More Subjunctive Tenses

Besides the present subjunctive, there are several other subjunctive tenses which you need to know and be able to use.

  1. The present perfect subjunctive (el [presente] perfecto de subjuntivo):

    1. Forms. The present perfect subjunctive is formed by using the present subjunctive of the helping verb haber with the past (or passive) participle:

      yo   haya   hablado
      comido
      vivido
        I (have) spoken/eaten/lived, etc.
      hayas
      él/ella/usted haya
      nosotros/vosotras hayamos
      vosotros/vosotras hayáis
      ellos/ellas/ustedes hayan

    2. Uses. The present perfect subjunctive is used in the same types of clauses as the present subjunctive, and normally is used: to indicate the action as completed with governing verbs in the present or future tense or command forms. Examples:

      Me alegro de   que ella haya llegado.   I'm glad she (has) arrived.
      Dudo I doubt she (has) arrived.
      Niego I deny she (has) arrived.
      Es posible It's possible she (has) arrived.
      Lo haré después I'll do it after she has arrived.
      No lo hagas a menos Don't do it unless she has arrived.

    3. When to use which “present” subjunctive. The simple present subjunctive is used to indicate an action viewed as occurring at the same time or in the future when the governing verb is in the present, present perfect, future, future perfect, or a command form; the present perfect subjunctive is used to indicate an action viewed as having ocurred previously when the governing verb is in those same tenses:

       Tense of the governing verb  Subjunctive tense to use in the subordinate clause
      present (indicative or subj.) present subjunctive [for a simultaneous or future state or action]
      OR
      present perfect subjunctive [for a prior state or action]
      present perfect (indic. or subj.)
      future
      future perfect
      command form

      Me sorprende que ustedes bailen. It surprises me that you dance. (generalization)
      are dancing (right now).
      will dance (in the future).
       
      Me sorprende que ustedes hayan bailado. It surprises me that you danced OR
      have danced (in the past)

  2. The imperfect subjunctive (or the past subjunctive, el imperfecto de subjuntivo):

    1. Forms of the imperfect subjunctive. Take the third person plural form of the preterit (e.g., hablaron), then drop the -on from the end, which gives you the stem (hablar-) for the imperfect subjunctive. The endings are the same for all  verbs: -a, -as, -a, -amos, -ais, -an.

      hablar

        

      comer

        

      vivir

      hablara   habláramos comiera   comiéramos viviera   viviéramos
      hablaras hablarais comieras comierais vivieras vivierais
      hablara hablaran comiera comieran viviera vivieran

      (Note the accent mark on the first person plural forms.)

      ALL verbs form the imperfect subjunctive this way, even the most irregular (but you must know and start start with the third person plural of the preterit):

      Infin.   Meaning   Preterit   Imperfect subjunctive
      decir to say dijeron dijera, dijeras, dijera, dijéramos, dijerais, dijeran
      estar to be estuvieron estuviera, estuvieras, estuviera, estuviéramos, etc.
      hacer to make, do hicieron hiciera, hicieras, hiciera, hiciéramos, hicierais, etc.
      ir to go fueron fuera, fueras, fuera, fuéramos, fuerais, fueran
      ser to be fueron fuera, fueras, fuera, fuéramos, fuerais, fueran
      tener to have tuvieron tuviera, tuvieras, tuviera, tuviéramos, tuvierais, etc.

    2. Uses of the imperfect subjunctive. The imperfect subjunctive is used in the same type of situations in which the present subjunctive is used, except that the governing verb is typically in a past tense (e.g., the preterit, imperfect, past perfect, conditional, conditional perfect, or one of the past subjunctives):

      1. Noun clauses. Remember that the subjunctive is used after verbs of influence, emotion, doubt, and denial. Contrast the use of the present tense governing verb plus present subjunctive situation and that of a past tense governing verb and the imperfect subjunctive.

        Quiero que él lo haga.  (present subj.) I want him to do it.
        Me alegro de I'm glad he's doing it.
        Dudo I doubt he's doing it.
        Niego I deny he's doing it.
        Es importante It's important for him to do it.
         
        Quería que lo hiciera. (imperf. subj.) I wanted him to do it.
        Me alegraba de I was glad he did it.
        Dudaba I doubted he'd do it.
        Negué I denied he did it (was doing it).
        Era importante It was important for him to do it.

      2. Adverbial clauses (time, purpose, etc.). Remember that the subjunctive is used when the action in the adverbial clause is viewed as anticipated or hypothetical. Again, contrast the present time and past time situations:

        Lo haremos cuando vengan.
        (present)
        We'll do it when they come.
        después que after they come.
        mientras while they come.
         
        Lo haríamos
        (or: Íbamos a hacerlo)
        cuando vinieran.
        (imperfect)
        We were going to do it when they came.
        despues que after they came.
        mientras while they were coming.
         
        Lo hacemos para que vengan. (present) We do it so they will come.
        sin que without them coming.
        con tal que provided they come.
         
        Lo hicimos para que vinieran. (impefect) We did it so they'd come.
        sin que without them coming.
        con tal que provided they'd come.

      3. Adjectival clauses. Remember that the subjunctive is used when there is a negated or indefinite antecedent. Again, contrast the present time and past time situations:

        No hay nada aquí que me guste. There's nothing here I like.
        No había nada aquí que me gustara. There was nothing there I liked.
         
        Buscamos una criada que hable español. We're looking for a maid who speaks Spanish.
        Buscábamos una criada que hablara español. We were looking for a maid who spoke Spanish.

  3. The past perfect subjunctive (el pluscuamperfecto de subjuntivo):

    1. Forms. The past perfect subjunctive is formed by using the imperfect subjunctive of the helping verb haber with the past (or passive) participle:

      yo hubiera hablado/
      comido/
      vivido
      I had spoken/eaten/lived, etc.
      hubieras
      él/ella/usted hubiera
      nosotros/vosotras hubiéramos
      vosotros/vosotras hubierais
      ellos/ellas/ustedes hubieran

    2. Uses. Similar to the past perfect indicative, this tense is may be used to indicate an action or state that occurred prior to something in the past (usually expressed by the imperfect or preterit indicative, or by the past subjunctive):

      Dudábamos que hubieran llegado. We doubted that they had come.
      Nos gustó que todo hubiera salido bien. We were glad that all had turned out OK.


  4. When to use what past subjunctive: imperfect subjunctive or past perfect subjunctive.

    1. WHEN THE GOVERNING VERB IS IN A PAST TENSE AND THE SUBJUNCTIVE IS REQUIRED, A PAST SUBJUNCTIVE IS ALMOST ALWAYS USED:

       tense of the governing verb   subjunctive tense to use in the subordinate clause
      imperfect (indicative or subj.) imperfect subjunctive [for a simultaneous or future state or action]
      OR
      past perfect subjunctive [for a prior state or action]
      preterit
      past perfect (indic. or subj.)
      conditional
      conditional perfect

      Nos impresionó que tú cantaras. We were impressed that you were singing [OR sang OR would sing OR were going to sing.]
       
      Nos impresionó que tú hubieras cantado. We were impressed that you had sung.

    2. We will look at conditional sentences (“if”clauses) elsewhere. Meanwhile, however, remember that como si (as if) MUST be followed by one of the two past subjunctive tenses, the imperfect or the past perfect:

      El habla como si fuera rico. He talks as if he were rich.
      Ella habla como si hubiera vivido en México. She talks as if she has (had) lived in Mexico.

    3. Ojalá and the subjunctive. Ojalá plus the present subjunctive or the present perfect subjunctive is used in the sense of “I hope”; with the two past subjunctive tenses, it means “I wish”, and implies that something is hypothetical or contrary-to-fact:

      Ojalá que esté aquí.   I hope she is here. [She might be here.]
      Ojalá que haya estado aquí. I hope she has been here. [She may have been here.]
      Ojalá que estuviera aquí. I wish she were here. [She's not here.]
      Ojalá que hubiera estado aquí. I wish she had been here. [She has not been here.]



    Caution: Do not read past this point!

    Well, you may read if you wish. There are two other subjunctive forms you will run across in reading, but you will not need them for writing Spanish compositions at this level. They are included here strictly for information purposes.

  5. The alternate imperfect subjunctive: -se

    Another imperfect subjunctive is often seen in literature; for our present purposes it is used in the same way as the -ra imperfect subjunctive, and is formed the same way, by using the preterit third-person plural minus -ron as the stem, but using -se endings rather than -ra:

    hablar

      

    comer

      

    vivir

    hablase   hablásemos comiese   comiésemos viviese   viviésemos
    hablases hablaseis comieses comieseis vivieses vivieseis
    hablase hablasen comiese comiesen viviese viviesen

    (Note the accent mark on the first person plural forms.)

  6. The future subjunctive (el futuro de subjuntivo). Fortunately for students, the present subjunctive has taken over most functions of the future subjunctive, but you may see it in literature. The root is the same as for the imperfect subjunctives (take the third-person plural preterit form, and drop -on); the endings are based on -e:

    hablar

      

    comer

      

    vivir

    hablare   habláremos comiere   comiéremos viviere   viviéremos
    hablares hablareis comieres comiereis vivieres viviereis
    hablare hablaren comiere comieren viviere vivieren

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Contact: Fred F. Jehle

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Indiana University - Purdue University Ft. Wayne
Fort Wayne, IN 46805-1499 USA

URL: http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/courses/pastsubj.htm