EL SUBJUNTIVO (Subjunctive)

By Adriana Bustamante, CAPS Spanish Tutor

Spanish verbs have two moods: indicative and subjunctive. The difference between these two moods is that the indicative affirms some type of information that is considered real and the subjunctive does not affirm certain information because it is a wish, a doubt, a conjecture, it has not happened, or it’s an opinion.


Vas a Lima.

Quiero que vayas a Lima.

The first sentence we have is affirming the fact that Vas(tu) a Lima. Just a simple fact. In the second one we have a cue word to indicate the subjunctive. “Quiero” is a verb meaning to want something, a wish perhaps. In this case “Quiero(yo) que vayas a Lima.” I am wanting you to go to Lima.

Now how do we form the subjunctive? In Spanish we have –ar, -er, and –ir verbs. To form the subjunctive, we take these vowels from the verb endings from the present indicative tense, so the present tense, and we replace it with its opposite vowel. To form the subjunctive for I, You/Vos, Ella/el/usted, and ellas/ellos/ustedes we take the root of the verb in the 1st person (yo) from the present indicative. However, to form the nosotros and vosotros we take the root of the verb in the 1st person plural (nosotros) from the present indicative. Let me explain with some examples.

The infinitive ends in…                     “Opposite” vowel

-er                                                            -a

-ir                                                             -a

-ar                                                            -e

Infinitive                                  Opposite                      V Present subjunctive

Comer                                        -a                                     (que) yo coma

(que) tu comas

(Que) ella coma

(Que) ellos coman

1st person plural indicative                                     Present Subjunctive

Nosotros comemos                                                        (que) nosotros comamos

(que)vosotros comáis

Infinitive                               Opposite V                     Present Subjunctive

Escribir                                    -a                                      (Que) yo escriba

(Que) tu escribas

(Que) ella Escriba

(que) ellos escriban

1st person plural indicative                                     Present Subjunctive

Nosotros escribimos                                                      (que) nosotros escribamos

(que) vosotros escribáis

Infinitive                              Opposite V                       Present Subjunctive

Bailar                               -e                                               (que) yo baile

(Que) tu bailes

(Que) ella baile

(Que) ellos bailen

1st person plural indicative                                      Present Subjunctive

Nosotros bailamos                                                          (que) nosotros bailemos

(que) vosotros bailéis

and that is how we can differentiate between the indicative and subjunctive!

(Source: Potowski and Shin Gramática Española: Variación Social.)

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