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Uses of the Present Subjunctive Tense

 

The present subjunctive has various important uses in Spanish.   

This lesson includes information on:

1. Subjunctive Form in Noun Clauses

2. Subjunctive Form in Main Clauses

3. Subjunctive Form in Adverbial Clauses

4. Subjunctive Form in Adjective Clauses

5. Subjunctive Form with Indefinites

6. Subjunctive Form in Independent Sentences

 

1.  Subjunctive Form in Noun Clauses

The uses of the subjunctive form in noun clauses: 

The subjunctive is formed with two clauses:

·         the main clause

·         the dependent clause 

Generally these clauses use the connecting word que.

The two subjects of the same sentence must be different. 

·         The main clause should be in the indicative form: present indicative, future indicative, and commands.  

·         The dependent clause should be in the subjunctive form: present subjunctive.

For example:

Spanish

English

Yo espero que tú hables español.

I hope that you speak Spanish.

 

 

2.  Subjunctive Form in Main Clauses

The subjunctive is used in the main clause when it refers to:

·         Hypothetical states

·         Doubts

·         Emotions

·         Commands

·         Negations

·         Advice or begging

·         Permission or prohibition

·         Wishes

a)     If we have only one subject in a sentence, we use the infinitive. 

For example: 

Spanish

English

Espero regresar temprano.

I hope to return early.

 

b)    With the verbs creer and pensar, one uses the subjunctive in the question and negative forms. 

For example:

Spanish

English

¿Crees quellueva mañana?

Do you think it will rain tomorrow?

¿No creen ustedes que él sea un buen hombre?

Don’t you think he is a good man?

No piensoque seaun buen hombre.

I don’t think he is a good man.

 

One uses the indicative form in the affirmative. 

For example: 

Spanish

English

Pienso queesun buen hombre.

I think he is a good man.

 

The verb pensar uses the subjunctive when it is in question form. 

For example:

Spanish

English

¿Piensas tú queél regrese temprano.

Do you think that he will return early?

When it is in the negative form, it is necessary to use the verb creer and not the verb pensar

For example:

Spanish

English

No creo quevengatemprano.

I don’t think he will come early.

 

c)      Use the subjunctive when the main clause is:

o        Impersonal

o        Expresses doubt, probability or an opinion

For example:

Spanish

English

Es necesario quevuelvaspronto.

It is necessary that you return soon.

 

3. Subjunctive Form in Adverbial Clauses

The subjunctive in adverbial clauses: 

a)     Main phrase + expression or time or concession + subjunctive or indicative verb. For the subjunctive in the adverbial clauses you don’t need to have different subjects in each clause.

Uses the indicative when we are expressing a real experience or a truth.

For example

Spanish

English

Vela televisión cuando está en casa.

She watches TV when she is home.

 

The subjunctive is used when the subordinate clauses expresses an action that will  happened, or when there is a command form: 

For example: 

Spanish

English

Verála televisión cuando venga.

She will watch TV when she comes.

¡Mirala televisionsólocuando

termines de estudiar!

Watch TV only when you finish studying!

 

b)     Main phrase + expression of purpose, condition, or anticipation + subjunctive verb

Used only with the subjunctive because it expresses actions that have not yet happened. 

For example:

Spanish

English

Volveréantes de que me lo pidas.

I will return before you ask me to.

 

4.  Subjunctive Form in Adjective Clauses

The subjunctive with adjective clauses: 

 

Noun or pronoun + relative pronoun + indicative or subjunctive verb

a)     Uses the indicative form in the subordinate phrase in order to indicate that the person or thing to whom or to which one refers exists or is known. 

For example: 

Spanish

English

Inscribimosa la chica que llegó ayer por la tarde.

We registered the girl who arrived yesterday afternoon.

 

b)     Uses the subjunctive in the subordinate clause in order to indicate that the person to whom or thing to which one refers does not exist or is not known.

For example:

Spanish

English

Inscribiremos a la chica que lleguetemprano.

We will register the girl who arrives early.

 

5.  Subjunctive Form with Indefinites

The subjunctive with indefinites: 

  • Cualquiera
  • Quienquiera
  • Dondequiera
  • Comoquiera

cualesquiera + indicative or subjunctive verb

a)     Uses the indicative form to express a real experience. 

For example:

Spanish

English

Dondequieraque parábamosencontrábamos los recursos necesarios.

Wherever we stop we find the necessary resources.

 

b)     Use the subjunctive to express an uncertain action that normally has not happened. 

For example:

Spanish

English

Dondequieraque paremosencontraremos los recursos necesarios.

Wherever we stop we will find the necessary resources.

 

6.  Subjunctive Form in Independent Sentences

The subjunctive in independent sentences: 

a)     Expressions of doubt:

Use acaso, quizá(s), tal vez with the indicative form to express certainty.

For example:

Spanish

English

Tal vez volverá mañana (creo que volverá.). 

Perhaps she will return tomorrow (I think she will return.)

 

Use acaso, quizá(s), tal vez with the subjunctive to emphasize doubt.

For example:

Spanish

English

Tal vez vuelvamañana (espero que vuelva).

Perhaps she will return tomorrow (I think she will return.)

 

b)     Expressions of desire: 

Use ojalá que with the present subjunctive form to express a wish or desire in the present or in the future. 

For example:

Spanish

English

Ojalá que vuelvamañana. 

 I hope she will return tomorrow.