Present Subjunctive in Spanish 6 – Possible Futures

yes-238381_1280The Present Subjunctive in Spanish

As you have probably begun to notice, there are quite a lot of different possibilities when dealing with the present subjunctive in Spanish.

The reason for this is that, as a tense, (or a mood as some refer to it) it is used massively in all communication. There really is no way to avoid it if you want to speak Spanish at a decent level.

However, you needn’t fear. This series of videos and the subsequent helpsheets that will go with it will help you to have the ability to use the present subjunctive in Spanish in virtually all of the areas necessary.

In this podcast we cover the use of the subjunctive in future scenarios.  In the last podcast we covered the use of WHEN or AS SOON AS, which also refers to the future. However, in this one we cover the more subtle ways of referring to the future.

Indirect references to the future.

This may seem very subtle, yet we have many expressions that refer to the future and trigger the present subjunctive in Spanish.


Think about this sentence:

We won’t go unless he gets here by ten. = No nos iremos a no ser que llegue para las diez.

The word ‘unless’ translates to Spanish as ‘a no ser que’, which is a trigger for the present subjunctive in Spanish. Why? If you need a reason, then it is because it refers to a possible future event that may or may not happen.

However, as we repeatedly say, sometimes it’s easier to focus on WHEN you have to use the subjunctive and not WHY.

The reason for that is that the same expression can be used to refer to the past, too. This time it talks about a possible past event.

I’ll, tell her tomorrow, unless he’s already told her, of course. = Se lo diré mañana a no ser que ya se lo haya dicho él, claro.

So, as you can see, even though we are talking about a possible event that has already happened, we are still using the present subjunctive in Spanish.

This is why it’s best to learn to use the subjunctive by ear rather than by rule, which is how Spanish speakers use it.  That way, you don’t have to question yourself or run through a set of rules each time. Rather, the subjunctive will naturally flow from the trigger.

Mientras tanto, you can focus on speaking a beautiful Spanish instead of having to trawl through an interminable list of rules and regulations.

We hope you are enjoying this series. It’s basic, but there’s just about everything you need to start using the present subjunctive in Spanish right away, with confidence!

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Present Spanish Subjunctive Examples Possibilities 7

Spanish Subjunctive Examples questions scalenumber 7.


It’s all getting a bit blurry.

As I state in the podcast, there comes a time when studying the Spanish Subjunctive when the lines begin to get blurred. It becomes difficult to keep rigid lines around the little families of triggers.


This is because, as you really begin to understand the Spanish subjunctive, you will find that there really is no great difference between one category and another.

The shocking news is that the Subjunctive is really the same thing every time.

In this podcast we talk about possibilities and about expressions like:

It’s possible that… Es posible que…

It’s probable that… Es probable que…

I don’t think that… No creo que…

Just as an aside, when English speakers make the above sentence about thinking, they generally choose the verb PENSAR.

However, many Spanish speakers would choose CREER over PENSAR. Why?

Well, the simplest answer is that it’s quicker! It’s easier to say “Creo que.” than it is to say “Pienso que”. And that’s probably the only reason.

Is a pattern emerging?

Perhaps you are beginning to notice as you look at all of the Spanish subjunctive examples that there are two things that seem to bind many of the triggers together.

These are:

1, Uncertainty.

2, Future events.

This is what all the possibilities refer to. However, as we have explained earlier in this series. This is not always a good way of identifying the subjunctive. The reason for that is for every example you can find to prove this theory, there exists another that literally flies in the face of it.

This is why it really is worth understanding the physical structure of the triggers rather than spending lots of time trying to grasp the more theoretical premise behind its use.

Going forward.

What we suggest is that as you go on learning and more importantly, USING the subjunctive in your spoken and written Spanish, that you aim to gain an understanding of the feeling and intention behind the Spanish subjunctive.

As has been said before, the Subjunctive is a mood (and a mood is a feeling, right?) and as strange as it sounds, you end up feeling it in your guts rather than understanding it in your head. You literally end up getting a gut feel that in any particular sentence the subjunctive should be used.

Once you become comfortable with it, that gut feel will serve you well most of the time. And, of course, sometimes it will lead you completely astray as it does me (Gordon) sometimes.

At the end of the day, learning is more a process and less an end result. So just keep at it and we’ll keep giving you new ways to understand and improve your Spanish.

Saludos, Gordon y Cynthia.

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Spanish Subjunctive Help 8 Using it with SI

Spanish Subjunctive Help.possible

This is the last in the 8 podcast series on the Spanish Present Subjunctive. In this podcast we deal with the very strange way that Spanish behaves when faced with the word SI=IF.

Everything that Glitters.

This word IF is a classic example of how you can’t just use the idea that the subjunctive is all about uncertain futures. Were that the case than to start a sentence with if would be a dead certainty to have subjunctive in it.

And yet that’s not the case!

The SI non-subjunctive and the Si Imperfect Subjunctive.

Firstly, let us be absolutely clear what we are dealing with here. We must keep the kind of sentence we are focussing on separate from the other kind that also starts with IF and yet needs the imperfect subjunctive.

Here is an example of each one:

1, If you want we can eat in the dining room. (Non-subjunctive)

Si quieres podemos comer en el comedor.

2, If you wanted we could eat in the dining room. (Imperfect Subjunctive)

Si quisieras podríamos comer en el comedor.

How to easily identify them.

Despite what it may seem, these two sentences are easy to identify. All you have to do is to notice the verb that follows SI/IF.

Look at the examples. In number 1, the word is WANT which is present tense indicative In English, when you make your sentence and the verb that follows the IF is in present tense, then you DO NOT need to use anything except the present in Spanish.

In number two, the verb is in the past (Wanted) which is strange because if you think about it we are actually talking about a possible future event. This is your alarm bell that helps you realise that this is actually the English Imperfect Subjunctive.  When you see  this happen you must use the Spanish Imperfect Subjunctive.

Test your skills.

Look at the following sentences and see if you can tell if they need the Imp Subjunctive or just normal present tense.

1, If they come at six we’ll be finished by nine.

2, If you could come a little earlier we would be done by nine.

3, They would look better if they were in the hall.

4, If you tell me the name I’ll look for it on Google.

5, If I gave you a pound what would you do with it?

6, If they don’t call, what will you do?


The answers are just below.

So, now you should be able to identify the two kinds of IF statements in Spanish and English. It’s important to follow up this podcast with the next one which covers the use of the Imperfect Subjunctive and offers more Spanish Subjunctive Help.

Don’t worry, if you’ve learnt the Present Subjunctive you already know 90 percent of the Imperfect Subjunctive.

Also, you can check out our podcast where we force, unnaturally, a lot of Present Subjunctive into our conversation. jeje

Hasta la próxima vez,

Gordon 🙂

1, PT  2, IS  3, IS  4, PT  5, IS  6, PT

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Past Subjunctive Spanish Guide 9 The IF Would Combination

sierraPast Subjunctive Spanish Guide.

In this podcast we cover the very important distinction between the WOULD/IF trigger that demands the past subjunctive Spanish verb and the IF in present, which does not.

The Big Issue.

The problem that most students have with this construction is identifying when they should use the past subjunctive and when the present. We already covered this in the Subjunctive podcast/blog number 8. However, it will be worth reviewing it here. (Repetition is the mother of all learning.)

When you start a sentence with the word IF, then ask yourself this question about your English sentence.

After the IF is the verb that follows in present or in past tense?

Here is what we mean. Take a look at these examples:

If you want, we can eat there.

If you wanted, we could eat there.

If the verb that follows IF/SI is in present, then that’s what you use in Spanish.  You simply use the Present Indicative, or as in the above example, QUIERES.

Si quieres, podemos comer allí.

If the verb is in the past then you use the Past/Imperfect Subjunctive. Why? Because we are using a past tense word to talk about a possible future event. THAT’S WEIRD! So, in this case we would use QUISIERAS.

Si quisieras, podríamos comer allí.

Which is Imperfect Subjunctive and which is Conditional?

The other issue that many students have is understanding whether the Imperfect Subjunctive follows the SI or if the Conditional follows the SI.

This issue comes in sentences like this:

If you could, would you be the president if the United States?

Would you be the president of the United States if you could?

The reason it’s a problem is because in English both the word COULD and WOULD are conditional. So which is which?

We have developed a really easy way of knowing how to GET IT RIGHT.

SIERA (Sierra= Saw/Mountain range)

If you remember this word you will always get it right.  IERA is one of the optional endings of the Imperfect Subjunctive. Now, the Imperfect Subjunctive ALWAYS follows IF or SI.

Therefore, by keeping in mind SIERA, you will always know where and what to put. Let’s consider the above sentences.

If you could, would you be the president if the United States?

Notice that after the IF/SI appears the verb CAN/PODER. This is the one that takes the IERA. Thus the sentence would be:

¿Si pudieras, serías el presidente de los Estados Unidos?

However, notice that the order has beeen changed in the following sentence. This does not matter! You still follow the same SIERA rule.

Would you be the president of the United States if you could?

¿Serías el presidente de los Estado Unidos si pudieras?

So, now that you have that a little clearer (hopefully), listen in to the podcast and let us explain everything in more detail in this Past Subjunctive Spanish Guide.

Gordon 🙂

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Imperfect Subjunctive Spanish Guide 10 Be that as it may.

Imperfect Subjunctive Spanish Guide.the end

So, here we are at the last in this series of videos and podcasts on the Spanish Subjunctive. What a journey! The interesting thing to understand is that this has really just been the start of a long and mostly beautiful relationship with the Present and Imperfect Subjunctive Spanish ‘mood’.

A little Secret.

I want you to give yourself space to learn the subjunctive and to make your mistakes. Don’t think that because you have listened to the 10 videos that you now should get the subjunctive right every time.  Learning the subjunctive is a journey. The secret is that even after 15 years of speaking , teaching and learning Spanish, I still make mistakes. I still get the subjunctive wrong sometimes in that mysterious 5% area that even to this day confuses me.

I’m sure that in another 15 years I’ll have it totally cracked, but until then, I’m very happy to use it correctly 95% of the time.

Where are you now?

So, the question is: Where are you now in your learning journey? How do you feel about the subjunctive? Does it seem like less of an enemy and more like a distant friend?

I’ve come across so many students that go from one extreme to another. Firstly they ask me if they can get away with speaking Spanish without using the subjunctive. I tell them that, yes, they can, but they will have to accept that they will not have a good level of Spanish without it.

Then, after mustering up their resources they get on with the learning and suddenly, everything that they write has the subjunctive quite literally splattered all over it.  They seem to go into over drive or over compensation and see triggers where there aren’t any.

Where you want to be is somewhere in between all of that. Relaxed about the subjunctive without getting your knickers in a twist about it all.

The MAY MIGHT confusion.

One of the biggest confusions out there about may and might is that many students think that if they want to say a sentence with may or might, then they should automatically use the subjunctive.

My suggestion is never to make that assumption. In fact, most times the sentence in Spanish needs to be restructured and only sometimes does it need the subjunctive.


May I go to the toilet? = ¿Puedo ir al baño? (No subjunctive)

He may come tomorrow. = Tal vez venga mañana. (Re structure of the sentence.)

I have seen students say: ¿Pueda ir al baño? because they think that by making it subjunctive it changes the the verb into a ‘may’.  This isn’t the case.


So, keep on studying, watch out for our up and coming book which compliments these 10 videos with deeper explanations and lots and lots of practical exercises for you to really be able to grasp the Present and Imperfect Subjunctive Spanish ‘Mood’.


Hasta pronto,

Gordon 🙂

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