Part 2 – Constructing the subjunctive

Now that you know what the subjunctive is (a mood of uncertainty), let’s talk about when and how you use it.

1. An uncertain situation (emotions, wishes, hypotheticals, opinions etc.)
2. A relative pronoun (que, cuando, quien, cuanto)
3. At least 2 subjects

Keep in mind there are exceptions and special constructions using the subjunctive, which we will cover in upcoming lessons.  But as a general rule, there are actually 3 aspects that make up a phrase in which you must use the subjunctive ….

1. Wish or desire
As we made clear in describing the subjunctive mood, it includes things like uncertainty, possibility, emotions, wishes and desires.  A common Acronym used is WEIRDO:

W – wishes
E – emotions
I – impersonal expressions
R – recommendations
D – doubts/denial
O –  ojalá


It’s not as straight forward as every time you express desire and emotion, because we know you can do that in the indicative. What is the main difference between the following two sentences:

Yo quiero ir a la playa (indicative) = I want to go to the beach
Yo quiero que tú fuera a la playa (subjunctive) = I want (that) you go to the beach

Both sentences express a desire … to go to the beach.

The first sentence however only includes one subject – me – that wants to go to the beach.  The second sentence has two subjects – me, that wants that you – go to the beach.

Nor is it just about emotions …

Tengo triste,
ella es felice porque el no viene
ella esta triste porque el no vino

I heard many different things about the subjunctive.  First I head, you use it whenever you express whishes or desires or emotions, but that’s not true because there are lot’s of situations where you talk about your wishes or desires or emotion. So it’s not just about desires, it’s about desires and that there two subjects involved – not just my desires but my desires for someone else etc.

Something that is uncertain but single subject:
You hope to win the lottery
Esperas ganar la lotería
(= no subjunctive)

Something that is uncertain and refers to more than 1 subject:
I hope that you win the lottery
Espero que tu ganes la lotería
(ganes = subjunctive)

We’ve heard of different ways to talk about the subjunctive – you use it after the word ‘que’, You use it to express doubt or desires, or you use it

Now we could start with learning how to construct the subjunctive, but with the subjunctive we think it’s more important to get a broader overview of what it really is.

Relative Pronoun


Querer (to want) Esperar (to hope)


2. At least 2 subjects

This is a key part of the subjunctive. As much as we talk about

It’s not just that when there are two subjects that you use the subjunctive.
But in most cases, if you’re not talking about someone’s desire or wish, you often just use a direct or indirect object pronoun instead of the que formation:

ella está feliz de que hayas venido a la fiesta
ella te invito a la fiesta



3. A Relative Pronouns

 When I first learned the subjunctive someone explained it to me as using the subjective every time after the word QUE.

Except that’s just not quite true.  In phrases using the subjunctive, it is very common to see the word que, but we can see the word que …

El sabe que tu le gustas (he knows that you like him)
El quiere que tu le gustes (he wants you to like him)

The reason there is often a QUE is because of that two subject structure with the subjunctive




Similarly it’s not just because there is the relative pronoun, que, which I also heard about learning the subjunctive, as I also heard, you use the subjunctive after the verb ‘que’.  But that doesn’t work either … what about tengo que ir, or …. Instead, the reason that is so often comes after que, is because the natural sentence construction when you have two subjects in a sentence requires a que …. and then only in the instance of desires do you follow it with the subjunctive.



Que (That): I hope you have time – Espero que tengas tiempo
Cuando (When): I will come when I have time – Vendré cuando tenga tiempo
Quien (Who): It will be done by whoever has time enough – Lo hará quien tenga tiempo suficiente
Cuanto (How much/many): I don’t know how much time I have – No sé cuanto tiempo tenga