10 ways to understand the Subjunctive in Spanish
All too often people learning Spanish make the use of the subjunctive more difficult than is necessary. First of all, you must remember that the subjunctive is not a tense, rather it is a mood. Tense refers to when an action takes place (i.e. past, present, future) while a mood reflects how the speaker feels regarding an action. To put it simply, the subjunctive mood is a verb mood typically used in subordinate clauses to express various states of reality such as wishes, emotions, possibility, judgment, opinion, necessity, or action that has not yet occurred.
In Spanish, the subjunctive (subjuntivo) is used in conjunction with impersonal expressions and expressions of emotion, opinion, or viewpoint. It is also used to describe situations that are considered unlikely or are in doubt, as well as for expressing disagreement, volition, or denial.
- Dudo que… “I doubt that…”
- Es bueno que… “It is good that…”
- Es importante que… “It is important
- Es necesario que… “It is necessary
- Es una pena que… “It is a shame
- Me alegro de que… “I am happy
- Quiero que… “I want…”
All that being said, here are ten suggestions to help you better understand and use the subjunctive mood in Spanish.
- Don’t try to understand the subjunctive in Spanish, feel it!
- Think as if you lived in an unexpected and chaotic culture where things change all the time.
- Imagine how it feels not to be able to plan things ahead, when you do it and be sure that you are doing it in Spanish.
- Study Spanish Subjunctive as if it were easy.
- Observe when others are speaking in Spanish and using subjunctive, paying careful attention to when they speak. Then try to imitate the phrases they are doing yourself, and be sure to do this the very same day applying those same phrases in the proper context as a means of practicing your own use of subjunctive.
- Be patient. It takes time to master the subjunctive as it is rarely ever used in English.
- Take the time to read whatever you can find in Spanish such as newspapers, magazines and the like!
- Be creative and have fun while learning Spanish. Take time to watch movies, read traffic signs and signs in stores, attend conferences in Spanish, take the time to talk to people – don’t just hop in a cab and ignore the driver – take the time to tell him to have a nice day, ask about the weather – anything really, be creative and have fun. Go to the theater or a museum and remember – don’t translate, live it in Spanish.
- Take the time to sit down and look over the rules remembering not to get nervous or anxious. Learning the subjunctive should be fun. Just take the time to go over the rules so you can be aware of exactly what you need to learn.
- Practice, practice, practice! And above all, have fun.
Gisela Giunti is a journalist and Spanish teacher serving the needs of the international community of Buenos Aires for the past 8 years through her language institute GiselaGiuntiSpanish. As the founder and director of GiselaGiuntiSpanish, Gisela is committed full time to teaching Spanish, something she loves. Gisela has been recommended by Lonely Planet as well as Footprint travel guides.
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