Forming the Subjunctive

To form the subjunctive, take the present tense yo conjugation of the verb, drop the –o, and add the correct ending:

-AR Verbs

Trabajar → (yo) trabajo → trabaj-

yo trabaje
trabajes
él/ella/usted trabaje
nosotros trabajemos
ellos/ellas/ustedes trabajen

-ER/IR Verbs

Tener → (yo) tengo → teng-

yo tenga
tengas
él/ella/usted tenga
nosotros tengamos
ellos/ellas/ustedes tengan

Note that, unlike most conjugations, the –ar verbs have endings with an “e” in them, and the –er/ir verbs have endings with an “a” in them.


Irregular Verbs

As you’ll see from the conjugation of tener above, verbs with an irregular “yo” form (tener → tengo, salir → salgo, etc.) function just like regular verbs in the subjunctive, just working from that yo form. But what about other irregular verbs: stem-changing verbs that don’t just change in the yo form?

-AR & -ER Stem-Changing Verbs

There are two kinds of stem-changing –ar and –er verbs: those that have an e in the infinitive stem that changes to ie when the verb is conjugated (for example: entender → entiendo, cerrar → cierro), and verbs that have an o in the infinitive stem that changes to ue when the verb is conjugated (for example: contar → cuento, probar → pruebo).

If you remember, these stem-changing verbs retain their original stem in the nosotros form: nosotros entendemos, cerramos, contamos, and probamos, for the above examples. Well, it works the same way in subjunctive: we change the stem in all but the nosotros forms of the verbs. Let’s take a look at these examples:

Entender

Present Indicative Present Subjunctive
yo entiendo entienda
entiendes entiendas
él/ella/usted entiende entienda
nosotros entendemos entendamos
ellos/ellas/ustedes entienden entiendan

Contar

Present Indicative Present Subjunctive
yo cuento cuenta
cuentas cuentas
él/ella/usted cuenta cuenta
nosotros contamos contamos
ellos/ellas/ustedes cuentan cuentan

 

-IR Stem-Changing Verbs

There are three kinds of –ir stem-changing verbs: the two mentioned above (e → ie, o → ue) as well as one other found only among –ir verbs: those with an e in the infinitive that changes to an i when the verb is conjugated (for example: pedir → pido, repetir → repito).

With the first two kinds of stem-changing –ir verbs, the rules are almost exactly the same as with –ar/er verbs. But instead of reverting back to the original stem in the nosotros form (e → ie verbs going back to e, and o → ue verbs going back to o), e → ie verbs use an i and o → ue verbs use a u. Let’s look at an example of each:

Mentir

Present Indicative Present Subjunctive
yo miento mienta
mientes mientas
él/ella/usted miente mienta
nosotros mentimos mintamos
ellos/ellas/ustedes mienten mientan

 Dormir

Present Indicative Present Subjunctive
yo duermo duerma
duermes duermas
él/ella/usted duerme duerma
nosotros dormimos durmamos
ellos/ellas/ustedes duermen duerman


And what about the third kind of stem-changing verb, the e → i? In the subjunctive, these verbs keep the i all throughout the conjugation, including the “nosotros” form. In a way, these are the easiest verbs of all to conjugate in the subjunctive. Take a look:

Repetir 

Present Present Subjunctive
yo repito repita
repites repitas
él/ella/usted repite repita
nosotros repetimos repitamos
ellos/ellas/ustedes repiten repitan

 

Verbs That Change By How They’re Pronounced

You may have noticed that Spanish is a very phonetic language: words sound like they’re spelled, and they’re spelled the way they sound. This means the spelling of some verbs changes based on how we pronounce them. There are a few different ways this happens:

-ZAR: Z→C before an E

With verbs that end in –zar, the z becomes a c when it comes before an e.

 

Actualizar

yo actualice
actualices
él/ella/usted actualice
nosotros actualicemos
ellos/ellas/ustedes actualicen


-CAR: C→QU before an E

With verbs that end in –car, the c becomes qu when it comes before an e.


Aplicar

yo aplique
apliques
él/ella/usted aplique
nosotros apliquemos
ellos/ellas/ustedes apliquen


-GAR: G→GU before an E

With verbs that end in –gar, the g becomes gu when it comes before an e.


Agregar

yo agregue
agregues
él/ella/usted agregue
nosotros agreguemos
ellos/ellas/ustedes agreguen


-GER/GIR: G→J before an A

With verbs that end in –ger or –gir, the g becomes a j when it comes before an a.


Corregir (e
→i)

yo corrija
corrijas
él/ella/usted corrija
nosotros corrijamos
ellos/ellas/ustedes corrijan


 -GUIR: GU→G before an A

With verbs that in –guir, the gu becomes just g when it comes before an a.


Distinguir

yo disinga
disingas
él/ella/usted disinga
nosotros disingamos
ellos/ellas/ustedes disingan


-UIR: U→UY before an A

With verbs that in –uir, add a y after the u when it comes before an a.


Construir
 

yo construya
construyas
él/ella/usted construya
nosotros construyamos
ellos/ellas/ustedes construyan

 

Phew! That seems like a lot of rules, but don’t stress—they’ll all come to feel very intuitive. Just remember that all of these rules are based off the way we already pronounce Spanish words.


Irregular Verbs

Last but certainly not least, there are six verbs that are purely irregular in the subjunctive tense. They are all very common verbs, so it’s important to learn them. Let’s dig in:

Estar

yo esté
estés
él/ella/usted esté
nosotros estemos
ellos/ellas/ustedes estén

**(Accented vowels are retained)

 

Dar 

yo
dés
él/ella/usted
nosotros demos
ellos/ellas/ustedes den

**(Accented vowels are retained)

Ser

yo sea
seas
él/ella/usted sea
nosotros seamos
ellos/ellas/ustedes sean

 

Ir 

yo vaya
vayas
él/ella/usted vaya
nosotros vayamos
ellos/ellas/ustedes vayan

 

Haber

yo haya
hayas
él/ella/usted haya
nosotros hayamos
ellos/ellas/ustedes hayan

 

Saber

yo sepa
sepas
él/ella/usted sepa
nosotros sepamos
ellos/ellas/ustedes sepan

 

Okay, that’s it! Now you know all there is to forming the subjunctive. It seems like a lot, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly you come to learn it. Now that we have this under our belts, let’s learn when we should use the subjunctive. →

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