Now let’s return back to when we use the subjunctive. It might seem like there are a lot of different kinds of situations where it’s proper to use the subjunctive—and that’s because there are. Subjunctive is a very common tense in Spanish. Basically all you need to remember is that unless there is definite certainty expressed in the sentence (either by quite simply stating something that is true, like “I am drinking coffee,” or by using a phrase that indicates certainty, like “I know I am going on vacation next week”), you use the subjunctive. That encompasses a lot, but there are a few main categories that some of these signifying phrases can fall into. Let’s take a look at some examples:
Expressions of Desire:
|to hope that||esperar que|
|to strongly hope that||ojalar que|
|to insist that||insistir que|
|to demand that||exigir que|
|to request that||pedir que|
|to suggest that||sugerir que|
|to prefer that||preferir que|
|to want that||querer que|
Exijo que ustedes terminen el informe para el lunes.
I demand that you finish the report by Monday.
Ojalá que mi amiga pueda visitarme el próximo mes.
I really hope that my friend can visit me next month.
Expressions of Doubt:
|to doubt that||dudar que|
|to not believe that||no creer que|
|to not think that||no pensar que|
|to not be sure that||no estar seguro que|
|to fear that||temer que|
|it’s unlikely that||no es probable que|
|it’s not certain that||no es cierto que|
|it’s not true that||no es verdad que|
Dudo que ella quiera ver una película esta noche.
I doubt she wants to see a movie tonight.
No es probable que el concierto sea gratis.
It’s unlikely that the concert is free.
|it is advisable that||conviene que|
|it is important that||es importante que|
|it is a shame that||es una lastima que|
|it is better that||es mejor que|
|it is necessary that||es necesario que|
|it is preferable that||es preferible que|
|it is terrible that||es terrible que|
|it is incredible that||es increíble que|
Conviene que se lave los manos.
It is advisable that one washes their hands.
Es una lastima que no vengas a nuestra fiesta.
It’s a shame that you don’t come to our party.
|unless||a menos que|
|before||antes de que|
|after||después de que|
|provided that||con tal de que|
|in the case that||en caso de que|
|so that||para que|
|as soon as||tan pronto que|
Llámame después de que tú llegues a la casa.
Call me after you get home.
Con tal de que yo salga del trabajo antes de las cinco, iré al restaurante.
Provided that I leave work before 5, I’ll go to the restaurant.
So now you have a long (and not nearly complete!) list of phrases that can tip you off to the fact that you need to use subjunctive. Some of these, especially the uncompleted action phrases, might seem a little confusing. Just remember that the subjunctive only follows words like “after” and “until,” etc, when the action they refer to hasn’t been completed yet. Most of all, remember that any sentence that doesn’t state something that definitely has happened/is happening/will happen or directly express certainty will use the subjunctive.
**Common mistake: Don’t use subjunctive when you should be using an infinitive. If the subjects in the main clause and the secondary clause are the same, and the verb is in the “to ____” form, then use the subjunctive. Take a look at the difference:
I want to visit Peru. Quiero visitar Perú. (infinitive)
She wants me to visit Peru. Ella quiere que yo visite Perú. (subjunctive)