Practice Using the Subjunctive in Spanish

The best way to learn the subjunctive is to practice using the subjunctive out loud. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about my series of 20 interactive audio lessons covering the subjunctive, so I decided I would feature a premium lesson from the subjunctive series in my blog.  This will give you a taste of the premium lessons in my Spanish Grammar Subscription. Today I will feature a premium lesson: “Subj05 – Influence, Emotion, & Judgment.”

Influence, Emotion, and Judgement Triggers the Subjunctive

This lesson covers the use of the subjunctive following a main clause that expresses one of the following attitudes:

  • influence
  • emotion
  • judgment

Subordinate Noun Clause


In this premium lesson, you will hear me refer to the subordinate noun clause. You don’t need to understand the term subordinate noun clause to understand this lesson, but if you’re curious, check out this quiz on the subjunctive in subordinate noun clauses.

When the main clause exerts influence over the subordinate clause,  the subjunctive is triggered. Compare the use of the indicative vs the subjunctive in the following examples:

  1. Es cierto que voy mañana. (It’s true that I go tomorrow.)
    • I am simply reporting reality, and thus the indicative is used.
  2. Es urgente que vaya mañana. (It’s urgent that I go tomorrow.) 
    • Here, I am trying to influence the outcome of the action in the subordinate noun clause, and thus the subjunctive is used.

What is an Impersonal Expression?


“Es urgente” is an example of an impersonal expression. It is called an impersonal expression because no personal subject is expressed.

Verbs and impersonal expressions exert influence over the outcome of the action/event that follows when they express desire, need, hope, urgency, advice, or a request/command. 

Additionally, when the main clause expresses an emotional reaction or value judgment, the subjunctive is triggered.

Don’t worry if you are a little overwhelmed. The best learning comes from doing. After we go through the examples below, you’ll have it down.


Impersonal Expressions of Influence


Es urgente que termines rápido.
(It’s urgent that you finish quickly.)

OJO: If NO SUBJECT IS SPECIFIED, the impersonal expression is followed by the INFINITIVE.

Es urgente terminar rápido.
(It’s urgent to finish quickly.)

Es importante que sigamos las reglas.
(It’s important that we follow the rules.)

Es importante seguir las reglas.
(It’s important to follow the rules.)

Era obligatorio asistir a clase.
(It was mandatory to attend class.)

Era obligatorio que nosotros asistiéramos / asistiésemos a clase.
(It was mandatory that we attended class.)

Fue preciso hablar con ellos.
(It was necessary to speak to them.)

Fue preciso que Monica hablara / hablase con ellos.
(It was necessary that Monica spoke with them.)

No hace falta que lo digan.
(They do not need to say it.)

No hace falta decirlo.
(There’s no need to say it.)

Urge que pongamos manos a la obra.
(It’s urgent that we get to work.)

Urge poner manos a la obra.
(It’s urgent to get to work.)

Expressing Emotion or Judgement


When the main clause expresses an emotional reaction or value judgment, with regards to the verb in the subordinate noun clause, the subjunctive is used. When there is no change in the subject, an infinitive follows.

Me alegro de estar aquí.
(I’m glad to be here.)

Me alegro de que hayas venido.
(I’m glad you have come.)

OJO: This could also be translated as, “I’m glad you came.” We use the present perfect subjunctive to describe past events that are relevant to the present moment.

Siento que tengas que irte.
(I’m sorry you have to go.)

Siento tener que irme.
(I’m sorry I have to go.

Siento que no me escuchas.
(I feel like you aren’t listening to me.)

OJO: When we use SENTIR to express our perceived reality, we follow it with the indicative.

Lamento no haber respondido antes.
(I’m sorry for not responding sooner.)

Lamento que no hayamos respondido antes.
(I’m sorry we have not responded sooner.)

OJO: Just like above, this could also be translated as, “I’m sorry we did not respond sooner. We use the PRESENT PERFECT SUBJUNCTIVE to describe past events relevant to the present moment.

Le sorprendió que ya hubiera / hubiese pasado un año.
(It surprised her that a year had already gone by.)

Nos enfadó que no hubiera / hubiese cumplido el contracto.
(It angered us that he had not fulfilled the contract.)

Nos gustó que bailaras / bailases en la boda.
(We liked that you sang at the wedding.)

Me gustó bailar en la boda.
(I liked dancing at the wedding.)

No aguanto mentir.
(I can’t stand lying.)

No aguanto que nos mienta.
(I can’t stand that he lies to us.)

Tienen miedo de hacerlo.
(They’re afraid to do it.)

Tienen miedo de que lo hagas.
(They’re afraid that you will do it.)

Tememos que se entere de la verdad.
(We fear that he will find out the truth.)

OJO: Temerse, to acknowledge a regrettable fact, is followed by the indicative.

Me temo que no podemos ir.
(I’m afraid we can’t go.)

Impersonal Expressions of Emotion or Judgement


Es una lástima desecharlo.
(It’s a shame to throw it out.)

Es una lástima que lo deseches.
(It’s a shame that you are throwing it out.)

Fue bueno dormir un rato.
(It was good to get some sleep.)

Fue bueno que durmieras / durmiesen en casa.)
(It was good that you got some sleep.)

No está bien estar aquí solo.
(It’s not okay to be here alone.)

No está bien que hayas estado aquí sola.
(It’s not okay that you have been here alone.)

Es malo no obedecerla.
(It’s bad not to obey her.)

Es malo que no la obedezcan.
(It’s bad they don’t obey her.)

Estuvo mal reaccionar así.
(It was bad to react that way.)

Estuvo mal que reaccionara / reaccionase así.
(It was bad that she reacted like that.)

OJO: We use the adjectives MALO y BUENO after SER and the adverbs MAL and BIEN after the verb ESTAR.

Más vale llegar a tiempo.
(It’s better to arrive on time.)

Más vale que llegues a tiempo.
(You better arrive on time.)

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