The Spanish Subjunctive

A comprehensive guide

Rob Ashby

Rob Ashby

The Spanish Obsessive

This is a comprehensive guide to the Spanish subjunctive.
The subjunctive is complex, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. This guide breaks it down, and teaches you the conjugations, uses, and common mistakes for using the subjunctive.
You’ll also learn shortcuts and hacks to help you conquer the subjunctive and sound like a native! Ready?

In this guide, you’ll find seven chapters dedicated to helping you progress through the subjunctive.

We’ll cover its conjugations, meanings, and uses, and provide you with exercises at key points to check your understanding. You’ll also find a collection of phrases in the final chapter.

We also feature “learner’s advice” throughout, from Rob. This will help you navigate the common pitfalls, and know what common learner mistakes and perceptions to watch out for.

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What is the Spanish subjunctive?

The Spanish subjunctive is a mood, rather than a tense. It’s used in certain circumstances, such as:

  • To express doubt
  • To show feeling or emotion about something
  • To show whether we think something is true or not
  • We have the subjunctive in English too! Although it’s not as commonly used as the Spanish subjunctive, phrases such as the following use the English subjunctive:

  • “If I were you”
  • “So be it”
  • “If I had known”
  • Is the subjunctive difficult to learn?

    We prefer not to describe it as “difficult” – it just takes a little longer to get used to than other grammar areas. Why?

    It’s an alien concept to English native speakers

    Although we do have the English subjunctive, English speakers just aren’t accustomed to conjugating their verbs in this way. Just as with gender, the Spanish subjunctive is quite an alien concept to us.

    Even for speakers of other romance languages which use the subjunctive, the Spanish subjunctive has a lot of differences compared to French or Italian.

    There are so many rules

    It’s true – there are a lot of patterns of use, and exceptions to the rules… If you’ve studied Spanish for a while, you’ll be used to “exceptions to the rules”! However, even for a language so full of “exceptions”, the Spanish subjunctive is in a class of its own. While this can be discouraging, fear not! We will break it down for you, and ensure you understand the “why” behind every rule.

    More conjugations to learn!

    That’s also true. However, as with all Spanish conjugations, you just need practice. It’s only difficult until you’ve had sufficient practice, and it will become second-nature. We’ve put practice exercises throughout this guide to help you on your way.

    The Spanish subjunctive is not necessarily difficult; it just takes a little longer to master​

    There are two main areas which you’ll need to learn in order to master the subjunctive:
    1. Conjugations. The Spanish subjunctive has its own set of verb endings, which you’ll need to learn (we’ll cover that in the next chapter).
    2. Uses. Once you can conjugate the subjunctive, you then need to know when to use it. We have four chapters which cover this.