularities in the present subjunctive, impacting the stem used.


  1. Quiero que comas algo. (I want you to eat something.)
  2. Me sorprende que no hable inglés. (I’m surprised he doesn’t speak English.)
  3. No es verdad que trabajen aquí. (It isn’t true that they work here.)
  4. Voy a limpiar la casa antes de que vengan. (I’m going to clean the house before they come.)

When to Use the Subjunctive Mood

Key Features:

  1. Two Subjects: Generally occurs in a subordinate clause where the subject is typically different from the main clause subject. E.g.: Yo quiero que tú me leas un libro. (I want you to read me a book.)

  2. Two Verbs: The structure usually involves a main verb in the indicative mood and a subordinate verb in the subjunctive mood. E.g.: Te recomiendo que estudies más. (I recommend that you study more.)

  3. Relative Pronoun Introduction: A relative pronoun like 'que' or 'quien' often introduces the subordinate clause. E.g.: Quiero conocer a alguien que sepa leer español. (I want to meet someone who can read in Spanish.)

  4. WEIRDO: This acronym assists in recalling the situations warranting the subjunctive mood: Wishes, Emotions, Impersonal Expressions, Recommendations, Doubt/Denial, and Ojalá. E.g.: Ojalá llueva por la tarde. (Hopefully, it will rain this afternoon.)

Subjunctive in Various Tenses:

  1. Present Subjunctive: E.g. of -AR verb - Descansar (to rest):

    • ...que yo descanse
    • ...que tú descanses
    • ...que él/ella/Ud. descanse
    • ...que nosotros descansemos
    • ...que vosotros descanséis
    • ...que ellos/ellas/Uds. descansen
  2. Imperfect Subjunctive: It involves using the 3rd person plural form of the preterite tense, and its stem dictates the formation. Irregularities in preterite are retained. E.g. of -ER verb - Vivir (to live):

    • ...que yo viviera
    • ...que tú vivieras
    • ...que él/ella/Ud. viviera
    • ...que nosotros viviéramos
    • ...que vosotros vivierais
    • ...que ellos/ellas/Uds. vivieran
  3. Present Perfect Subjunctive: It combines the present subjunctive of 'haber' with the past participle. E.g.: ...que yo haya descansado (...that I have rested.)

  4. Pluperfect Subjunctive: This tense merges the imperfect subjunctive of 'haber' with the past participle. E.g.: ...que yo hubiera descansado (...that I had rested.)

Noteworthy Points:

  1. The present subjunctive endings invert expectations: -ar verbs start with -e, and -er and -ir verbs start with -a.
  2. Some verbs manifest stem changes, with -ir verbs demonstrating distinct irregularities.
  3. Verbs like 'dar', 'ir', 'saber', 'haber', 'estar', and 'ser' do not conform to the typical formation rules and must be memorized separately.
  4. Spelling adjustments are occasionally required to maintain proper pronunciation, especially for verbs like ‘sacar’ and ‘comenzar’.

Final Thought

The subjunctive mood, integral to expressive Spanish communication, is intricate, necessitating attentiveness to detail and practice. By grasping its rules and recognizing situations calling for its application, one can effectively convey nuances of desires, doubts, recommendations, and emotions in Spanish.

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