Learning when to use the subjunctive mood can be particularly challenging for English-speakers learning Spanish. That’s probably because the subjunctive mood is distinguished from the indicative mood so infrequently in English.

The most common mood, the indicative mood, is used to refer to what is real, to state facts, to make declarations. For example, the verb in “Leo el libro” (I am reading the book) is in the indicative mood.

The subjunctive mood is typically used to express probability, subjectivity, doubt…in such a way that the verb’s meaning relates to how the speaker feels about it. In the sentence “Espero que esté feliz” (I hope that she is happy), the second verb (esté or “is”) may or may not be reality; what is important here is the speaker’s attitude toward the final half of the sentence.

The subjunctive can expresse a wish, intent or command for a possible action or state of being. It is usually used in subordinate clauses that begin with que or si, although in some sentences (such as simple sentences expressing doubt), a subjunctive verb can be the main verb in the sentence.


Regular verbs:

trabajar comer vivir
(yo) trabaj-e com-a viv-a
(tú) trabaj-es com-as viv-as
(usted, él, ella) trabaj-e com-a viv-a
(nosotros, -.as) trabaj-emos com-amos viv-amos
(vosotros, -as) trabaj-éis com-áis viv-áis
(ustedes, ellos, ellas) trabaj-en com-an viv-an


Irregular verbs:


Verbs ending in turn Examples
-car C in Q Acercar > acerque
-zar Z in C Alcanzar > alcance
-gar G en GU Apagar > apague
consonant + -cerconsontant + cir C in Z Vencer > venza
-ger G in J Coger > coja
-guir GU en g Seguir > siga



Practical examples of the use of the subjunctive with explanation.

Quiero que no tengas frío. (I want you to not be cold.) It’s irrelevant whether the person is cold or not. The sentence expresses a wish, not reality.

Siento que tengas frío. (I’m sorry you’re cold.) The sentence expresses the speaker’s emotions about a perceived reality. What is important in this sentence is the speaker’s feelings, not whether the other person is cold.

Te doy mi chaqueta para que no tengas frío. (I’m giving you my coat so you won’t be cold.) The sentence expresses the speaker’s intent, not necessarily reality.

Se permite que lleven chaquetas allí. (People are allowed to wear jackets there.) The phrase expresses permission for an action to take place.

Di a ella que lleve una chaqueta. (Tell her to wear her jacket.) Expresses a command or wish of the speaker.

No hay nadie que tenga frío. (Nobody is cold.) Expression of negation of the action in a subordinate clause.

Tal vez tenga frío. (Perhaps he is cold.) This is an expression of doubt.

Si yo fuera un rico, tocaría el violín. (If I were a rich man, I would play the fiddle.) This is an expression of a statement contrary to fact.


The following is a list of clauses commonly associated with the use of the subjunctive:

a menos que … (= unless …)

antes (de) que … (= before …)

con tal (de) que … (= provided that …)

cuando … (= when …)

conviene que … (= it is advisable that …)

después (de) que … (= after …)

dudar que … (= to doubt that …)

en caso de que … (= in case …)

en cuanto … (= as soon as …)

es difícil que … (= it’s unlikely that …)

es fácil que … (= it’s likely that …)

es fantástico que …(= it’s fantastic that …)

es imposible que … (= it’s impossible that …)

es increíble que … (= it’s incredible that …)

es (una) lástima que … (= it’s a pity that …)

es mejor que … (= it’s better that …)

es necesario que … (= it’s necessary that …)

esperar que … (= to wish that …)

es raro que … (= it’s rare that …)

es ridículo que … (= it’s ridiculous that …)

estar contento que (= to be happy that …)

hasta que … (= until …)

mandar que … (= to order that …)

mientras que … (= while …)

no es cierto que … (= it’s not certain that …)   (note! Es cierto que + indicativo)

no estar seguro de que … (= to not be sure that …)  (note! Estar seguro + indicativo)

no parecer que … (= to not seem that …)   (note! Parece que + indicativo)

no pensar que … (= to not think that …)   (note! Pensar + indicativo)

ojalá que … (= if only he would …)

para que … (= in order that …)

pedir que … (= to ask that …)

preferir que … (= to prefer that …)

puede ser que … (= it may be that …)

querer que … (= to want that …)

sin que … (= without …)

tan pronto como … (= as soon as …)

tener miedo de que … (= to be afraid that …)