CHAPTER ONE

Spanish Subjunctive Conjugations

Rob Ashby

Rob Ashby

The Spanish Obsessive

Before we get started, let’s take a look at the conjugations you’ll need to use the Spanish subjunctive. Flashcards at the ready!

In this chapter, we’ll be looking at how to conjugate verbs in the subjunctive. Here’s what we’ll be covering:

  • Conjugations for the present simple subjunctive
  • Conjugations for the imperfect subjunctive
  • We’ll be doing the above for regular and irregular verbs. However, this is not an exhaustive list (this guide is already long enough!).

    If you are already comfortable with these conjugations, feel free to skip to the next chapter.

    Forming the present subjunctive

    The easiest way to remember this is to think about switching the ending, and think of the yo form:

    -AR verbs switch their endings to -ER verbs
    -ER and -IR verbs switch to -AR endings

    All the conjugations are based on the yo form of the indicative tense (ie, the normal one that you use!)

    For -ar verbs, those endings are: -e, -es, -e, -emos, -éis, -en.

    Let’s take trabajar as an example:

    yo trabaje (trabaj comes from the yo form: yo trabajo)

    tú trabajes

    él, ella, usted trabaje

    nosotros trabajemos

    ustedes, ellos trabajen

    For -er verbs, those endings are: -a, -as, -a, -amos, -áis, -an.

    Let’s try that with comer:

    yo coma (com comes from the yo form of the verb in indicative: yo como )

    tú comas

    él, ella, usted coma

    nosotros comamos

    ustedes, ellos coman

    The “go” verbs

    These guidelines also hold true for those verbs which are very irregular in the yo ordinary tense. Remember the incredibly common -go verbs? Let’s take a look:

    1. We’ll start with tener. The yo, indicative form of tener is tengo:

    Verb Tener

    Yo form in normal tense

    Tengo

    2. Tener is an -er ending verb. So, we switch the ending to the -ar endings: -a, -as, -a, -amos, -áis, -an

    Verb Tener

    Yo form in indicative tense

    Tengo

    Yo in subjunctive

    Tenga

    Tengas

    Él, ella, usted

    Tenga

    Nosotros, nosotras

    Tengamos

    Ustedes, ellos, ellas

    Tengan

    Vosotros, vosotras

    Tengáis

    The same applies for the other “go” ending verbs. These are all either -er or -ir ending, so share the same -ar endings in the subjunctive:

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    Pronoun Tener Salir Poner Hacer

    Yo form in indicative tense

    Tengo

    Salgo

    Pongo

    Hago

    Yo (subjunctive)

    Tenga

    Salga

    Ponga

    Haga

    Tú

    Tengas

    Salas

    Pongas

    Hagas

    El, ella, usted

    Tenga

    Salga

    Ponga

    Haga

    Nosotros, as

    Tengamos

    Salgamos

    Pongamos

    Hagamos

    Ustedes, ellos, ellas

    Tengan

    Salgan

    Pongan

    Hagan

    Vosotros,as

    Tengáis

    Salgáis

    Pongáis

    Hagáis

    Learner’s advice

    These might seem overwhelming – I know they did at first for me! My general advice (and this applies to all grammar, really, but in particular verb conjugations) is to aim for familiarity. You just need to be familiar enough with these forms that you will recognise them when you see them again, and none of them (or at least very few) come as a complete surprise to you. 

    I honestly don’t remember poring over verb tables for hours. I got familiar by looking at them from time to time, but it’s really once you started hearing and using these forms that you’ll learn them properly, and they’ll become second-nature.

    The stem-changing verbs

    The same principle is at play with the stem changing verbs (also known as “radical-changing verbs”):

    1. Start with the yo, indicative form. Let’s take pensar: Yo pienso

    Verb Pensar

    Yo form in normal tense

    Pienso

    2. Pensar is an-ar ending verb. So, we switch to the -er endings: -e, -es, -e, -emos, -éis, -en

    Verb Pensar

    Yo (indicative)

    Pienso

     

    Yo (subjunctive), él, ella

    Piense

    Pienses

    Ustedes, ellos, ellas

    Piensen

    This works for yo, tú, él, and ellos. However, the nosotros and vosotros forms keep the non-changed stem: pens

    Verb Pensar

    Nosotros, nosotras

    Pensemos

    Vosotros, vosotras

    Penséis

    The other stem-changing verbs follow the same pattern:

    Pronoun Pensar Poder Volver

    Yo (indicative)

    Pienso

    Puedo

    Vuelvo

    Yo (subjunctive)

    Piense

    Pueda

    Vuelva

    Tú

    Pienses

    Puedas

    Vuelvas

    El, ella, usted

    Piense

    Pueda

    Vuelva

    Nosotros, as

    Pensemos

    Podamos

    Volvamos

    Ustedes, ellos, ellas

    Piensen

    Puedan

    Vuelvan

    Test your memory

    Forming the imperfect subjunctive

    Yes, there is a whole extra set of conjugations…! However, if you know the preterite (sometimes called the past simple), you’ll learn them quickly. Even if you don’t know the preterite, it shouldn’t take you long to pick these up.

    The key things to know:

    The stem comes from the ellos form of the preterite, minus -aron or -ieron

    Can’t remember what that is? Let’s take a couple of examples to jog your memory. We’ve highlighted the stems:

    Tener: Tuvieron
    Hablar: Hablaron
    Decir: Dijeron

    There are two possible forms, both with exactly the same meaning

    However, the first form is always more common:

    1. Hablara, Hablaras, HablaraHabláramos, Hablarais, Hablaran, OR
    2. Hablase, Hablases, Hablase, Hablásemos, Hablaseis, Hablasen

    Or for an -er or -ir verb:

    1. Comiera, comieras, comiera, comiéramos, comierais, comieran OR
    2. Comiese, comieses, comiese, comiésemos, comieseis, comiesen

    The principle works in the same way for the stem changing verbs:

    Pronoun Dar Estar Ser Tener

    Yo

    Diera

    Estuviera

    Fuera

    Tuviera

    Dieras

    Estuvieras

    Fueras

    Tuvieras

    El, ella, usted

    Diera

    Estuviera

    Fuera

    Tuviera

    Nosotros, as

    Dieramos

    Estuvieramos

    Fueramos

    Tuvieramos

    Ustedes, ellos, ellas

    Dieran

    Estuvieran

    Fueran

    Tuvieran

    Test your memory