In Spanish, there are two moods: the indicative and the subjunctive. The latter is used to express different functions related to uncertainty or abstract ideas.
A tip for remembering the usages is to keep in mind the acronym W.E.I.R.D.O = Wishes, Emotions, Impersonal Expressions, Recommendations, Doubt or Denial, and Ojalá.
In this article, we will be studying mostly usages and functions. Click on this link to learn more about the different conjugations of the subjunctive.
Dudo que tengamos suficiente comida para la fiesta.
I doubt that we will have enough food for the party.
We are going to review the subjunctive with semi-fixed phrases or chunks, which are sentences that are used consistently in this mood that you have to make slight modifications to.
This will make it easier for you to use the functions naturally. Then, you just have to familiarize yourself with the conjugation.
Following the acronym, let's start reviewing the first usage: Wishes.
Rule 1. When you want to express that you would like something to happen, that you would like to experience something, or some other kind of desire (even demands), you will use the subjunctive.
Rule 2. To express this function when you are referring to what you feel or think, you can use the following constructions. If you want to talk about someone else, simply adjust the verbs accordingly.
|Construction in Spanish||Translation|
|Deseo que||I wish that|
|Quisiera que||I wish that / I would like that|
|Me gustaría que||I would like that|
|Espero que||I hope that|
|Necesito que||I need that|
|Exijo que||I demand that|
|Quieren que||They want that|
Rule 3. After selecting the construction, add the verb conjugated in the subjunctive. Here are a couple examples using two different subjunctive tenses.
Quiero que comamos afuera hoy.
I want us to eat out today.
Mi empresa me exigió que trabajara en la oficina.
My company required me to work in the office.
Rule 4. When you want to express how you feel about something, most of the time you will use the subjunctive.
Rule 5. To express this function, you can use the following constructions.
|Me encanta que||I love that|
|Odio que||I hate that|
|No me gusta que||I don't like that|
|Me gusta que||I like that|
|Me aburre que||It bores me that|
|Me irrita que||It irritates me that|
|Me hace feliz que||It makes me happy that|
If you want to talk about how someone else is feeling, simply use the appropriate indirect pronoun (te, le, nos, os, les).
Les gusta (a ellos) que los empleados trabajen hasta tarde.
They like employees to work late.
Rule 6. Then, add the verb conjugated in any of the subjunctive tenses. Here is an example in the present subjunctive.
Me irrita bastante que la gente tire basura.
It irritates me a lot when people litter.
Rule 7. Impersonal expressions, as their name implies, do not include a specific person performing the action. Expressions concerning weather and temperature, for example, are impersonal, because no one is performing the action of rain.
However, impersonal sentences are not only limited to weather. When we give general opinions, we tend to use impersonal sentences.
Rule 8. Here are some examples of impersonal constructions you can use with the subjunctive:
|Es importante que||It is important that|
|Es increíble que||It is unbelievable that|
|Es interesante que||It is interesting that|
|Es probable que||It is probable that|
|Es urgente que||It is urgent that|
As you may notice, a good indicator of impersonal sentences is that they begin with es followed by an adjective.
Rule 9. Then, you are going to add the verb conjugated in a subjunctive tense. Here is an example of the imperfect subjunctive.
Es una pena que la gente no reciclara más en las décadas anteriores.
It's a pity that people didn't recycle more in previous decades.
Rule 10. When we talk about recommendations, we are also including suggestions, advice, etc.
To use the subjunctive with recommendations, you must use a variation of the following constructions in your sentence, as there are other ways to offer recommendations in Spanish that do not require the subjunctive, such as with the conditional.
Rule 11. Since this is a fairly straightforward topic, the expressions you are going to use will probably be limited to the following:
|Te sugiero que||I suggest that you|
|Aconsejo que||I advise that|
|Te recomiendo que||I recommend that you|
Of course, the indirect object pronouns can be replaced (or omitted) with whatever best fits what you are communicating.
Le sugiero que tome esta oferta.
I suggest you take this offer.
Rule 12. Then, add the verb conjugated in the subjunctive. Here is an example with the present subjunctive.
Te sugiero que tomes mucha agua antes de hacer senderismo.
I suggest you drink plenty of water before hiking.
Doubts or Denials
Rule 13. When you want to express uncertainty about something, most of the time you are going to use the subjunctive by using any (variation) of the following constructions.
|No pienso que||I don't think that|
|No creo que||I don't believe/think that|
|Dudo que||I doubt that|
|No estoy seguro/segura/segure que||I am not sure that|
Rule 14. Then, add the verb conjugated in the subjunctive. Here is an example with the present perfect subjunctive.
Present Perfect Subjunctive
No creo que la reunión de esta mañana haya salido bien.
I don't think this morning's meeting went well.
This is a word closely associated with the present subjunctive, and we will explain why. Ojalá is of Arabic origin, لو شاء الله (law sha'a Allah), meaning if God will. Although it does not necessarily have a religious connotation in today's Spanish, it does retain the essence of hope.
Rule 15. As with the previous constructions, ojalá is accompanied by que plus the verb conjugated in any of the tenses in the subjunctive.
Ojalá que llueva hoy.
Hopefully it will rain today.
Present Perfect Subjunctive
Ojalá que todo haya salido bien.
Hopefully everything went well.
Imperfect Perfect Subjunctive
Ojalá que hubieses comido antes de venir.
I wish you had eaten before you came.
And, that's it! Now you know what the functions of the subjunctive are. Just remember the following points:
- The subjunctive is used to talk about anything that has to do with uncertainty or abstract ideas.
- Learning the phrases associated with each function is much more effective than trying to remember each element separately.
Mi mamá está horneando un pastel.