Forming the Present
Subjunctive
What is the Subjunctive?
I’m not answering that question here.
Suffice it to say that it’s a new verb form.
Here you’ll be learning to form the present
subjunctive. The present tense you
learned in Chapter 1 (hablo, hablas, habla,
etc.) is called the present indicative.
The way you form the present subjunctive
is different from the way you form all the
tenses you’ve studied up until this point.
You don’t go to the infinitive; you go to the
first person singular (“yo”) form of the verb:
tengo
hablo
quiero
hablo
tengo
Drop the –o:
habl-
teng-
If the verb is an –ar verb,
add the following endings:
If the verb is an –er or –ir
verb, add the following endings:
-e
-es
-e
-a
-as
-a
-emos
-éis
-en
hable hablemos
hables habléis
hable hablen
tenga
tengas
tenga
-amos
-áis
-an
tengamos
tengáis
tengan
Do NOT take shortcuts. Do NOT look at a
word like “vive” and think, “Oh, to make it
subjunctive, I just have to change the “e”
to an “a.” That happens to give you the
right answer for “vive,” but it doesn’t for
words like “conoce” (> conozca), “pone” (>
ponga), “dice” (> diga), etc.
Be sure that you know all verbs that are
irregular in the present tense (tener, venir,
traer, etc.) and all stem-changing verbs;
you can’t form the present subjunctive if
you don’t know how to form the present
indicative (hablo, como, vivo, tengo, traigo,
etc.).
Click here to go to a brief practice exercise.
Spell-Change Verbs
Remember how the “yo” form of these verbs underwent a
spelling change in the preterit?
• pagar > pagué
• buscar > busqué
• almorzar > almorcé
-gar, -car, and –zar verbs are going to spell change in the
present subjunctive just like they did in the preterit. But this
time, they’re going to change all the way through, not just in
the “yo” form, because they have an –e in all persons:
pague paguemos
pagues paguéis
pague paguen
busque busquemos
busques busquéis
busque busquen
almuerce almorcemos
almuerces almorcéis
almuerce almuercen
Click here to go to a brief practice exercise.
Stem-changing Verbs
In the present subjunctive, -ar and –er verbs
stem change in exactly the same places they
do in the present indicative.
Present indicative
Present subjunctive
quiero
quieres
quiere
queremos
quiera
queréis QUERER quieras
quieren
quiera
queramos
queráis
quieran
pienso
piensas
piensa
pensamos
piense
pensáis PENSAR pienses
piensan
piense
pensemos
pensáis
piensen
-ir verbs, however, behave differently. In the present indicative,
NO verb stem changes in the “nosotros” and “vosotros” forms.
pedir
pido
pides
pide
pedimos
pedís
piden
But in the present subjunctive, -ir verbs (NEVER –er or –ar
verbs) change in the “nosotros” and “vosotros” forms:
pida
pidas
pida
pidamos
pidáis
pidan
A very important note about these changes . . .
. . . is that the “nosotros” and “vosotros” forms
in the subjunctive get just an i or just a u.
Present indicative
siento
sientes
siente
Present subjunctive
sentimos
sienta
sentís
SENTIR sientas
sienten
sienta
sintamos
sintáis
sientan
duermo dormimos
duerma durmamos
duermes dormís DORMIR duermas durmáis
duerme duermen
duerma duerman
Compare –ar, -er, and –ir stem-changing verbs in the
present indicative and present subjunctive.
Present Indicative
pensar
pienso pensamos
piensas pensáis
piensa piensan
querer
quiero
quieres
quiere
queremos
queréis
quieren
sentir
siento sentimos
sientes sentís
siente sienten
Present Subjunctive
piense pensemos
pienses penseis
piense piensen
quiera
quieras
quiera
queramos
querais
quieran
sienta sintamos
sientas sintais
sienta sientan
Click here to go to a brief practice exercise.
Irregular Subjunctives
There are five irregular verbs in the subjunctive, five
verbs that DON’T follow the “drop the –o from the ‘yo’
form and add the appropriate ending” rule. Two of
them aren’t that strange; you just drop –oy instead of –
o and then add the appropriate endings:
estar (estoy)
esté
estés
esté
estemos
estéis
estén
dar (doy)
dé*
des
dé*
*The accent mark over the –e distinguishes this word from the preposition “de.”
demos
deis
den
You have to memorize the other three, however:
ser
saber
sea seamos
seas seáis
sea sean
sepa sepamos
sepas sepáis
sepa sepan
ir
vaya vayamos
vayas vayáis
vaya vayan
Don’t get the subjunctive of “ser” and “saber”
mixed up. Remember that both “ser” and its
subjunctive “sea” have three letters.
Click here to go to your homework on
subjunctive formation.
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Forming the Present Subjunctive