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The Spanish subjunctive, an introduction

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The Spanish subjunctive, an introduction
The Spanish Subjunctive: An
Introduction
(El subjuntivo español: una introducción)
Quiero que Ud.
pase por el Control
de Agricultura.
The Spanish Subjunctive
Until now, you have been using verb tenses (present,
preterit, and imperfect) in the indicative mood (or mode).
The indicative is used to express real, definite, or factual
actions or states of being.
In this chapter, you will learn about the subjunctive
mode. It is used to express the hypothetical or subjective,
such as a speaker’s attitudes, wishes, feelings, emotions,
or doubts. Unlike the indicative, which states facts, the
subjunctive describes reality subjectively, or refers to
actions or states that are not yet reality at all (and maybe
never will be).
The Spanish Subjunctive
Notice the following examples:
Creo que Luis va a Cartagena.
I believe that Luis is going to
Cartagena. (Certainty: indicative)
No creo que Luis vaya a San Andrés.
I don’t think that Luis is going to San
Andrés. (Uncertainty: subjunctive)
The forms of the subjunctive
Before we learn usage, we must learn the forms we will be
working with. Think of it as learning the mechanics or
“nuts and bolts” before assembling the tool.
For all but six verbs in Spanish, we can apply a simple
three-step process with which to construct the forms.
Step 1: Start with the yo form of the verb in the present
tense (this applies to all three conjugations):
hablo
como
vivo
The forms of the subjunctive
Step 1: Start with the yo form of the verb in the present
tense (this applies to all three conjugations):
hablo
como
vivo
If we are careful to begin with this step, verbs with
irregular stems and yo forms will be included and
will not be considered irregular in the subjunctive:
conocer → conozco oír → oigo
decir → digo
pedir → pido
dormir → duermo
perder → pierdo
hacer → hago
querer → quiero
tener → tengo
traer → traigo
venir → vengo
ver → veo
The forms of the subjunctive
Step 2: Take off the final o of the yo form:
hablo
como
vivo
Step 3: Add the “opposite” endings:
For -ar verbs: Add -er verb endings.
hable
hables
hable
hablemos
habléis
hablen
Notice that the first- and third-person singular forms are
identical.
The forms of the subjunctive
Step 3: Add the “opposite” endings:
For -er and -ir verbs: Add -ar verb endings to both.
coma
comas
coma
comamos
comáis
coman
viva
vivas
viva
vivamos
viváis
vivan
Again, first- and third-person singular forms are identical.
The forms of the subjunctive
Stem-changing -ar and -er verbs have the same stem
changes as in the present indicative.
recordar (o  ue)
recuerde
recuerdes
recuerde
recordemos
recordéis
recuerden
perder (e  ie)
pierda
pierdas
pierda
perdamos
perdáis
pierdan
Remember, however, that stem changes do
not apply to nosotros and vosotros forms.
The forms of the subjunctive
You may recall the third-person singular and plural changes
that occur in the preterit of stem-changing -ir verbs.
dormimos
dormir  dormí
dormiste dormisteis
durmió
durmieron
u
The same changes occur in the
nosotros and vosotros forms of
the subjunctive.
These changes occur
only in stem-changing
-ir verbs.
duerma durmamos
duermas durmáis
duerma duerman
The forms of the subjunctive
You may recall the third-person singular and plural changes
that occur in the preterit of stem-changing -ir verbs.
mentimos
mentir  mentí
mentiste mentisteis
mintió mintieron
i
mienta
mientas
mienta
mintamos
mintáis
mientan
The forms of the subjunctive
You may recall the third-person singular and plural changes
that occur in the preterit of stem-changing -ir verbs.
servir 
i
serví
servimos
serviste servisteis
sirvió
sirvieron
sirva
sirvas
sirva
sirvamos
sirváis
sirvan
The forms of the subjunctive
The following spelling changes occur in all forms of
the present subjunctive with verbs whose infinitives
end in -car, -gar, and -zar.
-car c  qu
buscar
busque
busques
busque
busquemos
busquéis
busquen
-gar g  gu
llegar
llegue
llegues
llegue
lleguemos
lleguéis
lleguen
-zar z  c
empezar
empiece
empieces
empiece
empecemos
empecéis
empiecen
The forms of the subjunctive
There are only six truly irregular verbs, that is, verbs to
which we cannot apply our three-step process.
When listed in the following order, the initial letters of each
verb form the acronym DISHES, a useful memory device.
Dar  dé, des, dé, demos, deis, den
Ir  vaya, vayas, vaya, vayamos, vayáis, vayan
Ser  sea, seas, sea, seamos, seáis, sean
Haber  haya, hayas, haya, hayamos, hayáis, hayan
Estar  esté, estés, esté, estemos, estéis, estén
Saber  sepa, sepas, sepa, sepamos, sepáis, sepan
The usage of the subjunctive
The subjunctive normally occurs in the subordinate
clause of a two-part sentence (hence the term
subjunctive) and generally is preceded by the relator
que or an adverb such as cuando, donde, etc.
Normally, the main clause has a different subject and
verb than the subordinate clause.
main clause
subordinate clause
Yo quiero que Juan vaya a la fiesta.
S1
V1
S2
V2
The usage of the subjunctive
If there is no change of subject, that is, if the subject
of the main clause is the same as that of the
subordinate clause, the subjunctive is generally not
used, especially with verbs of volition, such as
querer, and verbs that express emotion.
main clause
subordinate clause
Yo quiero que yo vaya a la fiesta.
S1
V1
S1 V2
Although there are two different verbs . . .
. . . there is only one subject.
The usage of the subjunctive
If there is no change of subject, that is, if the subject
of the main clause is the same as that of the
subordinate clause, the subjunctive is generally not
used, especially with verbs of volition, such as
querer, and verbs that express emotion.
In these cases only one clause is necessary . . .
Yo quiero ir a la fiesta.
S
AV
INF
. . . utilizing a subject, auxiliary verb, and infinitive.
The usage of the subjunctive
The verb or expression in the main clause
determines whether to use the subjunctive or
the indicative in the subordinate clause.
Three simple principles can be applied in almost every case.
If the main clause expresses . . .
1. Cause or prevention.
2. Personal bias or emotion.
3. Falseness or unreality.
. . . the subjunctive is used in the
subordinate clause.
The usage of the subjunctive
1. Cause or prevention: When the subject in the main
clause uses a verb that tends to cause or prevent
something in the subordinate clause, the subjunctive
is always used in the subordinate clause.
(Notice that que unites the two clauses.)
 Benjamín quiere que Antonio ponga la mesa.
(indicative: pone)
 Yo insisto en que tú hagas el trabajo.
(indicative: haces)
 Prohibimos que los clientes fumen en la oficina.
(indicative: fuman)
The usage of the subjunctive
Following are some common verbs and expressions that
might be used to cause or prevent.
Cause
querer
pedir
necesitar
insistir
permitir
sugerir
recomendar
aconsejar
mandar
obligar
ser importante, imprescindible, permisible,
necesario, innecesario, preferible, mejor, urgente
Prevention
impedir
prohibir
no permitir
The usage of the subjunctive
2. Personal bias or emotion: When the verb in the
main clause expresses a feeling, emotion, or
personal bias, the subjunctive is usually (but not
always) used in the subordinate clause.
NOTE: It is in this area of Spanish that the
subjunctive is most quickly falling into disuse,
and is being replaced by the indicative.
Nevertheless, for instructional purposes, we will
always use the subjunctive in these cases.
The usage of the subjunctive
2. Personal bias or emotion: When the verb in the
main clause expresses a feeling, emotion, or
personal bias, the subjunctive is usually (but not
always) used in the subordinate clause.
 Me alegro de que tú saques buenas notas.
(indicative: sacas)
 ¡Qué lástima que ellos no sepan su número de
teléfono!
(indicative: saben)
 Lamento que hayas perdido tu dinero.
(indicative: has perdido)
 Me gusta que Alfredo te ayude.
(indicative: ayuda)
The usage of the subjunctive
But, again, just as with verbs of volition, if there is no
change of subject, a single clause with infinitive is used
rather than the subjunctive.
 Me alegro de sacar buenas notas.
 Lamento haber perdido mi dinero.
 Me gusta ayudarte.
The usage of the subjunctive
Following are some common verbs and expressions that
express personal bias or emotion.
gustar
alegrarse (de)
asombrar sorprender
temer
esperar
apenar
entristecer
sentir
ser triste ser una lástima ser maravilloso
ser bueno, terrible, horroroso, fantástico, etc.
estar alegre, contento, triste, etc.
ojalá
The usage of the subjunctive
3. Falseness or unreality: If the main clause
indicates that something is true or indeed exists,
the indicative is used in the subordinate clause.
 Es verdad que los niños comen demasiado.
 Estoy seguro que Alonso tiene su pasaporte.
By contrast, if the main clause indicates doubt, falseness or
unreality, the subjunctive is used in the subordinate clause.
 No creemos que vaya a nevar mañana.
 Mis amigos dudan que yo pueda pilotear el avión.
 No hay nadie que sepa la verdad.
The usage of the subjunctive
But, once more, if there is no change of subject, one
clause with an infinitive can be used in many cases.
 No estoy seguro de tener mi pasaporte.
(No estoy seguro de que yo tenga mi pasaporte.)
 No creo saber la verdad.
(No creo que yo sepa la verdad.)
 Dudo poder pilotear el avión.
(Dudo que yo pueda pilotear el avión.)
The usage of the subjunctive
Following are some common verbs and expressions that
express truth or falseness.
Truth
creer
afirmar
ser cierto
ser obvio
estar seguro
confirmar
ser indudable
ser verdad
Falseness
no creer
negar
dudar
ser (im)posible
no ser verdad
jurar
asegurar
ser evidente
ser (estar) claro
no estar seguro
no poder creer
ser (im)probable
no ser cierto
The usage of the subjunctive
Finally, the subjunctive is always used after the
following phrases (and a few other similar ones).
When listed in the order shown below, they form the
acronym ESCAPA, a useful memory device.
E
S
C
A
P
A
en caso de que
sin que
con tal (de) que
antes (de) que
para que
a menos que
(in case)
(without, unless)
(provided that)
(before)
(so that, in order that)
(unless)
FIN
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