The Spanish Subjunctive 1 – Understanding the Rules

ruler scaledThe Rules.

Firstly, let’s get one thing straight. Having studied and taught the Present and Past Spanish subjunctive for a long time now has helped me understand one thing;

The rules that we find in many of the books MAKE US MORE CONFUSED!

It’s not that they are wrong. They simply send us off in the wrong direction more than in the right one.

I also believe that too often, the books come from the wrong direction as they try to tell us WHY we should use the Spanish Subjunctive, and not WHEN.

For that reason, I have created a ten lesson video class for any serious student of the Spanish language so that they can, perhaps for the first time, really get their heads around how to use the Spanish subjunctive effectively and appropriately.

Rules to Throw Out!

If I had a pound/dollar for every time I have heard that the Subjunctive is needed when we talk about future uncertainty, then, I would be a rich man.  And yet, this rule actually makes us MORE confused.

The reason for this is that IT’S NOT STRICTLY TRUE. In fact, it’s more often NOT TRUE at all.

Consider the following sentences and ask yourself if it is based on a doubtful future event:

If he comes tomorrow, we’ll eat out.

ABSOLUTELY I hear you cry. And yet, it doesn’t require the Spanish Subjunctive.

Si VIENE (indicative) mañana, comeremos fuera.

When you listen to the attached video, you will hear more examples of these kind of sentences that really should contain the Spanish Subjunctive if we were to follow the rules.

So What Can I Do?

The answer to this is very simple and is the reason I have decided to make this series.

All you need to do is to learn to recognise THE TRIGGERS.

These are the structures that demand the Spanish Subjunctive and leave the confusion of rules to the academics.


The Triggers.

One thing you can bet your life on is that every time the subjunctive appears in a sentence, there has been a FIXED STRUCTURE that preceded it and that, “triggered it off“.

By learning what these triggers are, you can leapfrog the rules (and come back to them later if you really want to) and get straight into using the Spanish subjunctive confidently.

You’ll be surprised at how straight forward it is once you understand how to know when you should use it.


Join me.

Start working your way through the series and I assure you that you will begin to understand WHEN to use the Spanish Subjunctive, although I won’t promise to have you totally clear as to WHY you use it in each particular instance.

The question is: What is more important, understanding why you do something, or doing it correctly?

I suggest that the understanding why actually comes through the doing. The internet is filled to overflowing with explanations of why you use the Spanish Subjunctive, and yet is markedly dry of more practical help on exactly how to use it.

Quiero que tengáis mucha suerte en vuestros estudios y que sigáis estudiando con nosotros.


Gordon 🙂



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The Present Spanish Subjunctive 2 – Hopes and Maybes

maybe scaleSubjunctive and Indicative.

For us to study the Spanish Subjunctive, we must also understand the way we refer to the present tense. It’s called the “indicative”, which is purely the present tense, the one that we learn when we first begin to study Spanish.

Most times, when talking about this subject we ask: “Subjunctive or not subjunctive?” when really a better question would be: “Subjunctive or indicative?”

The Triggers.

Now that we have gotten into the meat of this subject, we can start looking at the real triggers that signal the need for the present Spanish subjunctive.

Probably, the most common element in 90% of all subjunctive sentences is the word QUE. As I explain in the video, QUE is I heavily worked word in Spanish and often causes confusion with students as they see it appearing “por todos lados” in their studies.

If you want to refresh your understanding of QUE, then why not take a look at our video blog on this subject.

What you must be cautious of, however, when working with the Spanish subjunctive, is not to imagine that it’s QUE  is the only word that triggers it off.

Rather, it is the appearance of QUE with other sentence structures that normally creates a need to use the subjunctive.

A frequent confusion.

Many students get a little confused about where to place the subjunctive verb once the trigger has been fired off. I explain in the video blog that normally the subjunctive is placed in the verb that FOLLOWS the trigger. Sometimes I have heard students placing the subjunctive on the trigger verb. This is not correct.


Here’s an example of how it works most times :

Espero que (trigger) mañana venga (following verb) temprano.


Tal vez (trigger) no quiera (following verb) decírnoslo.

So, as you can note, the Spanish subjunctive appears in the verb that follows the trigger and not in the trigger itself.

Also, typically, once the following verb has been used in the subjunctive, that’s everything done and you don’t need to continue adding each verb in the subjunctive.


Él espera que ( trigger) yo le llame (following verb) cada día porque se siente (normal indicative) muy solo.


Two or more in a row.

Of course, the exception to this suggestion is when there is a continuation of the “hope” across more than one verb.


Mi amiga espera que (trigger) vaya (following verb) a su fiesta y que (continued trigger) traiga (following verb) comida y bebida, también.

Here, you can see that although there isn’t a new trigger verb, by adding QUE, the trigger is extended and thus requires another subjunctive verb to follow it.

With this in mind, now it’s time to look at the video and start adding these handy triggers to your spoken Spanish.


Buena suerte.

Gordon 🙂

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The Present Subjunctive Spanish 3 – Imposing Your Opinion on Others

subj3scaleWhat is the trigger.

As we have mentioned. There are various triggers that create a need for the Present Subjunctive Spanish. One of them is when we are imposing our opinion on others.

Examples in English.

One of the issues we have in English, at least, is that we don’t have the present subjunctive in the way that Spanish speakers have.

To know when we should use the Subjunctive we must, then, understand what triggers it off. Here are some examples:

It’s terrible that…

It’s great that…

It’s interesting that…

It’s fascinating that…

It’s bizarre that…

It’s frustrating that…

Can you see the pattern?

Whenever we say this kind of sentence, we are triggering off the need for the subjunctive.

I thought the Subjunctive was about doubt!

Yes and no. When we aim to fit the Subjunctive Spanish into a box of rules, we always end up confused. (I know because I have done it!)

This is why we talk about triggers and not reasons.

I used to get very confused about a sentence such as:

Es fantástico que hayas aprobado el examen. = It’s great that you have past the exam.

What I couldn’t get my head around was the fact that THE EXAM HAD BEEN PASSED and yet here we were placing doubt on it.

Of course, what I was doing was looking in the wrong place.

There was no doubt that the exam had been passed. The doubt, if we want to place it somewhere, was in the suggestion that it WAS FANTASTIC.

Says who? Says me!

And this is the issue. Just because you think it’s fantastic doesn’t mean that it is. So, the subjunctive is used to show that this is YOUR OPINION on this subject. You are imposing YOUR BELIEFS of others.

For someone else, like a competitor, another candidate for the job, your rival, it could be terrible news.

As you can see, this is a very subtle distinction and it’s for that reason that we suggest that you leave the logical analysis for another time.

Your first job.

The first thing you should do is learn WHEN you should use the subjunctive and NOT WHY.

After all, Spanish speakers do not learn why they are using the Subjunctive Spanish as they grow up. They simply learn to HEAR THE TRIGGERS.

And this is what you are now learning from this series of videos.

There are ten in the series, but that shouldn’t make you feel overwhelmed.

We have made them this way so that you can CHUNK DOWN this subject into bite-size pieces.

We don’t give you every example of each category, only the principal ones. It’s beholding of you to study outside of this series to understand the remaining expressions. However, even if you were to use only the examples we offer you, you would be well down the road to mastering the Subjunctive Spanish.

P.S. If you have wondered why we have been saying the Subjunctive Spanish and not the Spanish Subjunctive, it’s purely for the search engines. It seems that many people search for the words in that order. Go figure! 🙂

Saludos, Gordon y Cynthia.

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The Spanish Present Subjunctive 4 – I Want You To…

The Spanish Present Subjunctivewanted scale

Whenever you want to tell someone in Spanish that you want them to do something, then you are moving into the realm of the Spanish present subjunctive.

If you wanted to know why, then I suppose it could be that just because you want them to do it, it doesn’t mean that they are going to do it.

Regardless of the reason why, however, the fact is that this construction normally demands the subjunctive.

One of the things to watch out for with these sentences is that in Spanish they take a different structure to how they are in English.

The QUE in the trigger.

You have probably already realised just how common it is for the QUE to appear in the trigger for the subjunctive. Well, the same applies in the structure of wanting someone to do something.

Let’s look at the two different structures in a typical sentence like:

His parents want him to tidy his room every day.

Firstly, this is not how the sentence is made in Spanish. It’s actually like this:

His parents want THAT he tidies his room every day.

Sus padres QUIEREN QUE (the trigger) recoja su dormitorio cada día.

Now that makes sense. (Or at least it should.)

Wants for your own self. (Querer)

When you are talking about two people and one wants something for the other, then this invariably leads to the use of the Spanish present subjunctive.

However, when an individual or a group of people want something for themselves then this is NOT a subjunctive sentence.


Possibly because there’s an easier way of saying it.


I want to go to Spain this year.

To say this you simply add the infinitive.

Quiero IR a España este año.

It is NOT correct to say:

Quiero QUE VAYA a España este año.

Just as it ISN’T right to say:

Quieren que coman mejor. = They want to eat better.

This would be far more simple:

Quieren comer mejor. = They want to eat better.


Other wants.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you never use the subjunctive on yourself. There are many sentence structures that do demand the subjunctive.

Here are a few:

It’s important that I get good grades. = Es importante que saque buenas notas.

Es posible que vayamos mañana. = It’s posible that we are going tomorrow.

No es que no me guste.= It’s not that I don’t like it.

So, watch on as we cover the way the subjunctive works with Querer and the like. Espero que os guste.

Saludos, Gordon 🙂


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The Present Spanish Subjunctive Rules 5 – As Soon As and When

Spanish Subjunctive Rules.rulesscale

Here we are in the fifth of the series on making the Present Subjunctive easier.

So, how are you going with it? Are you beginning to understand that it’s much easier to focus on the triggers than it is to wade through the plethora of Spanish subjunctive rules and regulations on why you should be choosing to use it?


The important yet fun part.

What’s important for you to grasp from this range of video podcasts is that it isn’t definitive at all. What I mean by that is that what I am showing you in terms of examples is just a basic idea of how the Subjunctive works.

The fun part, and I mean that seriously, (jeje) is taking what you learn from this series and applying it and expanding it.

Of course, there will be  times when you come across examples that simply don’t fit into my explanations. (That’s the fun part) and you will need to use your investigative powers to understand what happened to trigger it off.


In this podast I deal with the sometimes confusing concept of using variations of “when” when you are referring to the future. Look at these two examples:

When I eat, I drink a tea. = Cuando como, bebo un té.


When I eat I’ll drink a tea. = Cuando coma, beberé un té/ bebo un té.

Can you see how the first one is referring to every day, repetitive activities, whilst the second is referring to a specific up-and-coming event in the future.

In English we often show that by using the future tense, I’ll, You’ll, He’ll, We’ll, etc.

In Spanish, that isn’t always the case and often they will just use the present tense and so, the reference to the future is identified through their use of the subjunctive.

The future in many words.

There are many ways to refer to future events and not just with the word ‘when’ or ‘cuando’.

There is: en cuanto = once, tan pronto como = as soon as, hasta que = until, a no ser que = unless…

There are lots more.

At some point, I will take all of this information and create some easy and straight forward Helpsheets that will be designed to actually have you feeling more sure AFTER you have worked through them.

I recall the way that I used to feel, (and still do) when I’d finished reading a rather high-brow and erudite explanation of something that really shouldn’t have been so difficult. Sometimes, I used to feel more confused after I’d read it than I was when I started.

I’ll keep you posted on how those helpsheets are going. Let’s see if we can get these Spanish Subjunctive Rules beaten into some kind of understandable shape.

So, enjoy the podcast and I’ll see you in the next one!


Hasta pronto, Gordon 🙂



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