spanishdict’s WEIRDO system

Elements of the Subjunctive

There are three main parts to a subjunctive sentence:

1. Two Different Subjects

One subject in the main/independent clause, and one in the noun/dependent clause.
* Yo quiero que limpies el baño.

2. A Relative Pronoun (Que, Quien, Como)

This pronoun links the two clauses and translates to mean “that.”
* Yo quiero que tú limpies el baño.

3. Two Verbs: One WEIRDO and One Subjunctive

The WEIRDO (indicative) verb (see uses below) is the verb that signals the verb in the next clause will be in the subjunctive.
* Yo quiero que tú limpies el baño.


The subjunctive may seem a bit difficult for many native English speakers since we don´t use the subjunctive too often in English. But if you can keep in mind that each Spanish mood is just that, a mood, then you will begin to “feel” the difference in speech. Of course there are also lots of handy rules and tips to help you until you get the “feelings” of the subjunctive. The acronym WEIRDO seems to encompass most of the situations you will need to use the subjunctive. The subjunctive is used to express: Wishes, Emotions, Impersonal Expressions, Recommendations, Doubt/Denial, and is used after the word Ojalá (I hope to God that…).

1. Wishes

Wishing, wanting, demanding, desiring, expecting, ordering, and preferring all fall into this category. Also mentioning the nonexistence or indefiniteness of something that is desired falls into this category. Because the dependent clause represents what we want from someone else, the actions have not yet occurred and may never occur, thus they are in the subjunctive mood and not the indicative.

* Yo espero que él me compre unas flores. (I hope that he buys me flowers.)
* No hay nadie que quiera sacar la basura. (There is no one that wants to take out the trash.)
* Nosotros agradecemos que tú cocines bien. (We are grateful that you cook well.)

Useful Verbs of Wishfulness

agradecer to be grateful insistir to insist no tener not to have
buscar to look for mandar to order pedir to request
desear to wish necesitar to need preferir to prefer
esperar to hope; to expect no encontrar not to find querer to want
exigir to demand no haber there is/are not

2. Emotions

Being annoyed, angry, happy, regretful, sad, scared, or surprised all fall into this category. Any personal reaction to a situation is emotional. The focus is not on a factual observation of a situation but how is makes the subject feel. Since how a person feels is always subjective, you use the subjunctive.

* Me alegro de que tú sonrías. (It makes me happy that you smile.)
* ¿Les molesta que él escuche la música fuerte? (Does it bother you that he listens to loud music?)
* Siento mucho que no puedan venir a la fiesta. (I´m sorry that they can´t come to the party.)

Useful Verbs of Emotion

alegrarse to be glad gustar to like quejarse to complain
encantar to be delighted lamentar to regret sentir to feel
enojar to be angry maravillar to astonish sorprender to surprise
estar contento, enojado, etc. to be glad, angry, etc. molestar to annoy temer to fear

3. Impersonal Expressions

Impersonal expressions work a lot like emotions in that they are someone´s opinion or value judgement. They focus on the subjectivity of the subject and not on the actual truth or reality of the situation.

Impersonal Expression Formula

Almost any phase with the es + adjective + que can be an impersonal expression as long as it doesn´t state any truth (es verdad que), certainty (es cierto que), or fact (es hecho que). These are indicative. But their opposites (no es verdad que) are subjunctive.

* Es necesario que Jaime lea este libro. (It is necessary that Jaime reads this book.)
* Es extraño que yo reciba un regalo porque no es mi cumpleaños. (It´s odd that I receive a gift because it isn´t my birthday.)
* Es increíble que los guepardos corran tan rápidamente. (It is incredible that cheetahs can run so quickly.)

Useful Impersonal Expressions (not a complete list!)

es agradable it is nice es estupendo it is great es necesario it is necessary es urgente it is urgent
es bueno it is good es extraño it is strange es probable it is probable es vergonzoso it is a disgrace
es curioso it is curious es importante it is important es raro it is rare no es cierto it is not certain
es dudoso it is doubtful es increíble it is incredible es recomendable it is recommended no es hecho it is not a fact
es esencial it is essential es malo it is bad es una lástima it is a pity no es verdad it is not true

4. Recommendations

When a person recommends, suggests, wants, or asks another person to do something, the subjunctive is used. In this case, the que separates the recommender for the recommendation.

* Mi doctor recomienda que yo beba más agua. (My doctor recommends that I drink more water.)
* Yo suplico que mi hija tenga más cuidado. (I beg that my daughter is more careful.)
* Ellos sugieren que tú leas este libro. (They suggest that you read this book.)

Useful Verbs of Recommendation

aconsejar to advise proponer to suggest sugerir to suggest
decir to say recomendar to recommend suplicar to beg
ordenar to order rogar to beg

5. Doubt

Doubt indicates that a situation seems unreal, therefore, not factual (indicative). To doubt or deny something is to question is sense of reality.

* Dudo que él tenga mi número de teléfono. (I doubt that he has my phone number.)
* No creen que los extraterrestres existan. (They don´t believe that aliens exist.)
* Tú niegas que la camisa sea mía. (You deny that the shirt is mine.)

Useful Verbs of Doubt

dudar to doubt no creer not to believe no pensar not to think
negar to deny no estar seguro not to be sure no suponer not to assume
no comprender not to understand no parecer not to seem

Indicative or Subjunctive?

Comprender (to understand), creer (to believe), estar seguro (to be sure), parecer (to seem), pensar (to think), and suponer (to assume) are all indicative as they indicate what the subject knows, believes, thinks to be true and part of reality.

6. Ojalá

Ojalá is a Spanish word with Arabic origins. Originally it meant “Oh Allah!” and may have been used in prayers. Nowadays, it has taken on several more general meanings: “I hope to God…” “I hope…” or “If only…” Ojalá can introduce a subjunctive phrase with or without the relative pronoun que.

* ¡Ojalá que recuerde nuestro aniversario! (I hope to God he remembers our anniversary!)
* ¡Ojalá llueva! (I hope it rains!)
* ¡Ojalá que venga el padre Noel. (I hope Santa Clause comes!)

Original spanishdict page:
* Posted Jan 1, 2009