The subjunctive is a verb mood, not a tense. Mood refers to the attitude of the speaker toward the action/condition of the verb – how likely/factual the statement is. The subjunctive mood is subjective; it expresses emotional, potential, and hypothetical attitudes about what is being expressed – things like will/wanting, emotion, doubt, possibility, necessity, judgment. The "normal" verb mood is called the indicative and is used for factual or definite statements about reality.

The Spanish subjunctive is often found in dependent clauses introduced by the relative pronoun que (that). The subjects of the dependent and main clauses are usually different (if the subjects are the same, the infinitive can be used instead of the subjunctive).

Quiero que tu lo hagas.   I want you do it.
No es cierto que yo venga.   It’s not certain that I will come (am coming).

The subjunctive is used when the main clause expresses subjectivity, as summarized below. (Some of the English translations may seem a little awkward: "that" is not always required in English, and we sometimes use a completely different structure which avoids the subjunctive altogether)

I. Verbs/expressions of will or want which express an order, a need, a piece of advice, or a desire:

aconsejar que   to advise
decir (a alguien) que   to tell (someone to do something)
dejar que   to let, allow
desear que   to desire that
es hora que   it’s time that
es importante que   it is important that
es necesario que   it is necessary that
es preciso que   it is necessary that
evitar que   to avoid
exigir que   to demand that
hacer falta que   to be necessary that
hacer que   to make, force
impedir que   to prevent
insistir en que   to insist that
invitar que   to invite
mandar que   to order
necesitar que   to need
pedir (a alguien) que   to ask (someone to do something)
permitir que   to permit
preferir que   to prefer that
prohibir que   to forbid
proponer que   to propose that
querer que   to want that
recomendar que   to recommend
rogar que   to request, beg
sugerir que   to suggest that

II. Verbs/expressions of emotion or feeling which indicate fear, happiness, anger, regret, surprise, or other sentiments or biases.

alegrarse de que   to be happy that
es bueno que   it’s good that
es conveniente que   it’s convenient that
es difícil que   it’s hard
es extraño que   it’s strange that
es fácil que   it’s easy
es increíble que   it’s incredible that
es interesante   it’s interesting that
es inútil que   it’s useless that (there’s no point)
es justo que   it’s fair that
es (una) lástima que   it’s a pity that
es malo que   it’s ( too) bad that
es mejor que   it’s better that
es peor que   it’s worse that
es preferible que   it’s preferable that
es raro que   it’s strange that
es triste que   it’s sad that
es útil que   it’s useful that
estar contento que   to be happy that
estar triste que   to be sad that
extrañarse que   to be amazed that
gustarse que   to like
más vale que   it’s better that
sentir que   to regret, be sorry that
sorprenderse que   to be surprised that
temer que   to fear that
tener miedo que   to be afraid that

III. Verbs/expressions of doubt, possibility, opinion

aparecer que   to appear, seem that
buscar … que*   to look for
detestar que   to hate
dudar que   to doubt
es dudoso que   it is doubtful that
es imposible que   it is impossible that
es improbable que   it is improbable that
es posible que   it is possible that
es probable que   it is probable that
negar que   to deny
no es cierto que   it is not certain that
no es claro que   it’s not clear that
no es evidente que   it is not obvious that
no es obvio que   it is not obvious that
no es que   it’s not that
no está seguro que   it is not certain that
no es verdad que   it is not true that

*Busco un libro que me interese. (It may not exist = doubt)
Busco el libro que estoy leyendo. (I know it exists = no doubt)

IV. Some verbs and expressions do not take the subjunctive when they are used in the affirmative, because they express facts which are considered certain. When negative or interrogatory, they require the subjunctive.

conocer (a alguien) que   to know (someone) who
creer que   to believe that
decir que   to say that
estar cierto que   to be certain that
estar seguro que   to be sure that
es cierto que   it is certain that
es claro que   it’s clear that
es evidente que   it is obvious that
es seguro que   it is certain that
es una realidad   it’s a fact that
es un hecho   it’s a fact that
es verdad que   it is true that
pensar que   to think that
saber que   to know that

Por ejemplo …

¿Crees que él sea triste?   Do you believe he’s sad?
Si, creo que es triste   Yes, I believe he’s sad.
No, no creo que sea triste.   No, I don’t believe he’s sad.

V. The verbs dudar "to doubt" and negar "to deny" take the subjunctive when they are affirmative, but not when they are negative.

Dudo que venga.   I doubt he’ll come.
No dudo que viene.   I don’t doubt that he’ll come.

More Spanish Subjunctive



Spanish Subjunctive Tenses

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