The use of the Spanish subjunctive can be a source of confusion for native English speakers. However, the easy-to-recall acronym W.E.I.R.D.O. can help you to understand when to use subjunctive in Spanish.
The subjunctive is one of the three "moods" in Spanish: the indicative, the subjunctive, and the imperative. Most simply put, the imperative encompasses commands, the indicative describes objective or certain actions, and verbs in the subjunctive reflect subjectivity, a lack of certainty, or emotion.
You can tell a Spanish verb is subjunctive because it is conjugated differently than "normal." For example, while Tú hablas means "You speak" in the indicative, if you wish to say, "I hope you speak," the verb changes to hables in the translation Espero que tú hables because the concept of "hoping" something happens is subjunctive. In contrast, while the English language is perfectly capable of expressing these same ideas, there is no difference in the form of the verbs in the equivalent sentences "You speak" and "I hope you speak."
Because the subjunctive is a mood rather than a tense, it might depict actions in the past, present, or future. For this reason, just like in the indicative mood, there are many subjunctive tenses in Spanish. That said, the examples in today's lesson will be in the present subjunctive, which you can learn how to formulate in this lesson on conjugating the present subjunctive in Spanish.
The Spanish subjunctive is used in dependent clauses that are often introduced by que or another conjunction. Subjunctive sentences typically involve more than one subject and more than one verb. For example, in our aforementioned sentence: Yo espero que tú hables, there are two subjects, Yo (I) and tú (you), and two verbs, espero (I hope) and hables (you speak), with the subjunctive verb hables appearing in the dependent clause that follows the word que.
The amusing acronym W.E.I.R.D.O., which stands for Wishes, Emotions, Impersonal Expressions, Recommendations, Doubt/Denial, and Ojalá, can help you to remember several contexts that require the subjunctive. In each subcategory, we will introduce you to several verbs that "trigger" the use of the subjunctive.
Just because one wishes or hopes things will happen doesn't mean they will, not to mention those actions we ask (or even order!) others to perform. Spanish employs the subjunctive mood to talk about such situations, often using the common formula of a "wishing" verb plus que plus a verb in the present subjunctive. Let's take a look at some examples:
Si queremos que nuestro café sea más dulce podemos añadir azúcar, nata, leche condensada, miel.
If we want for our coffee to be sweeter we can add sugar, cream, condensed milk, honey.
Captions 25-26, Karla e Isabel Como pedir un caféPlay Caption
Así que, esperamos que lo disfruten, que lo sepan gozar, pero eso sí de una manera muy sana.
So, we hope you enjoy it, that you know how to enjoy it, but mind you in a very healthy way.
Captions 25-26, Los Años Maravillosos Capítulo 6 - Part 1Play Caption
Solo te pido que me digas cuál de ellos es Triskas:
I'll just ask for you to tell me which of them is Triskas:
Captions 11-12, Extr@: Extra en español Ep. 5: Ha nacido una estrella - Part 4Play Caption
Verbs that fall into this category of describing wishes or desires include desear (to want/wish/desire), esperar (to hope), exigir (to demand/require), insistir (to insist), mandar (to order), necesitar (to need), ordenar (to order), pedir (to ask), preferir (to prefer), and querer (to want).
Spanish also utilizes the subjunctive mood to talk about one's feeling regarding some action or state, even if it's objectively true. As an example, if you wanted to say "I'm very happy you have a new job," you might use the formula emotion verb plus a conjunction (e.g. que or de que) plus a subjunctive verb to get: Me alegro mucho de que tengas un trabajo nuevo. Let's see some more examples:
Me alegro de que le guste.
I'm glad you like it.Play Caption
A mí lo que me molesta es que tú tengas la verdad de todo. -Loca...
What bothers me is that you have the truth about everything. -Girl...
Caption 54, Yago 9 Recuperación - Part 4Play Caption
Encantada [de] que estés aquí, Carolina, bienvenida. -Muchas gracias.
[I'm] delighted you're here, Carolina, welcome. -Thank you very much.Play Caption
Note that in this last example, the speaker omits the implied verb estar (to be), using only the adjective encantada to convey her delight as is often done in spoken Spanish.
Some common emotion verbs that invoke the subjunctive include alegrarse (to be happy/glad), enojarse (to be/get angry), encantar (to delight), lamentar (to regret), molestar (to bother), sentir (to be sorry), and sorpender (to surprise), among others. For more ways to talk about feelings in Spanish, we recommend this lesson on expressing emotions in Spanish.
Impersonal expressions in both Spanish and English are constructions that do not involve a particular person, for example, Hace viento (It's windy). Impersonal expressions in Spanish that involve the word Es (It's) plus almost any adjective plus the word que are indicators that the verb that follows should be conjugated in the Spanish subjunctive.
Although the adjectives in such impersonal expressions are innumerable, several popular ones include: agradable (nice), bueno (good), dudoso (doubtful), curioso (interesting), estupendo (great), extraño (strange), importante (important), increíble (amazing), necesario (necessary), probable (probable), raro (strange), urgente (urgent), and vergonzoso (embarrassing). Here are a few examples:
y es raro que todavía no haya nadie.
and it's strange that there's nobody [here] still.
Caption 38, Raquel Avisos de MegafoníaPlay Caption
Señor Di Carlo, es importante que hable con usted.
Mister DiCarlo, it's important that I talk to you.
Caption 78, Muñeca Brava 41 La Fiesta - Part 6Play Caption
No es necesario que mientas.
It's not necessary for you to lie.
Caption 17, Muñeca Brava 18 - La Apuesta - Part 12Play Caption
Although impersonal expressions can typically be positive or negative and still require the subjunctive, as in this last example (no es necesario in lieu of es necesario), the exception is when they state facts. Examples include es verdad que (it's true that), es cierto que (it's certain that), es seguro que (it's sure that) and es un hecho que (it's a fact that). However, the negative versions of these phrases do require the Spanish subjunctive, as we see in the following examples in which only the second sentence calls for the subjunctive switch:
Es un hecho que él está enfermo (It's a fact that he's sick) = INDICATIVE.
No es un hecho que él esté enfermo (It's not a fact that he's sick) = SUBJUNCTIVE.
As with wishes, the fact we can't be sure if the actions we suggest or recommend will come to fruition is expressed with the subjunctive in Spanish. Our formula would thus consist of a "recommending verb" plus que plus a verb in subjunctive. Such "recommending" verbs include but aren't limited to aconsejar (to advise), decir (to tell), dejar (to allow), exigir (to demand), hacer (to make/force), insistir (to insist), mandar (to order), ordenar (to order), prohibir (to forbid), proponer (to advise), recomendar (to recommend), rogar (to beg), sugerir (to suggest), and suplicar (to beg), some of which overlap with the "wishes" category. Let's see some examples:
les sugiero que visiten el sugestivo Museo del oro,
I suggest that you visit the intriguing Gold Museum,Play Caption
te recomiendo que muevas algunos muebles del salón a la cocina.
I recommend that you move some pieces of furniture from the living room to the kitchen.
Captions 32-33, Karla e Isabel Preparar una fiestaPlay Caption
les aconsejo que vayan a Zipaquirá,
I advise you to go to Zipaquira,Play Caption
The Yabla video Escuela Don Quijote- En el aula- Part 1 can teach you even more about using the Spanish subjunctive to give advice.
Sentences that express doubt and denial also call for the Spanish subjunctive via a similar formula: a doubt/denial verb plus que plus a verb in the subjunctive. Interestingly, although this includes the verb dudar (to doubt) in sentences like Dudo que venga (I doubt he'll come), most of the other verbs in this category are negative, in other words, consist of a verb with "no" in front of it. Examples include: no creer (to not believe), no estar seguro (to not be sure), no parecer (to not seem), no pensar (to not think), and no suponer (to not suppose). Let's see some of these in action:
No, no. No creo que haga falta; eso ya está aclarado.
No, no. I don't think it's necessary; that's already cleared up.Play Caption
No, no me parece que queden bien.
No, it doesn't seem like you fit together well to me.
Caption 41, Misión Chef 2 - Pruebas - Part 5Play Caption
On the other hand, the positive versions of these very same verbs (without no) trigger the indicative rather than the subjunctive:
Me parece que es la hora de terminar, ¿eh?
I think it's time to finish, huh?Play Caption
Creo que necesito ir al médico.
I think I need to go to the doctor.
Caption 4, Ariana Cita médicaPlay Caption
Another construction that always goes with the subjunctive is ojalá que (or sometimes just ojalá), which can be translated with such expressions as "I hope," "Let's hope," "If only," and even "God willing." This can be seen in the title of the famous (and very catchy!) tune by Juan Luis Guerra, Ojalá que llueva café en el campo (I Hope it Rains Coffee on the Countryside). Let's watch another couple of examples from our Yabla video library:
Pues, ojalá que tengáis siempre abiertas las puertas de vuestras casas y de vuestros corazones
Well, I hope that you always have open the doors to your homes and your hearts
Captions 56-57, Luis Guitarra Llegaste túPlay Caption
Ojalá que todo siga así.
I hope everything keeps going like that.Play Caption
Bueno, muchas gracias y... y ojalá nos veamos pronto.
Well, thank you very much and... and I hope we see each other soon.
Caption 36, Los Juegos Olímpicos Mario MolaPlay Caption
Our sentiments exactly! On that note, we hope you've enjoyed this lesson on when to use the subjunctive in Spanish, and don't forget to leave us your suggestions and comments.
Are you ready to learn some hard Spanish words? Don’t worry! We don’t want to scare you but rather we would like to highlight some of the issues that transform even simple words into difficult ones. Let’s review the following list featuring 100 of the most difficult Spanish words for English speakers.
Pronunciation is definitely the issue to keep in mind when we talk about hard Spanish words. In fact, if you are a native English speaker, there are several sounds that are quite challenging. Let’s start with some of the most difficult words to pronounce in Spanish for English speakers. We have divided these words in groups according to the pronunciation challenge they represent.
For many foreigners, words with the letter “j” are some of the most difficult Spanish words to say. If you are an English speaker, you can try to say the “j” in Spanish as a very strong “h” in English. Think of how you pronounce the letter “h” in the word ham. Let’s take a look:
1. Ají (chili or bell pepper)
"Ají" [chili pepper]?
Caption 37, Ricardo - La compañera de casaPlay Caption
2. Bajo (short)
Es bajo, es gordo.
He's short, he's fat.
Caption 33, El Aula Azul - Mis PrimosPlay Caption
3. Caja (box)
...y ellos también mandaron una caja grandísima.
...and they also sent a huge box.Play Caption
4. Anaranjado (orange)
Adentro, son de color anaranjado.
Inside, they are orange-colored.Play Caption
5. Empujar (to push)
6. Equipaje (luggage)
¿Puedo dejar aquí mi equipaje?
Can I leave my luggage here?
Caption 59, Cleer y Lida - Recepción de hotelPlay Caption
7. Espantapájaros (scarecrow)
8. Cojear (to limp)
9. Injusticia (injustice)
10. Jamón (ham)
Fíjate: jamón, Javier.
Check it out: ham, Javier.
Caption 27, Fundamentos del Español - 10 - La PronunciaciónPlay Caption
11. Jirafa (giraffe)
12. Jornada (day)
13. Jota (J - the sound of the letter J in Spanish)
14. Jugar (to play)
También podemos jugar a las cartas.
We can also play cards.
Caption 12, Clara y Cristina - Hablan de actividadesPlay Caption
15. Junio (June)
16. Lujoso (luxurious)
17. Lejano (far, far away)
Érase una vez en un lejano reino, ahí vivía una joven niña.
Once upon a time in a faraway kingdom, there lived a young girl.
Caption 2, Cuentos de hadas - La CenicientaPlay Caption
18. Majo (nice)
19. Mojado (wet)
20. Pájaro (bird)
21. Sonrojar (to blush)
22. Tajada (slice)
Just as it happens with the letter “j,”, there are several tricky words in Spanish with the letter “g”. What’s hard about this consonant is that there is a soft and a hard way to pronounce it. For example, you have a soft “g” in the word gato (cat). Think about the pronunciation of the syllable “ga” in the word gather. On the other hand, you have a hard “g” in the word gente (people), which is kind of similar to how you pronounce the “h” in the word helmet. Let’s see some tough Spanish words with the letter “g”:
23. Acogedor (cozy, welcoming)
Perfecto, porque es un barco muy marinero, muy acogedor para la gente.
Perfect, because it's a very seaworthy boat, very welcoming for the people.
Caption 16, La Gala - El bote de DalíPlay Caption
24. Agente (agent)
25. Agitar (shake)
26. Aguja (needle)
27. Agujero (hole)
Tiene un cuerpo con un agujero en el centro.
It has a body with a hole in the center.
Caption 45, Karla e Isabel - Instrumentos musicalesPlay Caption
28. Apagar (to turn off)
29. Coger (to take, to get)
El segundo paso es coger la cebolla.
The second step is to get the onion.
Caption 25, Clara cocina - Una tortilla españolaPlay Caption
30. Garganta (throat)
Me duele la garganta.
My throat hurts.
Caption 11, Ariana - Cita médicaPlay Caption
31. General (general)
En general, los nombres acabados en "a" son femeninos.
In general, nouns ending in "a" are feminine.
Caption 10, Fundamentos del Español - 2 - Nombres y GéneroPlay Caption
32. Geneaología (genealogy)
33. Geología (geology)
34. Gigante (giant, gigantic)
Una de las piezas más llamativas es este ajedrez gigante.
One of the most appealing pieces is this gigantic chess board.Play Caption
35. Ginecólogo (gynecologist)
36. Girasol (sunflower)
37. Guapo (handsome)
38. Juguetón (playful)
39. Tangible (tangible)
40. Tigre (tiger)
41. Zoológico (zoo)
There are plenty of tricky words in Spanish with the strong sound of the double “rr”. The following are some of them:
42. Aburrido (bored)
Ah, esto está muy aburrido, ni siquiera se entiende.
Oh, this is very boring, you can't even understand it.
Caption 24, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 2Play Caption
43. Carrera (career)
El presidente empezó su carrera política...
The president began his political career...
Caption 29, Lecciones con Carolina - El gerundioPlay Caption
44. Carretera (road)
45. Carro (car)
¿Ha venido en carro?
Have you come in a car?
Caption 64, Cleer y Lida - Recepción de hotelPlay Caption
46. Correr (to run)
47. Desarrollar (Develop)
Pero el reto era desarrollar proyectos de biomedicina.
But the challenge was to develop biomedical projects.
Caption 10, Club de las ideas - Lego Fest en SevillaPlay Caption
48. Error (mistake)
Esto es un error.
This is a mistake.
Caption 21, Lecciones con Carolina - Errores comunesPlay Caption
49. Ferrocarril (railroad, train)
...en un carrito tipo ferrocarril tirado por un caballo.
...in a little train-like car pulled by a horse.Play Caption
50. Garrote (club)
51. Guerra (war)
La palabra más fea es guerra.
The ugliest word is war.
Caption 61, Karla e Isabel - PalabrasPlay Caption
52. Guitarra (guitar)
53. Herradura (horseshoe)
54. Irresponsable (irresponsible)
55. Morral (backpack)
56. Ornitorrinco (platypus)
57. Perro (dog)
Se escucha un perro.
You can hear a dog.Play Caption
58. Puertorriqueño (Puerto Rican)
Without any doubt, words that have a syllable where the consonant “t” is followed by the consonant “r,” are some of the most difficult words for English speakers to pronounce in Spanish. If you want to improve this sound, please listen carefully to some of the audio clips we have included for the next set of words.
59. Abstracto (abstract)
60. Astronomía (astronomy)
61. Astrología (astrology)
...y voy a entender lo que es la astrología.
...and I am going to understand what astrology is.
Caption 60, Conversaciones con Luis - AstrologíaPlay Caption
62. Atracción (atraction)
Porque es en el centro... el sitio donde hay mayor atracción.
Because it's at the center... the place where there are more attractions.
Caption 21, Yabla en Lima - MirafloresPlay Caption
63. Cuatro (four)
Número cuatro: microscopio.
Number four: microscope.
Caption 19, Aprendiendo con Karen - Útiles escolaresPlay Caption
64. Entretener (to entertain)
65. Entretenido (entertaining)
66. Patrón (patron)
67. Patrulla (patrol)
68. Petróleo (oil)
69. Poltrona (easy chair)
70. Potro (colt)
71. Tradicion (tradition)
Uno de los mitos más conocidos de la tradición indígena colombiana.
One of the best known myths of the indigenous Colombian tradition.Play Caption
72. Traicionar (to betray)
73. Trampa (trap)
No, no, me tendió una trampa y yo caí.
No, no, she set a trap for me and I fell into it.
Caption 29, Muñeca Brava - 44 El encuentroPlay Caption
74. Treinta y tres (thirty-three)
Treinta y tres
75. Tres (three)
76. Trilogía (trilogy)
I am sad.
Caption 10, El Aula Azul - Estados de ánimoPlay Caption
78. Tronco (trunk)
Unlike English, Spanish vowels are very clearly defined. Five vowels equals five sounds, period. While that may sound simple, the problem is that English speakers are used to pronouncing vowels in many more different ways. Here are some hard Spanish words that highlight this challenge.
79. Aguacate (avocado)
Este es guacamole hecho con aguacate...
This is guacamole made with avocado...
Caption 33, Tacos Emmanuel - Cómo hacer tacos de pescadoPlay Caption
80. Estadounidense (American)
Paul es estadounidense, de los Estados Unidos.
Paul is American, from the United States.
Caption 16, Carlos explica - Geografía y gentiliciosPlay Caption
81. Eucalipto (eucalyptus)
82. Euforia (euphoria)
83. Idiosincrasia (idiosyncrasy)
84. Licuadora (blender)
85. Paraguas (umbrella)
Voy a coger un paraguas, por si acaso.
I am going to grab an umbrella, just in case.
Caption 42, Clara explica - El tiempo - Part 1Play Caption
86. Triángulo (triangle)
Después pones este triángulo con la base hacia abajo.
Afterwards you put this triangle with the base toward the bottom.Play Caption
87. Vergüenza (shame)
There is a ‘cute’ joke in Spanish that goes like this:
- Do you know what the longest word in Spanish is?
- No. What is it?
- Arroz (rice)!
- Arroz? That’s a very short word.
- No, arroz is the longest word in Spanish because it starts with ‘a’ and ends with ‘z’!
Of course, that’s only a joke! Arroz is one of the easiest words in Spanish. However, the following are some of the most challenging and longest Spanish words:
88. Electroencefalograma (electroencephalogram)
89. Esternocleidomastoideo (sternocleidomastoid)
90. Contrarrevolucionario (counter-revolutionary)
91. Constitucionalidad (constitutionality)
92. Internacionalización (internalization)
93. Otorrinolaringólogo (otolaryngologist)
Apart from these very complicated words, all those adverbs that end in -mente are also some of the longest Spanish words. Let’s look at a few:
94. Constitucionalmente (constitutionally)
95. Desafortunadamente (unfortunately)
Cuando tú creces, desafortunadamente te das cuenta que.
When you grow up, unfortunately, you realize that.
Caption 23, La Sub30 - Familias - Part 9Play Caption
96. Desconsoladamente (inconsolably)
97. Fuertemente (heavily)
98. Tradicionalmente (traditionally)
Y nos dedicamos al cultivo del champiñón tradicionalmente.
And we are dedicated to the cultivation of the mushroom traditionally.
Caption 4, La Champiñonera - El cultivo de champiñónPlay Caption
99. Tristemente (sadly)
And finally, can you think of any Spanish word that has all the vowels on it? We have a long word for you, which is actually quite short in English:
100. Murciélago (bat)
La palabra más larga es murciélago.
The longest word is bat.
Caption 43, Karla e Isabel - PalabrasPlay Caption
That's it for now. We know that there are many more hard Spanish words that we should include in this list. If you feel like it, please share some additional difficult Spanish words with us, and we’ll be happy to add them to this lesson. And don’t forget to send us your feedback and suggestions. ¡Hasta la próxima!