Hola Chicos: Here you have an excerpt from chapter 1 of the forthcoming book on the Spanish Subjunctive: (Estimated release: June 2015)
Demystifying the Spanish Subjunctive.
(Fear the fear and Subjunctive anyway.)
by Gordon and Cynthia Smith-Durán
Dónde empezó todo-Where this all began.
As I begin to write this book in 2015 I can look back on the many fascinating years that I have spent learning to understand, utilize and, to some smaller degree, dominate the Spanish language. It hasn’t been an easy task, of that I must admit. However, in many respects this experience has been the one that has most fulfilled and altered the entire course of my life. (For the better, claro.)
If I were to consider all of the steps through which this process has taken me, facing the task of learning the Spanish subjunctive was the only one that truly struck fear into my very core. But, why? It may well have been because of its worryingly long name, or because I didn’t know what the word ‘subjunctive’ meant, or maybe because my English language training at school had been so ‘lite’ that I had no idea that the present and past subjunctive actually existed. And in English, too! (I doubt my English teacher did, either.)
And yet, thanks to two lovely people, I have become very much aware of how we do use them in English, and of how they appear far more often than you might imagine. We’ll come to the Imperfect or what I prefer to call the Past Subjunctive later and then I´ll have the opportunity to talk about the other person who has guided me no end in understanding this tricky tense (my wife, Cynthia).
For the moment, however, let me show you how I learnt about the way the Present Subjunctive is used in English.
During an email conversation with my good friend Peter Løvstrøm, my eyes were opened to the vast number of sentences in English that use the Present Subjunctive. Before that, I hadn’t really paid any attention to these kind of word structures and was thus oblivious to the fact that they were identical in format to the Spanish Present Subjunctive.
Here are a few examples that Peter offered me:
It is important that you be there.
(Rather than ‘that you are there.’)
It is necessary that he do it immediately.
(And not, ‘that he does it.’)
It is imperative that we be present at the meeting.
(Normally it would be, ‘that we are present.’)
It is advisable that she have some rest before the trip.
(Instead of, ‘that she has some rest.’)
I demand that I be allowed to speak to my lawyer.
(The normal conjugation is, ‘that I am allowed.’)
The doctor insists that the patient stay in the hospital.
(Rather than, ‘that the patient stays.’
Now, I have to say that much of this kind language is falling into disuse. Lots of people typically use the version offered in the brackets below each example. Yet, as you read the above sentences, you probably noticed how natural they all seem? That’s because it’s likely that, at some point, we’ve all heard them used.
The English system is to use the verb in its infinitive (complete) form as the subjunctive. It doesn’t conjugate to agree with the person mentioned in the sentence. Now, that was a real eye opener to me.
Beforehand I had always attributed our fear of the Spanish Present Subjunctive to the fact that we didn’t have it in English and so had no frame of reference for it. Wrong again! (I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been wrong in my assumptions about things. Perhaps one day I’ll get stuff right on a consistent basis…but I doubt it.)
Watch out for the books release soon! It will free you from any fear and trepidation you may have about the Spanish Subjunctive and will offer you so many practical exercises that once you’ve finished, you’ll be ‘¡un crack!’. In the mean time, you can be preparing your mind by watching our series of no-nonsense videos explaining how to use the Spanish Subjunctive with ease.