Summary of the main uses of the subjunctive
The Subjunctive in Noun Clauses. For purposes of this section on the
subjunctive, noun clauses are dependent clauses which serve as the direct
object of another verb. Dependent clauses have a subject and a conjugated
verb (not the main verb); unfortunately, English frequently employs an infinitive
in these cases, where Spanish requires a conjugated verb. For example: I
want you to buy the book; [the direct object is the phrase you
to buy the book = I want that you buy the book.] In Spanish,
the subjunctive mood is used for the verb in a dependent noun clause when:
The subject of the governing verb is different from the subject of the dependent
noun clause [e.g., you vs. I ], AND
The governing verb is one of:
Influence or willing [e.g., want, prefer, desire, insist, request, etc.]
Emotion [e.g., fear, be angry, be sad, be happy, be surprised, etc.]
Doubt or negation [e.g., be uncertain, be unsure, doubt, deny, etc.]
Impersonal expressions of influence, emotion, doubt, probability, possibility,
necessity, or a subjective reaction on the part of the speaker [e.g.,: It's
urgent, bad, wonderful, uncertain, possible, probable, unlikely, etc.]
The Subjunctive in Adjectival Clauses. Adjectives are words that modify
describe or limit a noun, for example: the new hat, the
pretty dress, many intelligent students. An entire clause
may serve an adjectival purpose, describing a noun or pronoun the
antecedent in a sentence, for example: Do you have a dress which
will go with these shoes?
The rule: In Spanish, the subjunctive is used in an adjectival clause
when the antecedent is indefinite or unknown (as in example number three
below) or is nonexistent or negated (as in example number two below); in
contrast, the indicative is used when the antecedent is a definite or existing
one (as in example number one below).
Mood of the verb ladrar (to bark)
Reason for the use of the subjunctive or the indicative
||que ladra mucho.
||Definite antecedent: I own the dog.
|2. No tengo
||que ladre mucho.
||Negated antecedent: The dog doesn't exist.
||que ladre mucho.
||Indefinite antecedent: Such a dog may or not exist.
(I have/don't have/want a dog that barks a lot.)
The Subjunctive in Adverbial Clauses. Adverbs indicate such things
as why, where, when, and how. Typical adverbs in English are words like
soon , here and quickly ; adverbial phrases
are groups of words used in the same way, such as on Sunday or
with compassion . Likewise, an entire clause remember that
a clause has a subject and conjugated verb may have an adverbial function:
John is working so that she will notice him [why].
Adverbial clauses are introduced by conjunctions. The indicative or subjunctive
mood may be required in the adverbial clause in Spanish, depending on:
Whether there is a change of subject. If no change of subject is involved
and a preposition exists which corresponds to the conjunction, that preposition
plus an infinitive is normally used, e.g.: He's saving his money so
he can buy a car, Ahorra su dinero para poder comprar un coche.
The relationship between the governing verb or situation and the verb or
situation in the adverbial clause. The rule: In general, if the situation
in the adverbial clause is viewed as something hypothetical or anticipated
rather than completed, habitual, or factual then the subjunctive
is required in the adverbial clause. [Note: certain conjunctions always indicate
this type of relationship and always take the subjunctive, such as para
que, a fin de que, sin que, a menos que, con tal que, antes de que; others
may take either the indicative or the subjunctive, e.g., cuando, hasta
que, mientras, tan pronto como, aunque, ]
Conditions involving si (if). Remember that
si is NEVER followed by the present subjunctive. If
the sentence in English does not contain the word would , the
sentences is mostl likely a real condition, and is expressed using
indicative tenses. If there is a would involved, the sentence
is usually a contrary-to-fact or unreal condition, and the typical pattern
is to use a past subjunctive in the if clause and a conditional
in the main clause. If the condition is for the present or future time use
the imperfect subjunctive in the if clause and the simple conditional
in the main clause; if the condition involves past time, use the past perfect
subjunctive in the if clause and the conditional perfect in the
|Si gano la lotería, iré a Cancún.
||If I win the lottery, I will go to Cancún.
||Would doesn't appear; use the indicative.
|Ahora mismo si yo ganara la lotería, iría
||Right now if I won the lottery, I would go to Cancún.
||Would appears; present time; imperfect subjunctive &
|El año pasado si hubiera ganado la lotería,
habría ido a Cancún.
||Last year if I had won the lottery, I would have gone to
||Would have appears; pasta time; past perfect subjunctive
& conditional perfect.
Indiana University-Purdue University Ft.Wayne
Fort Wayne, IN 46805-1499 USA
URL: URL: http://users.ipfw.edu/jehle/courses/subjadv.htm