Present Subjunctive in Spanish Grammar

Introduction

The present subjunctive (presente subjuntivo) can refer to the future as well as the present. It is used in both simple sentences and dependent clauses to indicate probability, uncertainty, wishes, doubt, personal opinions and feelings.

Read on to learn when to use the present subjunctive in Spanish grammar. Master the conjugation, then put your knowledge to the test in the free exercises. If you’re not sure about the subjunctive, why not refresh your memory of the present indicative, or check out our page on the difference between the indicative and subjunctive in Spanish grammar?

Example

Zeichnung

Quiero que mis amigos y yo juguemos al baloncesto esta tarde.

Sin embargo, no creo que esta tarde haga sol.

Ojalá mis amigos tengan un plan alternativo.

Aunque llueva, podemos quedar para ir al cine.

Present subjunctive in the present and the future

Despite what its name may suggest, the present subjunctive can refer to the future as well as to the present. The accompanying signal words tell us when the action is taking place.

Example:
Puede que Paula esté ya en casa.Paula might already be home.present
Puede que Paula venga mañana a casa.Paula might come home tomorrow.future

When to use the present subjunctive

The Spanish subjunctive is used in two types of sentences: simple sentences and compound sentences.

The subjunctive in simple sentences

Simple sentences only contain one verb. This verb must be in the subjunctive when:

  • the sentence expresses the likelihood of an action, usually with an adverb such as: quizá(s), tal vez, probablemente, posiblemente
Example:
Quizá haga sol mañana.Maybe it will be sunny tomorrow.
  • the sentence expresses a wish or a want
Examples:
Ojalá no llueva esta tarde.Hopefully it won’t rain this afternoon.
¡Que te diviertas!Have fun!
  • the sentence is a negative imperative in any form, or a positive imperative in either the 1st person plural or the usted/ustedes polite forms
Examples:
¡No juegues al baloncesto con lluvia!Don’t play basketball in the rain!
¡Juguemos todos!Let’s all play!

The present subjunctive in subordinate clauses

Compound sentences are made up of a main clause and a subordinate (dependent) clause. In some compound sentences, the main verb is conjugated in the indicative mood while the verb in the subordinate clause is conjugated in the present subjunctive. This happens when:

  • the main verb is in the negative form and introduces a theory, doubt, belief or assumption
Example:
No creo que haga sol mañana.I don’t think it will be sunny tomorrow.
  • the main verb expresses an emotion such as happiness, surprise, fear, desire, preference etc.
Examples:
Deseo que mis amigos me llamen pronto.I wish my friends would call me soon.
Me parece bien que vengas luego a mi casa.I’m happy that you’re coming over to my house.
Me gusta que llueva de vez en cuando.I like it when it rains occasionally.
Me sorprende que mis amigos quieran ir al cine.I’m surprised that my friends want to go to the cinema.
  • the sentence expresses a hypothetical scenario
Example:
Aunque llueva, podemos quedar para ir al cine.Even if it rains, we could still meet up and go to the cinema.hypothesis

Note: if we say this sentence in the indicative, the meaning changes to express a current reality rather than a hypothesis

Example:
Aunque llueve, podemos ir al cine.Even though it’s raining, we can still go to the cinema.reality
  • the connectives antes de que, sin que, cuando, apenas, en cuanto, hasta que, mientras, and tan pronto como refer to the future
Example:
Tan pronto como salga el sol, iré a la cancha de baloncesto.As soon as the sun comes up, I’ll go to the basketball court.

Note: the connectives cuando, apenas, en cuanto, hasta que, mientras, and tan pronto como are followed by the indicative when they refer to a real scenario that happens regularly.

Example:
Tan pronto como sale el sol, los gatos se despiertan.As soon as the sun comes up, the cats wake up.

Verbs and phrases that take the subjunctive

Check out our handy lists of verbs and phrases that take the subjunctive in Spanish grammar:

How to conjugate the present subjunctive

Regular verbs

To conjugate a regular verb in the present subjunctive we add the following endings to the infinitive:

Person -ar
hablar
-er
aprender
-ir
vivir
yo hable aprenda viva
hables aprendas vivas
él, ella, usted hable aprenda viva
nosotros/-as hablemos aprendamos vivamos
vosotros/-as habléis aprendáis viváis
ellos/-as, ustedes hablen aprendan vivan

Irregular verbs

Several common verbs have an irregular conjugation:

Verb Conjugation
dar dé, des, dé, demos, deis, den
estar esté, estés, esté, estemos, estéis, estén
haber haya, hayas, haya, hayamos, hayáis, hayan
ir vaya, vayas, vaya, vayamos, vayáis, vayan
saber sepa, sepas, sepa, sepamos, sepáis, sepan
ser sea, seas, sea, seamos, seáis, sean
ver vea, veas, vea, veamos, veáis, vean

Some verbs experience a vowel change in the final syllable of the stem:

Vowel Change Example Conjugation Other Verbs
e → i pedir pida, pidas, pida, pidamos, pidáis, pidan conseguir, corregir, elegir, reír, sonreír, seguir, servir
e → ie querer quiera, quieras, quiera, queramos, queráis, quieran calentar, cerrar, entender, empezar, pensar, perder, regar
e → ie/i sentir sienta, sientas, sienta, sintamos, sintáis, sientan divertir, preferir, mentir
o → ue poder pueda, puedas, pueda, podamos, podáis, puedan contar, costar, doler, encontrar, llover, mover, morir, oler, recordar, sonar, soñar, volar, volver
o → ue/u dormir duerma, duermas, duerma, durmamos, durmáis, duerman
u → ue jugar juege, juegues, juegue, juguemos, juguéis, jueguen

Some verbs include a -g before the ending when conjugated in the present subjunctive. This comes from the 1st person singular conjugation in the present indicative.

Verb Conjugation
caer caiga, caigas, caiga, caigamos, caigáis, caigan
decir diga, digas, diga, digamos, digáis, digan
hacer haga, hagas, haga, hagamos, hagáis, hagan
oír oiga, oigas, oiga, oigamos, oigáis, oigan
poner ponga, pongas, ponga, pongamos, pongáis, pongan
salir salga, salgas, salga, salgamos, salgáis, salgan
tener tenga, tengas, tenga, tengamos, tengáis, tengan
traer traiga, traigas, traiga, traigamos, traigáis, traigan
valer valga, valgas, valga, valgamos, valgáis, valgan
venir venga, vengas, venga, vengamos, vengáis, vengan
  • In order to keep the pronunciation the same, we have to change the last letter of the word stem for some -er/-ir verbs.
Example:
c to z → mecerrock, sway - meza
g to j → cogertake, lift - coja
gu to g → distinguirdistinguish - distinga
qu to c → delinquircommit a crime - delinca
  • The exact opposite change takes place for some -ar verbs.
    Example:
    z to c → cazarhunt - cace
    g to gu → investigarinvestigate - investigue
    c to qu → provocarprovoke - provoque
  • For verbs ending in -uir, we add a y before all endings in the subjuntivo presente.
    Example:
    sustituirsubstitute, replace - sustituya, sustituyas, sustituya, sustituyamos, sustituyáis, sustituyan
  • For verbs that end in -ducir or in vowel + -cer, we add a -z before the -c. The exceptions to this rule are the verbs hacer, mecer and cocer.
    Examples:
    conocerknow (be familiar with), conducirdrive, obedecerobey, parecerseem, reconocerrecognise, traducirtranslate
    conocer – conozca, conozcas, conozca, conozcamos, conozcáis, conozcan
    but:
    hacerdo, make - haga
    mecerrock, sway - meza
    cocercook - cueza
  • For many verbs that end in -iar or -uar, as well as for prohibir and reunir, we add an accent on the -i or -u in the singular and in the 3rd person plural.
    Example:
    espiarspy - espíe, espíes, espíe, espiemos, espiéis, espíen
    actuaract - actúe, actúes, actúe, actuemos, actuéis, actúen
    prohibirprohibit, ban - prohíba, prohíbas, prohíba, prohibamos, prohibáis, prohíban
    reunirgather - reúna, reúnas, reúna, reunamos, reunáis, reúnan