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Understanding a Subjunctive (Mood, English, Spanish, Examples + Rules)

What is a subjunctive? Or a subjunctive mood? And why is it so complicated to understand in the English language? A subjunctive is a type of verb form, phrase, or clause that can appear in English sentences to complete a thought.

What is a subjunctive?

There is no tense known as the subjunctive. It’s a state of mind. It’s the phrase you use when talking about things you hope will happen, things you want to happen, or things you predict will happen. It’s not entirely concrete, but it’s close.

In contrast to several other languages, English does not have a distinct verb form for the subjunctive mood. Instead, the subjunctive mood is expressed by using the simple form of a verb in a sentence, phrase, or clause that is part of a complete thought.

When writing sentences in the subjunctive mood, it is common practice to utilize the verbs be or were as connecting verbs in the phrase.

Subjunctive infographic
Subjunctive infographic

Here are a few statements that illustrate the use of the subjunctive mood:

  • If he had a billion dollars, he would rescue all the creatures held captive in the zoo.
  • He requested that they rescue the wild creatures that wandered into their territory.

The infinitive form of a verb is considered to be its bare form. This verb form is sometimes referred to as the verb’s basic form. The verb ‘rescue’ is shown in its most basic form in the examples.

Subjunctive verbs chart.
Subjunctive verbs chart.

A clause is considered to be finite when it has a verb inside it that conveys the tense of the phrase.

For instance, in the sentence “it is raining,” both the auxiliary verb “is” and the main verb “raining” indicates that the activity being described is taking place at present.

Because of the word “was” in the phrase “it was raining,” the action of rainfall is referred to in the past tense.

At this point, other types of finite clauses diverge from those written in the subjunctive mood in finite clauses. When using the subjunctive mood, the verb does not alter its form to reflect the tense; instead, it stays in its standard form. Here are two illustrations of this:

  • Our instructor recommended that we finish our essay before the deadline.
  • If this shop were anything like the other establishments in this city, it would take credit cards.

What is a base subjunctive?

The form of the basic subjunctive is quite straightforward to understand. The form of the verb is its root, which is true for all verbs and all people.

For example, “be,” “have,” “do,”go,” “sing,” and “work.”

No additional forms of verbs may be used in the base subjunctive, such as goes, does, works, or sings.

Examples of base subjunctives

The verbs “be,” “work,” and “sing” are used as examples in this table, which presents the basic subjunctive form for all persons:

Subjunctive list and chart.
Subjunctive list and chart.

Here are some more examples

  1. I suggest that you finish the construction quickly.
  2. The police demanded that they surrender immediately.
  3. He asked that you be alert tonight.
  4. It is crucial that we accept the proposal.

Using base subjectives with a main clause and a “that” clause

Include the main clause in a sentence to be considered a whole sentence instead of a fragment.

A major clause, also known as an independent clause, a superordinate clause, or a base clause, is a collection of words composed of a subject and a predicate that describes a whole idea together.

This type of sentence is a base clause, independent clause, and superordinate clause.

To compose successful sentences, a writer needs to decide which pieces of information should be included in the main clause and which should be relegated to dependent clauses.

The most significant information should be placed in the main sentence, while material that connects everything by offering detail and subtlety should be placed in a dependent clause. This is the general rule of thumb.

The subjunctive of the base form is often utilized in those clauses following the following structures:

1. an inferring verb (or noun) followed by that

advise, ask, command, demand, desire, insist, order, prefer, propose, recommend, request, suggest command, demand, order, proposal, recommendation, request, suggestion

2. adjectival form of advisable or uneasy plus that

advisable, best, crucial, desired, essential, imperative, significant, required, unimaginable, urgent, vital adamant, concerned, resolute, eager, keen

Here are some examples to explain this further:

  1. The teacher suggests that you complete your course before the exams.
  2. The company recommended that we join next week.
  3. She requested that the office not be open at 7 AM.
  4. My friends made a suggestion that everyone be ready for the party.
  5. The owner kept a proposal that the business buy more patents.
  6. The prime minister has issued an order that the chief minister resign next week.
  7. It is advisable that the patient rest for a month.
  8. It was essential that the course advance quickly.
  9. After the arrival, it will be crucial that every passenger not use their mobile phones.

What is a “were” subjunctive?

The subjunctive mood is a verb form used for making claims that are not genuine or hypothetical.

It is constructed with words such as “I was,” “he was,” “she was,” “it was,” and so on. When you are being wishful, you frequently employ this type of expression.

It is impossible to make an error if you choose to address someone in the second person plural (you), the first person plural (us), the second person plural (you), or the third person plural (they).

Wishful thinking calls for the word “were.”

When you employ the word wish in a sentence, it clearly indicates that you should be using the subjunctive.

A wish is a strong desire or hopeful expectation for something that either cannot or almost certainly will not come true.

The following are some examples:

  1. I wish I were twenty all over again.
  2. I wish I were the most read writer in the world.
  3. I wish I were the winner of the Emmy Awards.
  4. I wish the rumors you spread about me were true.
  5. I wish I were the master of the universe.
  6. My sister wishes she were a K-Pop idol.

Always keep in mind this guideline regarding the use of the words was and were:

You should always use were with terms that are hypothetical, wishful, imagined, wanted, questionable, and otherwise contradictory to fact; in other words, not genuine.


  1. I wish I were more confident on stage.
  2. I wish it were raining today.
  3. I wish I were taller so I could be better at basketball.
  4. John wishes he were a rich man so he could buy the car of his dreams.
  5. She shouts at everyone as if she were the boss.
  6. She loves to spend money as if she were the daughter of a millionaire.

Formal subjunctives with the word “were”

Although there is no error in using was or were interchangeable, the word “were” is more commonly seen in more official contexts.

‘Were’ is the past tense of to be, used for both the third person plural (they and we) and the second person past tense, whereas ‘was’ denotes the singular form of the verb to be in its previous incarnation (you).

The subjunctive mood is the reverse of the indicative mood, focusing on things that are either not genuine or subject to certain conditions.

You are utilizing the subjunctive mood when you speak about your wishes and expectations for the future. Talking about something that you intend to do or something that you wish to do, as well as talking about things that you know will never be true or things that are no longer true, both fall under this category.

Including the word “if,” which implies that a hypothetical situation is being discussed, is one of the obvious signs that you are dealing with the subjunctive mood.

It makes no difference whether the topic in question is solitary or plural, or whether it is written in the first, second, or third person. If you are writing in the subjunctive mood, the correct grammatical past tense of to be is really to use the verb were.


  1. She would go if she were permitted.
  2. If she were not so rude, she would get many friends.
  3. I would inform her if I were you.
  4. It’s not as if the dress were ugly.
  5. The woman acts if she were the queen of England.
  6. I wish I weren’t so shy to get on stage.
  7. I wish the generator were working.
  8. What would you tell him if he were to return from Australia?

Informal subjunctives with the word “was”

In more casual circumstances, the word was is employed.

The first person singular pronoun “I” and the third person singular pronouns “he,” “she,” and “it” both utilize the past tense indicative form of the verb “to be,” which has the meaning “to exist or live.”

When discussing actual life and things that are common knowledge, you should utilize the past indicative.

Another application of the word “was” involves the use of the verb in the role of an auxiliary verb in conjunction with a single subject in the past continuous tense.

An auxiliary verb is a verb that is used in conjunction with another verb that follows it in a sentence to express different tenses, aspects, moods, etc. The past continuous tense refers to something that was ongoing in the past.

An auxiliary verb is a verb that is used in conjunction with another verb that follows it in a sentence.


  1. She would go if she was permitted.
  2. If she was not so rude, she would get many friends.
  3. It’s not as if the dress was ugly.
  4. The woman acts if she was the queen of England.
  5. I wish I wasn’t so shy to get on stage.
  6. I wish the generator was working.
  7. What would you tell him if he was to return from Australia?

Subjective grammar rules

When two parts of a phrase have distinct subjects, the Spanish subjunctive is used after specific verbs and conjunctions. This occurs when the subjects of the two sections of the sentence are different.

For the second verb, the English language uses an infinitive, which literally means “to be.”

This is not possible to perform in Spanish. When it comes to the second verb, you have to utilize the subjunctive form.


Sarah is afraid something may happen to her dog.

  • Sarah tiene miedo de que le pase algo a su perro.

Shelly wants that her children be happy.

  • Shelly quiere que sus hijos sean felices.

What is a subjunctive mood?

A grammatical mood is a property of an utterance that reveals the speaker’s attitude toward the discussed topic. The subjunctive mood is one such mood.

Verbs in their subjunctive forms are typically used to express various states of unreality, such as a wish, an emotion, the possibility of something happening, a judgment, an opinion, an obligation, or an action that has not yet been taken place.

The specific contexts in which they are used vary from language to language.

One of the irrealis moods, or those that allude to things that aren’t necessarily actual, the subjunctive expresses possibilities rather than realities.

It is frequently contrasted with the indicative, a realistic mood that is primarily employed to show that something is a statement of fact. This is done because the indicative is a realistic mood.

It is in subordinate clauses, particularly that clauses, where subjunctives are most commonly found, albeit this is not their exclusive linguistic home.


1. A counterfactual statement

Through the use of a structure in the subjunctive mood, the author conveys an idea that is not supported by the evidence.

2. Imperative

This category of the subjunctive mood is used to convey directives and demands.

3. Obligatoryness

This form of the subjunctive relates to what is required.

4. Proposition

The plans and suggestions that people make fall under this category.

5. Supposition

The writer suggests a potential outcome while using this style.

6. Wish

Expressions of desire are the focus of this particular sort of subjunctive form.


  1. If I were you, I’d tell her the whole story.
  2. Julie demanded that the boy be left alone.
  3. It is necessary that Louis takes the first bus home.
  4. The team proposed that the player resign from the team.
  5. If I were to go home today, I’d have to clean up everything.
  6. Suzanne wishes that she were able to watch Harry Potter in the theaters again.

What is a subjunctive conjugation?

The subjunctive mood in English is a specific and somewhat uncommon form of the verb that denotes anything that is wished for or envisioned.

The subjunctive mood is most commonly employed when discussing future occurrences whose occurrence is in any way uncertain.

For instance, we employ the subjunctive when speaking about situations where somebody wishes for certain events to occur. assumes that anything will occur.

Verbs to Be Conjugated Using the Present Subjunctive

To properly conjugate a verb in the present subjunctive, you must first recall the present indicative yo form of the verb in question. Only then can you proceed to conjugate the verb in the present subjunctive.

This is because the yo form of the present indicative serves as the basis for the stem of present subjunctive verbs.

This will be different for many verbs, including verbs with spelling variations, verbs that alter their stems, and irregular verbs. For many verbs, this will be the same as the infinitive stem.

Endings that are Regular in the Present Subjunctive

After establishing the stem, you will add the present subjunctive ending corresponding to your subject.

There are only two possible ending combinations for verbs in the present subjunctive: one for verbs ending in -ar, and one for verbs ending in either -er or -ir.

Irregular Present Subjunctive Verbs

Only six verbs may be classified as irregular when used in the subjunctive.


Spanish subjunctive chart.
Spanish subjunctive chart.

Grammar rules

1. Two Different Topics

The subjunctive mood is typically utilized in the subordinate clause and is also utilized when the subject of the subordinate clause is not the same as the subject of the main clause.

I don’t think that Cristina speaks French.

  • No creo que Cristina hable francés.

This statement has two subjects: Yo (I), the speaker, and Cristina, the person being addressed. The clause that has Cristina as its topic is called a subordinate clause. As a result, the subjunctive mood is the natural next step.

2. Two Verbs

One other criterion you may impose is the requirement that the phrase must have two verbs, one in each clause; however, the verbs do not have to be different.

Simply ensuring that the topics are distinct is sufficient. The verb in the main phrase is in the indicative mood, whereas the verb in the subordinate clause is in the subjunctive mood.

I don’t think Ben believes in the president.

  • No creo que Ben crea en el presidente.

3. Relative Pronoun Que or Quien

Another thing to examine is whether there’s a relative pronoun que (which, that) or quien (who, that) before the subordinate clause.

I don’t think Ben is the one that speaks French.

  • No creo que Ben sea el que habla francés.

I want to get married to a person who knows how to cook.

  • Quiero casarme con una persona que sepa cocinar.


Another criterion that has to be checked is whether or not the verb that occurs in the main sentence is a WEIRDO verb.

Wishes, feelings, impersonal expressions, recommendations, doubt or denial, and ojalá comprise the acronym WEIRDO.

I want you to complete my work.

  • Quiero que completes mi trabajo.

It saddens her that you have to resign.

  • Le entristece que tengas que renunciar.

I don’t think that Fabiola can cook.

  • No creo que Fabiola sepa cocinar.

It’s good that you can play the guitar.

  • Es bueno que puedas tocar la guitarra.

I recommend that you go home soon.

  • Te recomiendo que te vayas a casa pronto.

I hope I can take a long holiday.

  • Espero poder tomarme unas largas vacaciones.

5. Combine the subjunctive mood with conjunctive phrases

Certain conjunctions will invariably cause the subjunctive mood to be expressed.

Call me when you are done with the work.

  • Llámame cuando hayas terminado con el trabajo.

What is a tener subjunctive?

Tener, which literally means “to have, to own, or to own,” is one of the most commonly used verbs in the Spanish language. It also happens to be one of the most important verbs. It may be interpreted in various ways and used for many purposes.

For Spanish language students, one of the most perplexing applications of the word tener is when it takes place in a sentence that is traditionally filled by the English verb “to be.”

In addition to that, it’s an irregular verb. The tener subjunctive conjugation is fairly distinctive. Let’s begin by looking at the numerous interpretations of the word “tener.”

The present subjunctive conjugation is the one that the vast majority of people use instead of the tener subjunctive, hence its use is not very popular.

Nevertheless, you may still find examples of it in more formal writing, like literary masterpieces and legal papers.

It is the same meaning in English as the future indicative tense phrase “will have,” which has the same meaning in Spanish. The stem is the same as the one used in the imperfect tense.


Spanish subjunctive chart.
Spanish subjunctive chart.

When Used in Adjective Clauses, the Tener Subjunctive

Dependent clauses that perform the function of a noun are known as adjective clauses. You must employ the subjunctive mood when the adjective phrase you are working with changes something that is unsure, imprecise, or nonexistent.

In order to employ adjective clauses with tener subjunctive conjugations, you need to ensure that the adjective clause you are using changes something that is either ill-defined or does not exist.

Examples in Spanish

1. Taylor tiene un auto blanco.

Taylor has a white car.

2. José tiene 39 años.

Jose is 39 years old.

3. Susanne tiene que limpiar su habitación.

Susanne has to clean her room.

Present Tense

Keep in mind that the subjunctive mood is the one that lets you express non-real notions like wants, desires, or even possibilities. Take note of how the root word, teng, is retained in each conjugation.

Spanish subjunctive chart.
Spanish subjunctive chart.


I hope Paul is hungry.

  • Espero que Paul tenga hambre.

They will hopefully have something to do while they wait for their bus.

  • Con suerte tendrán algo que hacer mientras esperan su autobús.

Imperfect Tenses

Though you want to communicate about unknown events or wishes as if they happened in the past, use the imperfect tense in the subjunctive mood.

There are always two different forms of the imperfect tense, and both of them are accurate. In the first imperfect, the stem tuvier- is utilized in all conjugations, but in the second imperfect, the stem tuvies- is maintained.

Spanish subjunctive chart.
Spanish subjunctive chart.


If I had a sister, I could play tea house with her.

  • Si tuviera una hermana, podría jugar a la casa del té con ella.

The boss was hoping you had time to reconsider the decision.

  • El jefe esperaba que tuvieras tiempo para reconsiderar la decisión.


The present subjunctive conjugation is the one that the vast majority of people use instead of the tener subjunctive, hence its use is not very popular.

Nevertheless, you may still find examples of it in more formal writing, like as literary masterpieces and legal papers. It is the same meaning in English as the future indicative tense phrase “will have,” which has the same meaning in Spanish.

It uses the same stem as the first imperfect tense, which is tuvier-.

Spanish subjunctive chart.
Spanish subjunctive chart.


If you are hungry, eat at the restaurant.

  • Si tienes hambre, come en el restaurante.

Understanding subjunctive vs. indicative

The ability to differentiate between the indicative and the subjunctive grammatical moods is among the most crucial aspects of Spanish grammatical use.

It is not enough to just memorize the rules to have a complete understanding of them. The most important thing is adjusting how you think about the world and its appearance.

If you are already familiar with notions such as the distinction between the verbs ser and estar or the idea that things might have a gender, then you know that shifting your traditional understanding of grammar concepts does not provide a particularly tough challenge.

What Exactly Is a Mood?

A fascinating idea in grammar, a mood, does not refer to a specific time but rather how you feel and want your audience to feel about what you say. Moods are conveyed through the use of adverbs.

Are you still confused? The tone reveals, for instance, whether you are confident in what you are saying or whether you still have some reservations about it.

In Spanish, there are three different attitudes or moods:

1. a suggestive feeling

2. a tenor that is subjunctive

3. imperative mood

The Spanish moods and how they differ from the tenses

When discussing an action’s place in time, we refer to it as being in the “present,” “preterite,” or “future” tense. Tenses are often represented with verbs in forms such as the presente, pretérito, or futuro.

How we choose to express ourselves may often be deduced from our prevailing mood.

Moods are governed by their very own sets of guidelines, which are comprised of the indicative (which is the form used to state facts), the subjunctive (which is the form used to convey opinion or uncertainty), and the imperative (which is the form used to tell other people to perform things).

Comparing the Indicative and the Subjunctive

When speaking Spanish, the indicative mood is used to communicate about things that are certain and objective.

You’ll use it to talk about facts, descriptions, and other things that can’t be disputed when you’re talking about objective things.

On the other hand, the subjunctive mood is considered to be subjective. You can use it to communicate things about which you are not sure whether they are genuine, real, or will ever occur.

You’ll use it to communicate about things like uncertainties, hopes, probabilities, and many more.


Indicative Mood

1. Cristina speaks French.

Cristina habla francés.

2. I am sure that Cristina speaks French.

Estoy seguro de que Cristina habla francés.

Sunjunctive Mood

1. It’s possible that Cristina speaks French.

Es posible que Cristina hable francés.

2. I don’t think that Cristina speaks French.

No creo que Cristina hable francés.

What is an imperfect subjunctive?

Spanish speakers frequently employ the imperfect subjunctive tense in their writing. The preterite imperfect tense of the subjunctive mood is commonly known as the Spanish past subjunctive, but its official name is the preterite tense of the subjunctive mood.

The imperfect subjunctive is not a tense; instead, it is a mood that allows speakers to convey the same subjunctivity as the present subjunctive but in the past. It adheres to the same standards but relates to prior experience or unusual occurrences and possibilities.

Examples in Spanish

I wanted you to take me to the cafe.

  • Quería que me llevaras al café.

She was afraid you wouldn’t attend the ceremony.

  • Tenía miedo de que no asistieras a la ceremonia.

What is a present subjunctive?

The present subjunctive mood is generally employed while discussing thinking, belief, anticipation, or assumption.

Despite its name, this form can also be utilized when discussing a future action (as well as a present action).

Examples in Spanish

I hope Patrick is fine.

  • Espero que Patricio esté bien.

The team leader will congratulate the player who comes first.

  • El líder del equipo felicitará al jugador que llegue primero.


  1. What is the Subjunctive? Definition and Examples
  2. Subjunctive
  3. Subjunctive: Structures, Usage & Examples
  4. Subjunctive
  5. Subjunctive Mood Explained: How to Use the Subjunctive Mood
  6. Subjunctive mood
  7. What Is the Subjunctive Mood? (with Examples)
  8. Subject-Verb Agreement
  9. Grammar: Subject-Verb Agreement
  10. “Was” vs. “Were”: Use Cases And Examples
  11. Getting in the (Subjunctive) Mood
  12. Was vs. Were: What’s the Difference?
  13. Was vs. Were?
  14. What is a Main Clause in English Grammar?
  15. Using the subjunctive form in English
  16. Subjunctive: Definition, Useful Usage and Examples in English
  17. Tener Subjunctive Mood: How to Use it the Right Way

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About the author

Dalia Y.: Dalia is an English Major and linguistics expert with an additional degree in Psychology. Dalia has featured articles on Forbes, Inc, Fast Company, Grammarly, and many more. She covers English, ESL, and all things grammar on GrammarBrain.

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