The Subjunctive Simplified: Techniques To Help Spanish Learners

I’m wondering if I should learn the subjunctive for my GCSE. I’ve been pondering this question for a while. While it’s not essential, the subjunctive is widely used in Spanish. If you plan on continuing to learn Spanish, I recommend learning at least a bit. If you don’t plan on continuing, it depends. If you aim to get a 9, keep reading, as you can remember some key sentences easily.

You may encounter something that resembles or sounds like a present tense but is a subjunctive, even though it may not be directly tested on your exam.

English speakers seem to have difficulty with the use of the subjunctive.

English speakers often struggle with the Spanish subjunctive because it is a grammatical aspect that does not exist in English. In English, we primarily use the indicative mood to discuss facts, beliefs, and certainty. In contrast, the subjunctive mood is used in Spanish to express doubt, uncertainty, desire, or hypothetical situations. For example, we use the subjunctive in Spanish when expressing wishes, hopes, recommendations, emotions, doubts, or possibilities. This difference in usage can confuse English speakers as they try to navigate the nuances of the subjunctive in Spanish.

Another reason why English speakers find the Spanish subjunctive difficult is the irregular conjugations and irregular verb forms that come with it. While English verbs are relatively straightforward in their conjugations, Spanish verbs can have multiple irregular forms in the subjunctive mood. For example, the verb “to be” in Spanish has different forms in the subjunctive depending on the subject pronoun, such as “sea” for “I” or “usted” and “seamos” for “we.” This complexity in verb conjugations can be challenging for English speakers to master.

Lastly, using triggers and conjunctions that signal the need for the subjunctive in Spanish can also pose a challenge for English speakers. Specific phrases and expressions in Spanish require the use of the subjunctive mood, such as “a menos que” (unless), “para que” (so that), or “ojalá” (hopefully). Understanding when to use these triggers and conjunctions can be difficult for English speakers who are not used to such distinctions in their language. Overall, the differences in grammar, verb forms, and trigger phrases make the Spanish subjunctive a tricky aspect of the language for English speakers to grasp.

This may be because it is not commonly used in English. In contrast, the subjunctive is frequently used in Spanish conversation.

The endings don’t help much because they are similar. Have a look below:


Present – Indicativo                         Presente – Subjuntivo

Hablo                                                                    Hable

Habla                                                                     Hables

Habla                                                                     Hable

Hablamos                                                            Hablemos

Habláis                                                                 Habléis

Hablan                                                                  Hablen

Some Spanish grammar books categorize some verbs based on how they change in different tenses and moods. One way verbs are classified is by their endings in the infinitive form. For example, -ar verbs, such as hablar (to speak), -er verbs, such as comer (to eat), and -ir verbs, such as vivir (to live), each have their own set of conjugation rules that students must learn to use them correctly in sentences.

Another way verbs are categorized in Spanish grammar books is by their irregularities. Irregular verbs do not follow the typical conjugation patterns of regular verbs, so students must memorize their unique forms. For example, the verb ser (to be) does not follow the same conjugation rules as other -er verbs, so students must learn phrases like “yo soy” (I am), “tú eres” (you are), and “él/ella/usted es” (he/she/you is) separately.

Understanding how verbs are categorized in Spanish grammar books can help students learn how to conjugate and use them correctly in sentences. Students can improve their language skills and communicate more effectively in Spanish by studying the different verb endings and irregularities. Learning these rules may seem challenging initially, but with practice and determination, students can become more fluent in Spanish and expand their language abilities.

Because when you are talking is challenging to remember all these different examples or categories based on sentiment, demand, request, doubt, etc.

I included a note with my statement that explains when to use the subjunctive. The subjunctive should be used if the action being discussed may not have happened or is uncertain, as it implies subjectivity. However, if the action has already happened or is guaranteed to occur, the indicative should be used. For example, “Peter goes to the shop” would use the indicative, while “Peter went to the shop” would already imply that the action has happened.

So if I say:

Peter goes to the shop.

Peter went to the shop.

The speaker relates to an objective fact, so we use the indicative.

Pedro va a la tienda.

Pedro fue a la tienda.

Please look at some other Spanish examples below where it is not a fact that Peter will go to the shop. Perhaps he goes to the shop, but perhaps, in the end, Peter will not go to the shop. If this is the case, we then use the subjunctive.

I want Peter to go to the shop.                                                  Quiero que Pedro vaya a la tienda

I hope Peter goes to the shop.                                                   Espero que Pedro vaya a la tienda.

I prefer that Peter go to the shop                                              Prefiero que Pedro vaya a la tienda.

It is possible that Peter will go to the shop.                              Es posible que Pedro vaya a la tienda.

If you are a serious student and want to learn the language, you will experience and hear those expressions while talking with your Spanish friends or when you practise your Spanish.

If you want to get some extra points, you could learn some of those and use them in some of your exams. Imprese your teacher during the speaking time by saying something like “Es posible que vaya a España de vacaciones el año que viene” “I may go to Spain next year on Holiday

You can also use a similar sentence in your writing exam. Show you can use different grammar and get your 9.

At this moment in time, I hope this helps. Of course, if you are A Level student and you want to learn more, you can also read the Spanish Subjunctive from this other blog.