The Imperfect Subjunctive

Uses:

In Spanish, the Imperfect Subjunctive is largely used in the same instances as the Present Subjunctive except for two main differences:

 

  • the verb in the main clause has to be in the imperfect, preterite, conditional or pluperfect tense

  • the action may happen in the future or the action did not happen

The triggers are:

1. To express desire: desear que, preferir que, querer que.
For example: “yo deseaba que fueras a la fiesta.”


2. To express hope: esperar que, ojalá.
For example: “yo esperaba que hiciera sol.”


3. To express fear: temer que, tener miedo que.
For example: "
tenía miedo que no pudieras salir"


4. To express an emotion that an action provokes: estar contento/triste que, gustar que.
For example: “
me gustaba que ganáramos el partido"
 

5. To express doubt: dudar que, no creer que, no imaginarse que, negar que, no parecer que, no pensar que, no suponer que.
For example: “
no suponía que dijera la verdad.”
 

6. To express beliefs in the past: pensar que, creer que, parecer que.
For example: “
pensaba que estuvieras loco.”

7. To express possibility in the past/conditional: era/sería posible que, no era/sería posible que, era/sería imposible que.

For example: "era imposible que el equipo ganara el partido."

8. To express requests and influence: exigir que, insistir en que, pedir que, sugerir que.

For example: "insistía en que conociéramos su hermana"

9. After impersonal expressions (usually with era/sería): sería aconsejable que, era importante que, etc.:

For example: "sería aconsejable que hicieras tus deberes."

10. To express oneself in a higher register (more politely).

For example: "¿pudiera ayudarle?"

11. With specific words and phrases: acaso, a menos que, antes de que, aunque*, como si, en el caso de que, hasta que, mientras que, para que, quizás, sin que, tal vez.

For example: “debes hacer tus deberes para que aprendas.”

 

It is most commonly used to express hypothetical actions/events in if clauses.

For example: si yo fuera el presidente cambiaría muchas cosas.


 

*Notebook: Aunque can be used in the Indicative as well as the Subjunctive.
**Notebook: The subject must change for the Subjunctive to be used. 

Formation: Regular verbs

The formation of regular verbs in Spanish is fairly simple. In their infinitive form, verbs end in either: -ar, -er or –ir.

However, the Imperfect Subjunctive is a bit more difficult.

To form the Imperfect Subjunctive for regular verbs in Spanish, we need to know the ellos/ellas/ustedes form of the verb in the preterite tense. We then remove the aron/ieron ending to be left with the Imperfect Subjunctive stem. 

For example: hablar → hablaron - aron = habl

Then the correct Imperfect Subjunctive ending must be added to the stem in order to indicate agent of the action. 

For example: the stem of hablar = habl, the ending for I for -ar verbs is is "ara/ase", the conjugated verb becomes "hablara/hablase".

The endings for each person are as follows:

Here is an example of each type of regular verb:

Irregulars: 

The vast majority of verbs are regular in the Imperfect Subjunctive. The only irregulars are verbs that have a different stem in the third person plural (ellos/ellas/ustedes) in the Preterite.

Below is a list of some common verbs that have a different stem in the third person plural in the Preterite:

1. Very important verbs:

  • estar → estuv

  • haber → hub

  • hacer → hic

  • ir → fuer

  • poder → pud

  • ser → fuer

  • tener → tuv

2. Important verbs:

  • dar → di

  • decir → dij

  • preferir → prefir

  • saber → sup

  • querer → quis

  • venir → vin

  • ver → vi

3. Less important verbs:

  • andar → anduv

  • caber → cup

  • conducir → conduj

  • dormir → durm

  • introducir → introduj

  • morir → mur

  • oír → oy

  • pedir → pid

  • reducir → reduj

  • repetir → repit

  • seguir → sigu

  • traer → traj

Click here to continue to exercises on the Imperfect Subjunctive

Published: 18/04/2016