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What Triggers the Subjunctive?

You can avoid the subjunctive easily, like this:

Quiero ayudar(te).

But if you have two subjects, you need to use it:

¿ Quieres (1) que te ayude (2) ?

Here’s a (short) list of verbs that, if in position 1 (as in the example above), then the verb in position 2 must be in the subjunctive.

Wanting/Advising

querer

preferir

desear

recomendar

aconsejar

 

Asking/Ordering

pedir/impedir

decir

permitir

hacer

mandar

exigir

conseguir/lograr

Value Judgements/Opinions/Emotions

Está [adj] que [subj]

Está bien que lo hagas

Mi padre está bastante enfadado que vaya a suspender.

-My father is quite annoyed that I’m going to fail.)

Nos alegra mucho que puedas estar aquí.

-We’re very pleased (that) you can be here.

Es una vergüenza que no podamos salir sin el miedo de atracos.

-It’s a disgrace that we can’t go out without fear of muggings.

¿Cómo justificaremos que se gaste tanto dinero?

-How can we justify so much money being spent?

No me gusta que ocurra así.

-I don’t like it happening like that.

 

Doubt, Disbelief, and Possibility

If you’re sure about something, you don’t need the subjunctive, e.g.

Creo que saben la verdad.

No creo que sepan la verdad.

dudar que

esperar que

no creer que/no pensar que/no saber que

Dudo que tengas el dinero.

Espero que te mejores pronto.

Possibility and Likelihood

Es posible/probable que…

Puede ser que

Es probable que lo sepan ya.

Puede que tengas razón.

Futurity

cuando…

tan pronto como…

hasta que…

después de que…

mientras…

When these expressions refer to something that may or may not take place, we use the subjunctive.

Hasta que se cambie la ley no podemos hacer nada.

Purpose

Para que

A fin de que

De modo que

Traje los libros para que pudieses leerlos.

But when we are talking about the result (e.g. what actually happened), not the purpose/intention with de modo que, we use the indicative:

Traje los libros de modo que pudiste leerlos.

I brought the books so (=with the result that) everyone was able to see them.

 

 

Forming the Subjunctive

Source: Acción Gramática

Take the first person, and modify it for the whole conjugation. When learning a new conjugation, I prefer to use first, second, and third (I, You, and He/She/It respectively) first.

Present

Verb stems

Compro Bebo  Subo

Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 11.12.08

Pienso, Vuelvo, Juego

Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 11.12.27

Prefiero, DuermoScreen Shot 2018-03-21 at 11.12.35

Pido

Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 11.12.42Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 11.13.07

Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 11.13.36

Imperfect (Past)

Preterite Stem + Ending

Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 11.13.18Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 11.13.44

Beginners/ Intermediate Refreshers

Podcasts:

Coffee Break Spanish is a great podcast to download to work through if you’re beginning from scratch (or jump to just the episodes that interest you if you’re at an intermediate level). I used to love listening to this while I was on my way to work or cooking at home.

Grammar Books:

If you find grammar boring or confusing, you need these books. They explain everything clearly and concisely.

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  • Acción gramática

A common text used to teach Castilian Spanish worldwide. I love how they break down the conjugations and explain things in a really clear way. This book is a great reference if you already live in Spain and therefore have access to books and magazines in Spanish so just need the “bones” of the language. For excerpts of my notes from this book, click here

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  • Grámatica de uso del español: Teoría y práctica

An excellent series of graded grammar books, with clear explanations all in Spanish and exercises using modern language. I send my students this book in PDF appropriate to their level and and use it to give self-study exercises based on the language they produce in sessions.