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2. More on the Subjunctive Mood

We touched on the subjunctive mood in our beginners section for Verbs (Present Subjunctive of Regular Verbs and Present Subjunctive of Irregular Verbs) but there is a little more to it than what was covered there that is worth mentioning.

The subjunctive is quite frustrating for English speakers who are trying to learn Spanish but since it is used quite a bit in regular conversation, it is worth taking a little more time and trouble to understand how it works. The following section goes into a little more detail on its usage, which you as an intermediate level Spanish speaker should find very useful.

Expressions that use the subjunctive

Here are some common expressions that require the use of the subjunctive. You have already seen some of them in the Beginner Level of this course. The following expressions take the subjunctive because they express personal feelings about something:

Querer que – to want
Estar contento que – to be happy that
Alegrarse que – to be glad that
Preferir que – to prefer that
Temer que – to fear that
Esperar que – to hope that
Sugerir que – to suggest that
Recomendar que – to recommend that
Aconsejar que – to advise that
Exigir que – to advise that
Mandar que – to order that
Rogar que – to beg
Pedir que – to ask that

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special case 1: 'Decir' and 'escribir'

'Decir' - to say and 'escribir' - to write, are 2 verbs that may or may not use a subjunctive depending on the context. You only use the subjunctive if you are commanding someone to do something. Check out the examples below.

Subjunctive usage:

Les digo a los niños que aprendan el subjuntivo – I tell the children to learn the subjunctive
Ella me escribe para que yo traiga su libro – She writes me to bring her book

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Indicative usage:

Juliana me dice que ella no viene mañana – Juliana tells me that she is not coming tomorrow

Roberto me escribe que va a trabajar hasta el fin del mes – Roberto writes me that he will work till the end of the month

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The subjunctive and the negative for of a verb

Some common personal expressions take the subjunctive only in the negative form. Watch out of the following:

Creo que es muy fácil – I believe it is very easy
No creo que sea muy fácil – I don’t believe it is very easy

Pienso que puedes alcanzarlo – I think you can reach it
No pienso que puedas alcanzarlo – I don’t think you can reach it

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The following expressions follow the same rule. Only the negative form takes the subjunctive:

Es cierto que – to be certain that
Estar seguro que – to be sure that

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The subjunctive and impersonal expressions

However, there are also a number of impersonal expressions that take the subjunctive, for example:

Es importante que – it’s important that
Es necesario que – it’s necessary that
Es imposible que – it’s impossible that
Es posible que – it’s possible that
Es probable que  - it’s probable that
Es bueno que – it’s good that
Es malo que – it’s bad that
Es una lástima que – it’s a pity that
Es mejor que – it’s better that
Es raro que – it’s strange that

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special case 2: 'buscar' and 'necesitar'

Verbs like ‘buscar’ – ‘to look for’ and ‘necesitar’ – ‘to need’, also take the subjunctive in the following cases:

Conozco a un actor que habla tres idiomas – I know an actor who speaks three languages
Busco un actor que hable tres idiomas – I am looking for an actor that speaks three languages (Subjunctive)

Conozco a alguien que puede ayudarnos – I know someone who can help us
Necesito alguien que pueda ayudarnos – I need someone who can help us (Subjunctive)

Sonido Click here to listen

other general cases

The following are a few more common conjunctions that also take the subjunctive:

A fin de que – in order that
De manera que – so that
A pesar de que – in spite of
A menos que – unless
En caso de que – in case
Sin que – without
Con tal de que – provided that
Para que – so that

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Let’s take a look at a few examples:

Vea películas en español para que aprenda más vocabulario – Watch movies in Spanish so that you learn more vocabulary
Te traigo mi libro para que puedas leerlo mientras tanto – I will bring my book so that you can read it in the meantime
El nos ayudará con tal de que le digamos la verdad – He will help us, provided (that) we tell him the truth
No iré a la playa a menos que vengas con nosotros – I won’t go to the beach unless you come with us

Sonido Click here to listen

If you want to tell someone to do something without using a command (the imperative in the Beginner Level) you can use ‘que’ + subjunctive.

¡Que tenga un buen viaje! – Have a good trip!
¡Que vuelvan rápido! – Come back soon! (May you return soon!)
¡Que estés bien!  - Be well!

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Here are some miscellaneous examples of expressions that take the subjunctive:

Sea lo que sea, ustedes tienen que terminar este trabajo – Be as it may, you have to finish this job
No hay nadie en este país que tenga esta estampilla – There isn’t anyone in this country who has this stamp
No hay ningún carro que me guste aquí – There isn’t a single car that I like here
Vamos a salir hoy? Como quieras – Are we going out today? Whatever you want
Quizás vengan pronto – Perhaps they will come soon
Ojalá sepamos que hacer – I hope we will know what to do
Tal vez no haya mucho tráfico – Perhaps there isn’t much traffic

Sonido Click here to listen