The Imperfect Subjunctive
(El imperfecto de subjuntivo)
¿Qué pasó en
el senado?
El senador no
permitió que hablaran
los otros senadores.
How the imperfect subjunctive is formed
1. Start with the 3rd person plural (“aron, ieron”)
form of the verb in the preterit tense:
hablaron
vendieron
escribieron
If you start with the 3rd person plural and you know your preterit
verbs, there are no irregular forms, that is, there is no verb that does
not follow the rule.
How the imperfect subjunctive is formed
1. Start with the 3rd person plural (“aron, ieron”)
form of the verb in the preterit tense:
2. Drop the -ron ending.
hablaron
vendieron
escribieron
3. Add the following endings for all three
conjugations:
-ra
-ras
-ra
-ramos
-rais
-ran
How the imperfect subjunctive is formed
Examples:
hablar
hablara
hablaras
hablara
habláramos
hablaran
Note that -er and -ir forms are identical.
vender
vendiera
vendieras
vendiera
vendiéramos
vendieran
escribir
escribiera
escribieras
escribiera
escribiéramos
escribieran
Note also that first- and third-person singular forms are the same,
and that all nosotros forms must carry a written accent.
How the imperfect subjunctive is formed
Notice these alternate forms:
hablar
hablase
hablases
hablase
hablásemos
hablasen
vender
vendiese
vendieses
vendiese
vendiésemos
vendiesen
escribir
escribiese
escribieses
escribiese
escribiésemos
escribiesen
Everything that applies to the -ra forms applies also to the -se
forms; however, the latter are more literary and are used more
often in Spain than elsewhere.
The following chart shows the imperfect subjunctive
forms of some common regular and irregular verbs.
Infinitive
Third-person plural
Preterit
tomar
beber
escribir
creer
decir
estar
haber
ir
leer
tomaron
bebieron
escribieron
creyeron
dijeron
estuvieron
hubieron
fueron
leyeron
First-person singular
Imperfect subjunctive
tomara
bebiera
escribiera
creyera
dijera
estuviera
hubiera
fuera
leyera
The following chart shows the imperfect subjunctive
forms of some common regular and irregular verbs.
Infinitive
Third-person plural
Preterit
poder
poner
querer
saber
ser
tener
traer
venir
pudieron
pusieron
quisieron
supieron
fueron
tuvieron
trajeron
vinieron
First-person singular
Imperfect subjunctive
pudiera
pusiera
quisiera
supiera
fuera
tuviera
trajera
viniera
How the imperfect subjunctive is used
The same principles that are applied in the
present to determine whether to use the
subjunctive or the indicative are also used in
the past.
If the main clause expresses . . .
1. Cause or prevention.
2. Personal bias or emotion.
3. Falseness or unreality.
. . . the subjunctive is used in the
subordinate clause.
How the imperfect subjunctive is used
The past subjunctive is also always used after
the following phrases (and a few other similar
ones), just as with the present subjunctive.
E
en caso de que
(in case)
S
sin que
(without, unless)
C
con tal (de) que
(provided that)
A
antes (de) que
(before)
P
para que
(so that, in order that)
A
a menos que
(unless)
How the imperfect subjunctive is used
The tense of the verb in the main clause normally
determines whether to use the present or
imperfect subjunctive in the subordinate clause.
If the verb in the main clause is in the . . .
present,
future, or
present perfect
the present subjunctive is used in the
subordinate clause.
How the imperfect subjunctive is used
The tense of the verb in the main clause normally
determines whether to use the present or
imperfect subjunctive in the subordinate clause.
If the verb in the main clause is in the . . .
preterit,
imperfect,
conditional, or
pluperfect
the imperfect subjunctive is used in the
subordinate clause.
How the imperfect subjunctive is used
If the verb in the main clause is in the . . .
present,
The present subjunctive is
future, or
used in the subordinate
clause.
present perfect
Examples:
Insisto en que Tomás me ayude.
I insist that Tomás help me.
Insistiré en que Tomás me ayude.
I will insist that Tomás help me.
He insistido en que Tomás me ayude.
I have insisted that Tomás help me.
How the imperfect subjunctive is used
If the verb in the main clause is in the . . .
preterit,
The imperfect subjunctive is
imperfect,
used in the subordinate
conditional, or
clause.
pluperfect
Examples:
Insistí en que Tomás me ayudara.
I insisted that Tomás help me.
Insistía en que Tomás me ayudara.
I (always) insisted that Tomás help me.
Insistiría en que Tomás me ayudara.
I would insist that Tomás help me.
Había insistido en que Tomás me ayudara.
I had insisted that Tomás help me.
How the imperfect subjunctive is used
More examples of the imperfect subjunctive:
Notice that the use of the preterit or imperfect in the main
clause calls for the imperfect subjunctive in the
subordinate clause.
Era importante que leyera mi horóscopo.
It was important for me to read my horoscope.
La meteoróloga insistió en que todos se
refugiaran de la tempestad.
The meteorologist insisted that everyone take
cover from the storm.
How the imperfect subjunctive is used
More examples of the imperfect subjunctive:
Remember that a written accent is required on the first-person plural
of the imperfect subjunctive forms.
El periodista quería que arregláramos la sala para la
entrevista.
The journalist wanted us to arrange the living room for the
interview.
Era dudoso que contratáramos a aquel comentarista.
It was doubtful that we would hire that commentator.
El gobierno prohibió que pusiéramos esa información
en el artículo.
The government prohibited us from putting that information in
the article.
How the imperfect subjunctive is used
The imperfect subjunctive is required under the same conditions as
the present subjunctive. However, the imperfect subjunctive is
used to refer to events that were incomplete in relation to a past
event. Compare the sentences below to the time line.
Present
Past
Future
dudar
pedir
controlar
haber
El reportero dudaba que controlaran el incendio.
The reporter doubted that they would control the fire.
Los televidentes pidieron que hubiera más programas
serios.
The TV viewers asked for there to be more serious shows.
How the imperfect subjunctive is used
Use the imperfect subjunctive with ojalá when it
means I wish (that).
¡Ojalá (que) el patrocinador seleccionara mi
guión!
I wish the sponsor would choose my script!
¡Ojalá (que) no cancelaran mi serie favorita!
I wish they wouldn’t cancel my favorite series!
How the imperfect subjunctive is used
EXPANSIÓN
More on structure and usage
Peticiones con el imperfecto de subjuntivo
A common use of the imperfect subjunctive is to make polite requests or
statements. In such cases, the forms of the verbs querer, poder, and deber
are used. Note the following examples.
Quisiera leer los anuncios
clasificados.
I would like to read the classified
ads.
¿Pudieras prestarme la sección
deportiva?
Could you lend me the sports section?
Debiéramos ir al concurso.
We should go to the game show.
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Imperfecto Subjuntivo Chp 4 Sonia