If you grew up as a native English speaker, you had probably never even heard of the subjunctive before. That’s because we tend not to learn grammar as a native speaker in the same way we do when we learn another language. This grammatical tense is so common, you hear it every day. Here, we’ll help you with any doubts you may have about using the subjunctive.
Subjunctive in English
English does have the subjunctive, but it tends to sound “old timey.” However, we actually use the subjunctive in English all the time! Let’s take a look at this example:
“They are punished.”
“I recommend that they not be punished.”
Do you see how the verb changes in English between these two sentences? That’s because it happens in English too! Whenever you need to express uncertainty, or desires, we use the subjunctive.
Using the subjunctive in Spanish
There’s a handy acronym to help us know when to use the subjunctive in Spanish. Since it’s a bit weird, we can use the acronym W.E.I.R.D.O.
W- wishes. “Quiero que mis estudiantes estudien.”
E- emotions. “Me alegro de que no haya una tormenta.”
I- impersonal expressions. “Es esencial que prestes atención.”
R- requests and recommendations. “Recomiendo que vayas al restaurante nuevo.”
D- doubt, denial. “Dudo que mis hijos limpien la casa.”
O- ojalá. “Ojalá que mi amiga llegue a tiempo.”
What all of these have in common is that we use the subjunctive for anything that isn’t a fact. For facts, we use the indicative, or the “regular old present.” Anything that is your opinion, you’ll need to use the subjunctive in Spanish.
Forming sentences in the subjunctive
When making our own sentences, there’s a formula that will get you started using the subjunctive in your daily life. Most of the time, you can follow this to help:
S1 V1 + que + S2 V2
This stands for “subject 1 verb 1 + que + subject 2 verb 2.” Basically, to form the subjunctive, you need a change in subject, meaning something can’t be describing their doubts or opinions about themself. In this formula, the first verb is in the indicative, and the second verb is in the subjunctive, bridged with the word “que.” Let’s see it in action:
“Mis padres prohiben que yo salga esta noche.”
In this case, the first subject (S1) is padres, and the second subject (S2) is yo. The first verb (V1) is in the indicative, prohiben, and the second verb (V2), is in the subjunctive, salga. In order to form the subjunctive, something has to cause it, which is why the subjunctive is in the second part of the sentence.
This grammatical topic can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but with practice, you’ll get the hang of it. Before you know it, it’ll start to feel natural.