If you are studying Spanish, you will have noticed that one of the most difficult grammar topics to learn has to do with conjugating verbs. In this article we are going to explain how to use the subjunctive mode, always a complicated topic for Spanish learners!
Let’s start by taking a look at verbs, tenses and verb modes to go deeper into the main topic: the subjunctive mode in Spanish.
Verbs: tenses and verb modes
In grammar, verbs are a type of word or grammatical category that expresses an action, that is, a movement, a condition, an achievement or a state of the subject. The verb plays a fundamental role in a sentence, since there must be at least one verb in every sentence.
The verb contains all the information about what the subject does. This information is known as verb accidents: number, person, tense, mood and voice.
The number and person refer to who is doing the action expressed by the verb. Voice can be active or passive. The tense indicates whether the action is past, present or future. And finally, the verb mode indicates the way in which the action is performed, as well as the attitude of the speaker with respect to what is said.
In Spanish there are three verb modes:
The Indicative mode: it is used when we want to describe real or possible actions to be carried out. It is the most commonly used. It is used to describe what is happening, what happened or what will happen. Examples:
- Ayer nevó
- Hoy esta nevando
- Mañana nevará
The Imperative mode: This mode is used exclusively to give orders. To order something to the receiver of the message in the hope of influencing his or her behavior. Example:
The Subjunctive mode: The subjunctive is used to express desires, probabilities or hypothetical situations. Examples:
- ¡Espero que venga!
- ¡Ojalá llueva mañana!
The subjunctive mode in Spanish
When a sentence is expressing a desire, a feeling, a doubt, a probability, an opinion or giving advice or a suggestion, the subjunctive mode is used. Let’s see, with some practical examples, what the subjunctive mode is and how it is used in Spanish:
To express desire, feeling:
- Espero que el examen sea fácil
- ¿Quieres que vayamos al cine?
To express doubt:
- No creo que pueda ir hoy a tu casa
To express probability:
- ¡Ojalá vinieras a la fiesta!
To express advice or suggestion:
- Te aconsejo que vendas el coche. Tiene ya muchos años.
Subjunctive mood verb tenses
The subjunctive mood has six verb forms or tenses: three simple (present, imperfect preterite and imperfect future) and three compound (perfect preterite, pluperfect preterite and future perfect).
The future imperfect and future perfect are two verb tenses that are not normally used in everyday Spanish. They are only used in old books, legal or very formal language.
How to learn the subjunctive mode in Spanish
We are going to explain some tips for you to know when you can use the subjunctive mode in Spanish:
The subjunctive mode is very often used together with the expression “querer que…”. Let’s look at some examples:
- Quiero que hagas la tarea del colegio: the verb hacer is conjugated in the present subjunctive. In this case it expresses desire.
- Quieres que tu equipo gane el partido de fútbol: The verb ganar is conjugated in the present subjunctive. In this case, it also expresses desire.
Verbs in the subjunctive mood also often appear behind the word ojalá. This word is an interjection that expresses desire for something to happen. Subjunctive mode verbs are used after the word ojalá. Let’s see some examples:
Ojalá haga sol mañana y podamos ir a la playa
Ojalá apruebe el examen y obtenga el carnet de conducir
In sentences where the expression para que is used, the verb appears in the subjunctive mood. This type of expression is used in sentences to provide a purpose. Let’s see how the subjunctive is used with some examples:
Enciende el fuego para que se caliente la casa.
Estudia bien el temario para que apruebes el curso.
The subjunctive mode in Spanish is a bit complicated, it’s true. But you have to lose the fear of using it when you are learning. It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes. You have to practice and the best way is to take the plunge and not miss the opportunity to use it when you are learning.