If you’ve been struggling with the proper use of the subjuntivo, ¡no te preocupes! (don’t worry)! This video is for you.
Quizás nunca hayas escuchado la palabra subjuntivo (Perhaps you have never heard the word subjunctive before), y es posible que el subjuntivo sea (probably, the subjunctive is) one of the hardest things in Spanish grammar… but it doesn’t have to be! I want to show you that understanding and using the subjunctive is actually really easy… if you learn it the right way!
Chunks are what you need to learn the subjunctive
Today I will teach the subjunctive through chunks, that is, fixed word combinations related to el subjuntivo that native speakers use all the time and that you can learn by heart as a whole so you don’t even have to think about grammar rules or conjugation tables.
There are actually loads of conjugation tables for the subjunctive, but trying to cram them in your brain is a dead end as you will never be able to think about them and apply them fast enough. I mean, imagine yourself in a conversation… can you visualize a whole subjunctive conjugation table as you’re trying to string together a sentence? And that’s only IF you actually knew you had to use a subjunctive in the first place!
That’s why memorizing chunks that contain the subjunctive and that you hear from native speakers is the best way to guarantee that you use the subjunctive correctly every single time.
El subjuntivo (the subjunctive) is a mood in Spanish… ¡No, no me refiero a que el español se ponga feliz o triste! (No, I’m not saying Spanish might feel happy or sad). A mood is a way of saying things in a language. The indicative, the imperative, and the subjunctive are the three moods you’ll learn in Spanish (we’ll discuss that in another video maybe).
Now, quizás esta información sea útil (perhaps this information is useful) for some people, but let’s leave it for linguists or language nerds… Well, now that I think about it, I’m both!… pero no creo que sea contagioso (but I don’t think it’s contagious), so you’re safe and you can just forget I mentioned all these fancy words!
When to use the subjunctive?
Quizás no te hayas dado cuenta (Perhaps you haven’t noticed), but I’ve been using the subjunctive repeatedly. Let’s rewind:
- Quizás nunca hayas escuchado esa palabra (Perhaps you have never heard that word before)
- Es posible que el subjuntivo sea (probably, the subjunctive is) one of the hardest things in Spanish grammar.)
- Quizás esta información sea útil (perhaps this information is useful)
- Pero no creo que sea contagioso (but I don’t think it’s contagious)
- Quizás no te hayas dado cuenta (Perhaps you haven’t noticed)
So, sea and hayas are verbs in the subjunctive, but why am I using them? Do you remember that we said the subjunctive is a mood?
Well, if we use words like quizás (perhaps), es posible (it’s likely, probably), no creo (I don’t think), how are we saying things? With uncertainty, right?
When I say, Quizás nunca hayas escuchado esa palabra (Perhaps you have never heard that word before), I cannot tell for sure whether you’ve heard the word subjunctive before or not. I have no proof, so I’m somewhat doubtful.
When I say, es posible que el subjuntivo sea (probably, the subjunctive is) one of the hardest things in Spanish grammar, I’m expressing an opinion because some people might think que el subjuntivo es difícil (that the subjunctive is hard), but others, like me, might not.
Specific uses of the subjunctive
So, algo que debes tener en mente (something you should bear in mind) is that native speakers don’t use the subjunctive to talk about facts, instead, to:
- Express doubt, wishes or desires
- Talk about things that might happen
- Give an opinion or a piece of advice
Los hablantes nativos usan el subjuntivo (native speakers use the subjunctive) together with certain verbs and specific words… you will learn a very popular one by listening to two songs I’ll recommend in just a moment.
Chunks you may use right away
Native speakers use the subjunctive to wish somebody something. The following chunks contain a subjunctive porque todos son deseos (because they are all wishes):
- ¡Que te vaya bien! (Best of luck!)
- ¡Que te mejores pronto! (Get better soon!)
- ¡Que la pases bonito! (Have a nice time!)
- ¡Que tengas un lindo día! (Have a nice day!)
- ¡Que descanses! (Have a good night's sleep!)
Native speakers use these chunks all the time, so you already KNOW they’re correct and if you learn them by heart, you’ll sound like a native speaker… without having to know any other rules or conjugation tables!
Think about it: right now, can you see yourself saying ¡Que descanses! to a friend, family member or anyone else to wish them good night? Of course!
Do you know all the other ways to use the subjunctive? Probably not. Do you know a full conjugation table for the subjunctive? Probably not. Does it matter? Of course not!!! Just use these chunks and you’ll be using the subjunctive correctly already.
An easy way to memorize these chunks so you can use them in conversations yourself is using flashcards. We provide you with a thorough explanation about how to memorize chunks in our free Spanish chunking training.
How to learn the subjunctive without ever having to learn it
Meanwhile, as promised, I suggest you listen to the following songs to learn the subjunctive:
- Ojalá, by Silvio Rodríguez
- Ojalá que llueva café, by Café Tacuba
You might even want to look up la letra (the lyrics) and sing along… so while you’re singing, you’re using the subjunctive like a real native speaker! Again, without having to learn all the rules. How cool is that?
If you keep listening (and singing along) to these songs and a lot of Spanish, you will notice that you start to get a feel for the language. You start to feel what sounds right and what doesn't, whether it includes the subjunctive or not.
So, if you hear “que te vaya bien” over and over again, then you will know that is the right way to say it, as opposed to “que te va bien“, which will just sound wrong to you.
Make sure to watch the other videos in our subjuntivo series, so you can discover even more chunks and learn more ways of using the subjunctive while speaking Spanish.
And if you’d like to learn more about learning Spanish through chunks: we specialize in that, so check out the free Spanish chunking training on our website for a step-by-step explanation and some demo lessons.