OJALA in Spanish: FORGET about the SUBJUNTIVO

Ojalá te guste este video y ojalá sea super útil. (Hopefully you like this video, and hopefully it’s super useful.)

Spanish native speakers use ojalá all the time, but it’s a tricky little word, because you have to use the Spanish subjuntivo with it. 

Before you throw your arms up in despair: we’re going to make this easy for you, by teaching you 14 chunks with ojalá: word combinations that always stay the same and are used by natives exactly like that. This way, you won’t even have to think about grammar when using these ojalá chunks. 

I’m Spring Spanish teacher Maura, and here is your first chunk with ojalá:

1. Origin and use

All right, as a little side note, you might be interested to know that the origin of this word is actually Arabic. ¿No te encanta cómo las lenguas se han influenciado mutuamente durante toda la historia? (Don’t you love how languages have been influencing each other for all history?)

“In sha'a Allah” was the original word. I’m sorry if I’m butchering it. Lamentablemente, sólo conozco algunas palabras en árabe. (Sadly, I only know a few words in Arabic.) Its meaning was something along the lines of “god willing”. However, it’s been used for so long that it holds no religious vibe anymore. I don't consider myself a religious person, and I use ojalá all the time. Like this:

ACTOR 1
Ay, ¡ojalá que si puedas venir!
(Oh, I hope that you can come!)

(Pause)

ACTOR 1
Sí, o sea, ojalá que tengan el pasaje a buen precio y así puedas venir.
(Yeah, I mean, I hope that they have the ticket at a good price, so you can come.)

The two verbs that follow it, puedas and tengan, are in the subjunctive mood. Honestly, it makes total sense that this is how it works. Mariana has a video about this where she fully explains this mood. 

Essentially, the subjunctive is precisely the mood in Spanish which talks about: 

  • hypothetical situations
  • doubts  
  • wishes

It fits perfectly with ojalá, which is mainly used to express wishes. At the same time, it can imply doubt in the present and future. In the past, it refers to an entirely hypothetical situation, since the reality already happened. 

Also, you can omit the que (that) every time. So, I could’ve said:

  • Ay, ¡ojalá que sí puedas venir! (Oh, I hope that you can come!)
  • Si, o sea, ojalá tengan el pasaje a buen precio y así puedas venir. (Yeah, I mean, I hope that they have the ticket at a good price, so you can come.)

Chunk alert!

Ojalá que sí (I hope so) is a perfect chunk to start using right now. You can substitute basic things like espero que sí (I hope so) with this, and sound like a true insider. 

Si sonar como un nativo te resulta atractivo, otra cosa que puedes hacer es consultar el enlace en la descripción. (If sounding like an insider is attractive for you, another thing you can do is to check the link in the description.) In there, you’ll find out more about subscribing and becoming a member of our Inner Circle. As a member, you’ll get tons of benefits like access to our speaking rooms, flashcards, and audios for our lessons, just to name a few. 

2. Ojalá present 

Depending on what tense of the subjunctive follows the word ojalá, the time of action of the wish will vary. Con ello, la probabilidad de que el deseo se haga realidad (With it, the probability of the wish of becoming a reality.) In this section, we’ll focus on the present, but keep in mind that the present is also used to refer to the future!

Don’t worry about tenses, though, just learn the following chunks knowing that they have a present or future meaning, and it’s actually possible for the wish to come true.

ACTOR 1
Ojalá avise antes de llegar.
(I hope he gives notice before he arrives.)

ACTOR 2
Sí, ojalá estés lista también. 
(Yes, I hope you are ready too.)

ACTOR 1
Jaja, sí. Ojalá salgamos a tiempo para el concierto.
(Haha, yes. Hopefully we leave in time for the concert.)

ACTOR 2
¡Y ojalá no empiecen a tocar antes! 
(And I hope they don't start playing earlier!)

We don’t usually use ojalá as repeatedly as in this role play, but it works to make my case with this lesson. Notice how the conjugation will tell you who they’re talking about. 

  • Ojalá avise antes de llegar.  (I hope he gives notice before he arrives.)

This could be talking about one person, regardless of gender, or a thing. The context will let you know. 

  • Si, ojalá estés lista también.  (Yes, I hope you are ready too.)

Estés (You are)  is a clear indication that you are talking directly to someone. Meaning, a(you).

  • Jaja, sí. Ojalá salgamos a tiempo para el concierto. (Haha, yes. Hopefully we leave in time for the concert.)

Anytime you see a “mos” at the end of a verb, know for sure that it talks about nosotros/as (we).

  • ¡Y ojalá no empiecen a tocar antes! (And I hope they don't start playing earlier!)

Similarly, anytime you see an “N” at the end of a verb, know it talks about ustedes (you) or  ellos/ellas (they). 

Watch until the end if you want to know my favorite songs that use ojalá a lot, and that you can start listening to practice both pronunciation and the use of this word!

3. Ojalá past

This time, we’ll use a type of past after ojalá, and the meaning will remain in the present but with little or no possibility of happening. 

ACTOR 1
Ojalá nos ganáramos la lotería.
(I wish we would win the lottery.)

ACTOR 2
Jaja, ojalá fueses más realista. 
(Haha, I wish you were more realistic.)

ACTOR 1
Vale, puedo ser más realista, ojalá lloviera dinero.
(Okay, I can be more realistic, I wish it would rain money.)

ACTOR 2
Jaja, ¡Qué tonta! Ojalá te donaran un cerebro.
(Haha, how silly! I wish they would donate a brain to you.)

So, as you can see, all of this is quite unlikely. Es casi como soñar despierto, o tontear como lo hacemos aquí. (It’s almost like daydreaming, or fooling around like we are here.) Once more, you have all the possible conjugations for this tense.

  • Ojalá nos ganáramos la lotería. (I wish we would win the lottery.)

Talking about us.

  • Ojalá fueses más realista. (I wish you were more realistic.)

Talking about you.

  • Vale, puedo ser más realista, ojalá lloviera dinero. (Okay, I can be more realistic, I wish it would rain money.)

Talking about an “it”.

  • ¡Qué tonta! Ojalá te donaran un cerebro.  (How silly! I wish they would donate a brain to you.)

Talking about they.

Chunk alert!

Ojalá fuese, without the “S”, talks about me. Fuese is the very weird conjugation of ser (to be) that you would need to use with ojalá. But if you learn ojalá fuese (I wish I was), you can hypothesize about being anything that you’re not like a true native Spanish speaker. Notice the link in the description? In there you can find our free Essential Spanish Chunking kit and learn many more crazy chunks like this one!

4. Ojalá past perfect

This last tense necessarily needs the verb haber (to have) in Spanish. Piensa en ello como lo que hace que este tiempo sea “el pasado del pasado”. (Think of it as the thing that makes this tense “the past of the past”.) So much so, that here there is no possibility at all that the thing you’re wishing for would happen. Actually, the reality is quite the opposite.

ACTOR 1
Ojalá hubiéramos conseguido entradas.
(I wish we could have gotten tickets.)

ACTOR 2
Sí, ojalá hubieras buscado antes. 
(Yes, I wish you had looked earlier.)

ACTOR 1
Pff, ojalá yo hubiera organizado las cosas desde el principio, y así esto no habría pasado.
(Pff, I wish I had organized things from the beginning, and so this wouldn't have happened.)

ACTOR 2
Bueno sí, ojalá te hubieran dejado cuadrarlo a ti. 
(Well, yes, I wish they would have let you be the one to arrange it.)

All of these follow the same patterns as the previous examples, but do notice that: “Ojalá yo hubiera organizado las cosas.” (“I wish I had organized things.”), not only works for he, she or it, but also works for I, as I’ve used it here. I did clarify using by adding the word yo (I), but it’s not like I had to do it.

5. Songs with ojalá

Como lo prometido es deuda (as promised), here are those songs that use ojalá all over the place.

  • Juan Luis Guerra: Ojalá que llueva café.
  • Silvio Rodriguez: Ojalá
  • Maná: Ojalá pudiera borrarte.

Let me know in the comments which one’s your favorite. I have to say that, for me, “Ojalá que llueva café” hits right in the center of my Latin American soul.

Now, for a bit of practice, what about finishing this sentence with things you would want to be that are actually possible:

  • Ojalá fuese… (I wish I was…)

And this one with something quite impossible:

  • Ojalá hubiese sido…(I wish I had been…)

I'd love to know the things you’d like to be!

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