Spanish Present Subjunctive – Conjugation and Uses of this Tense

Welcome to our lesson about the Spanish Present Subjunctive (“Presente del Subjuntivo”), a tense used in some types of sentences in which we express subjectivity: desire, doubt, emotion…

The Present Subjunctive is usually taught in Spanish courses in intermediate/advanced levels, after the student already has a good grasp of all Indicative tenses.

Learning the Present Subjunctive is a challenge on two fronts: First, we should dedicate a good amount of time to learning its conjugation, which has some complexities. Then, we also need to learn the cases where we use the Present Subjunctive, which is used in specific constructions and sentence types.

In this lesson we will cover both aspects, going through the following points:

1. Conjugation of verbs in Spanish Present Subjunctive

Endings

The first thing we need to learn are the endings used for each person. The good news is: these endings apply to both Regular and Irregular Verbs.

In the following table, we see the endings used for verbs ending in “-AR”, and also for verbs ending in “-ER” and “-IR”:

 Verbs ending in -ARVerbs ending in -ER, -IR
yo-e-a
-es-as
él-e-a
nosotros-emos-amos
vosotros-éis-áis
ellos-en-an


Regular Verbs – Forms

In these three examples of Regular Verbs, we can observe the endings we just learned:

 HablarComerVivir
yohablecomaviva
hablescomasvivas
élhablecomaviva
nosotroshablemoscomamosvivamos
vosotroshabléiscomáisviváis
elloshablencomanvivan


Irregular Verbs

Many verbs are Irregular in Present Subjunctive. For these verbs, the endings are the same as for Regular Verbs, but the stem presents some small change.

Which verbs are irregular in Present Subjunctive? We can identify them easily: any verb that has some irregularity in its “yo” form in Present Indicative (the normal Present Tense you already know so well 🙂 ), is also irregular in Present Subjunctive.

Let’s see the different types of irregularities:


Types of Irregularities

1) Verbs ending in “-AR”, “-ER”, whose “yo” form in Present Indicative has a vowel “E” that becomes “IE”, has that same irregularity in Present Subjunctive, for all persons except for “nosotros” and “vosotros”:

 "yo" form in Present IndicativePresent Subjunctive
Pensarpiensopiense, pienses, piense, pensemos, penséis, piensen
Perderpierdopierda, pierdas, pierda, perdamos, perdáis, pierdan


2) Verbs ending in “IR”, whose “yo” form in Present Indicative has a vowel “E” that becomes “IE”, has that same irregularity in Subjunctive, for all persons except for “nosotros” and “vosotros”, where “E” becomes “I”:

 "yo" form in Present IndicativePresent Subjunctive
Preferirprefieroprefiera, prefieras, prefiera, prefiramos, prefiráis, prefieran
Sentirsientosienta, sientas, sienta, sintamos, sintáis, sientan


3) Verbs whose “yo” form in Present Indicative has a vowel “E” that becomes “I”, has that same irregularity in Subjunctive, for all persons:

 "yo" form in Present IndicativePresent Subjunctive
Pedirpidopida, pidas, pida, pidamos, pidáis, pidan
Repetirrepitorepita, repitas, repita, repitamos, repitáis, repitan


4) Verbs whose “yo” form in Present Indicative has a vowel “O” that becomes “UE”, has that same irregularity in Subjunctive, for all persons except for “nosotros” and “vosotros”:

 "yo" form in Present IndicativePresent Subjunctive
Contarcuentocuente, cuentes, cuente, contemos, contéis, cuenten
Poderpuedopueda, puedas, pueda, podamos, podáis, puedan


5) An exception to case 4), “Dormir” and “Morir”: for “nosotros” and “vosotros”, “O” becomes “U” (and “O” becomes “UE” for the other persons):

 "yo" form in Present IndicativePresent Subjunctive
Dormirduermoduerma, duermas, duerma, durmamos, durmáis, duerman
Morirmueromuera, mueras, muera, muramos, muráis, mueran


6) For the verb “Jugar”, the “U” becomes “UE” for all persons except “nosotros” and “vosotros”, and also the “G” becomes “GU”:

 "yo" form in Present IndicativePresent Subjunctive
Jugarjuegojuegue, juegues, juegue, juguemos, juguéis, jueguen


7) Verbs whose “yo” form in Present Indicative has a “C” that becomes “ZC”, present that same irregularity in Subjunctive, for all persons:

 "yo" form in Present IndicativePresent Subjunctive
Conocerconozcoconozca, conozcas, conozca, conozcamos, conozcáis, conozcan
Traducirtraduzcotraduzca, traduzcas, traduzca, traduzcamos, traduzcáis, traduzcan


8) Verbs whose “yo” form in Present Indicative ends in “GO”, form the Present Subjunctive for all persons with the particle  “GA”

 "yo" form in Present IndicativePresent Subjunctive
Hacerhagohaga, hagas, haga, hagamos, hais, hagan
Tenertengotenga, tengas, tenga, tengamos, tenis, tengan


9) For verbs whose Infinitive ends in “UIR”, “I” becomes “Y” :

 "yo" form in Present Indicative"yo" form in Present Indicative
influirinfluyoinfluya, influyas, influya, influyamos, influyáis, influyan
intuirintuyointuya, intuyas, intuya, intuyamos, intuyáis, intuyan


Very Irregular Verbs

Finally, here are 7 verbs that present important irregularities and don’t follow any of the patterns we studied in this lesson:

DarEstarIr
estévaya
desestésvayas
estévaya
demosestemosvayamos
deisestéisvayáis
denesténvayan

SaberSerVer
sepaseavea
sepasseasveas
sepaseavea
sepamosseamosveamos
sepáisseáisveáis
sepanseanvean

Haber
haya
hayas
haya
hayamos
hayáis
hayan

Spelling Changes

Regardless of a verb being regular or irregular, it might also present spelling changes at the end of their stem, for pronunciation reasons.

For example, take the verb “marcar”. That verb is fundamentally regular, but it still requires a change for all persons: the “C” must become “QU”, so that it keeps the “k” sound and maintains a consistent pronunciation.

Here are some examples of spelling changes:

Coger (g → j)coja, cojas, coja, cojamos, cojáis, cojan
Marcar (c → qu)marque, marques, marque, marquemos, marquéis, marquen
Pagar (g → gu)pague, pagues, pague, paguemos, paguéis, paguen
Seguir (gu → g)siga, sigas, siga, sigamos, sigáis, sigan
Utilizar (z → c)utilice, utilices, utilice, utilicemos, utilicéis, utilicen
Vencer (c→ z)venza, venzas, venza, venzamos, venzáis, venzan


2. Uses of the Spanish Present Subjunctive

We use the Subjunctive Mood in certain types of sentences that express subjectivity: desire, doubt, emotion…

The Spanish student should learn each one of the most frequent cases where we use the Spanish Present Subjunctive:


Most frequent cases

1) After verbs that express a wish or preference (“querer, esperar, necesitar, desear, preferir, tener ganas de…”), when they are in Present Tense and followed by the word “que”…, then the next verb in the sentence is in Present Subjunctive:

Queremos que estudies más.
We want that you study more.

Espero que Ana venga a mi cumpleaños.
I hope Ana comes to my birthday.

Ellos prefieren que yo no diga nada.
They prefer that I don’t say anything.


2) In sentences in which we wish something to someone and that start directly with the word “que”, the next verb in the sentence is in Present Subjunctive:

Que tengas buen viaje.
Have a nice trip!

Que lo paséis bien.
You guys have fun!


3) After “ojalá” or “ojalá que”, when they express a wish that seems realistic and possible, the next verb in the sentence is in Present Subjunctive:

Ojalá ganemos el partido.
Let’s hope we win the match.

Ojalá que la gente tome la decisión correcta.
Let’s hope the people make the right choice.


4) After verbs that express a feeling or personal taste (“gustar, interesar, sorprender, preocupar, molestar, dar miedo…”) when they are in Present Tense and followed by the word “que”…, then the next verb in the sentence is in Present Subjunctive:

No me gusta que hables así.
I don’t like that you speak that way.

Nos da miedo que nos ataquen.
We are scared that they might attack us.


5) After these phrases that express a degree of probability: “posiblemente, probablemente, tal vez, quizás, puede que, es posible que, es probable que”, the next verb can be in Present Subjunctive:

Quizás vayamos a Ecuador en verano.
Maybe we’ll go to Ecuador in the Summer.

Es posible que Juan y Pablo nos llamen.
It’s possible that Juan and Pablo call us.


6) After these expressions that express disbelief or doubt: “No creer que, no pensar que, dudar que”:

El director no cree que eso sea importante.
The director doesn’t think that’s important.

Dudo que compremos el coche.
I doubt we’ll buy the car.


7) After expressions that assess or value something, using this structure: “es” + adjective + “que”…

Es bueno que vosotros digáis la verdad.
It’s good for you guys to tell the truth.

Es importante que sepamos la verdad.
It’s important for us to know the truth.


8) After verbs in Present Tense that express a plea, an order or an advice (“pedir, rogar, ordenar, aconsejar, prohibir…”) followed by the word “que”:

Te aconsejo que lo investigues.
I advice you to investigate it.

Mis padres me prohiben que salga de noche.
My parent’s prohibit that I go out at night.


9) After “para que” and “a fin de que”, which express motivation:

Te regalo esta tele para que veas tu serie favorita.
I give you this TV so that you can watch your favorite series.


10) After “cuando…”, only when it introduces a future event that is certain to happen, that future event is in Present Subjunctive:

Llámame cuando llegues al hotel.
Call me when you arrive at the hotel.

Cuando termines el libro, lo comentaremos.
When you finish the book, we’ll talk about it.


11) After “hasta que…”.

No pagaré el ordenador hasta que funcione.
I won’t pay for the computer until it works.


12) After “antes de que…” and “después de que…” referring to present or future actions.

Los niños estudian antes de que lleguen sus amigos.
The children study before their friends come.

No pises el suelo después de que yo friegue.
Don’t step on the floor after I mop.


13) After these expressions that point to a necessary condition: “siempre que, a condición de que, siempre y cuando…”.

Puedes ir a la fiesta siempre que lleves ropa elegante.
You can go to the party as long as you wear elegant clothes.

Siempre y cuando seas amable, la gente te tratará bien.
As long as you are nice, people will treat you well.


14) After these expressions that point to an impediment that would make something that in principle is going to happen, not happen: “salvo que, a no ser que”.

Cocinaré carne, a no ser que seas vegetariano.
I will cook meat, unless you are vegetarian.


15) After these expressions that point to a partial obstacle to an action that ends up happening anyway: “aunque, a pesar de que”.

Aunque no quieras, iremos a ver a mi madre.
Even if you don’t want, we’ll go see my mother.


16) After the relative pronouns “que, donde, quien…” when indicating the hypothetical desired qualities of something or someone:

Busco un piso que tenga 3 habitaciones.
I’m looking for a flat that has 3 rooms.

Queremos una compañera de piso que no fume.
We want a flatmate that doesn’t smoke.


3. Practice: An Exercise about the Present Subjunctive

In the next sentences, fill the gaps in your mind or on a piece of paper using the Present Subjunctive, and check the solutions at the end of this post.

Buscamos un profesor que ______ 1.(saber) francés y alemán.
Antes que tú me ______ 2.(preguntar), voy a contártelo todo.
Cuando nosotros ______ 3.(hablar) bien español, haremos un viaje a Chile.
Es importante que vosotros ______ 4.(poner) los libros en la estantería adecuada.
¿Quieres que te ______ 5.(besar, yo) o prefieres que te ______ 6.(abrazar, yo).
No creo que ellos ______ 7.(comprender) el problema.
Ojalá _____ 8.(hacer, tú) cosas muy interesantes y ______ 9.(aprender, tú) mucho.

Solutions to the Exercise: 1 = sepa, 2 = preguntes, 3 = hablemos, 4 = pongáis, 5 = bese, 6 = abrace, 7 = comprendan, 8 = hagas, 9 = aprendas