Spanish Lessons


Using the Word "Sea" - Subjunctive | Verb Ser (to be)

The present subjunctive of the verb ser (to be) is the same in both the first- and third-person singular: sea. This little word is used profusely in Spanish for the most varied purposes. Let's explore and learn a few.


The first person yo (I) uses sea. You can use it to express other people's wishes or expectations placed on you:
Quieres que [yo] sea cuidadosa
You want me to be cautious
or to deny hypothetic situations or conditions:
No es que yo sea mala...
It's not that I'm bad...
The third person (he, she, it) also uses sea. Here are examples using sea to talk about people (he, she). The tricky part is that Spanish usually gets rid of the pronouns él or ella, so you will only hear or see the verb sea.

No importa que sea morena, blanca, rubia o canela

It doesn't matter if she is dark-skinned, white, blonde or brown

Caption 52, Alberto Barros - Mano a mano

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¿Cómo me voy a andar fijando en él por más simpático...

How am I going to go around thinking about him no matter how nice...

alto, caballero y bello que sea?

tall, gentlemanly and handsome he might be?

Captions 74-75, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso

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It's the same when you use sea to, for example, talk about a poisonous mushroom:

Por tocarlo no pasa nada.

Nothing happens by touching it.

Aunque sea mortal.

Even though it's lethal.

Captions 114-115, 75 minutos - Del campo a la mesa

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However, the use of sea extends far beyond that in Spanish. Many idiomatic expressions use it. For example, the expression sea lo que is used to express fatalistic sentiments. Use this model phrase to learn it: sea + lo que dios mande (literally, let it be what God commands). Note that it uses subjunctive plus subjunctive:
Que sea lo que dios mande
Let it be God's will.
Of course, it's possible to get rid of the pronoun que (that) and combine the phrase with a different verb, like querer (to want):

Sea lo que Dios quiera.

Let it be God's will.

Caption 9, Baile Folklórico de Puerto Rico - Los Bailarines

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But there's also the expression sea lo que sea, literally meaning "let it be whatever it might be," or more simply put: "whatever it may be."
Sea lo que sea, quiero saber la verdad.
I want to know the truth, whatever that may be.

The shorter expression lo que sea (whatever) is even more common:

No es solamente utilizar una moneda local o lo que sea.

It's not just to use a local coin or whatever.

Caption 67, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 4

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...sea hombre, mujer, o lo que sea.

...whether it's a man, a woman or whatever.

Caption 60, Arume - Barcelona

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The clause para que sea (for it to be, so that it is) is also a great addition to your Spanish vocabulary:

Entonces, para que sea una sorpresa también.

So, for it to be a surprise also.

Caption 12, 75 minutos - Gangas para ricos - Part 10

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Para que sea más fácil, le cortáis por la mitad.

So that it is easier, you cut it in half.

Caption 49, Cómetelo - Crema de brócoli

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Finally, don't forget the expression o sea (I mean, meaning):



¡O sea, esto es más de lo que cualquier chica popular puede soportar!

I mean, this is more than any popular girl could bear!

Caption 1, NPS No puede ser - 1 - El concurso

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Using que [that] + subjunctive to express good wishes

The holidays are always a great opportunity to practice the que + subjunctive construction, which is one of the most common (and shortest) ways to express hope and good wishes in Spanish. This particular construction is very interesting because it involves the omission of the main verb, usually desear ("to wish"), but also querer ("to want"), esperar ("to hope for"), and others followed by the subjunctive. The result of doing this is a short phrase that is practical and meaningful. So, instead of saying deseo que te diviertas ("I wish you have fun") you can simply say ¡que te diviertas! ("[I wish] you have fun") which is more likely what a native speaker would use in a casual conversation.


Since this particular construction is used to express wishes or hopes to someone right on the spot, it makes use of the present tense and the present subjunctive. The main omitted verb desear ("to wish") is in the present tense: yo deseo ("I wish"). Therefore the action that you are wishing to happen must be expressed, after the conjunction que ("that"), in the present subjunctive: te alivies ("you get well"). The condensed resulting phrase is then: ¡Que te alivies! ("[I wish] you get well"), which we may as well just translate as "Get well!" Let's see more examples.

Mexicans use this construction a lot to wish you well while saying goodbye:


Hasta luego, nos vemos y... que se la pasen bien.

See you later, see you and... hope you guys have a good time.

Caption 59, La Banda Chilanguense - El habla de México - Part 3

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Argentinians also like to use it: 


Chau, que le vaya bien, chau.

Bye, have a good day, bye.

Captions 38-39, Muñeca Brava - 9 Engaños - Part 4

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You can wish someone all sorts of good things using this construction, like to have a good night:


Bueno, yo también me retiro, que tengan muy buenas noches. -Buenas noches.

Well, I will also retire, good night to you all. -Good night.

Captions 98-99, Muñeca Brava - 43 La reunión - Part 2

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Or simply to enjoy something:


Eso es todo, gracias. Que disfruten de, del folklore de Puerto Rico.

That's all, thank you. Enjoy the, the folklore of Puerto Rico.

Captions 31-32, Baile Folklórico de Puerto Rico - Los Bailarines

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Or to wish someone a nice Christmas:

¡Que tengas una feliz Navidad!
I wish you (have) a merry Christmas!

Atrás: Ago, Backwards

In the program Factor Fobia, Marley uses two words that are very similar sounding, atrás and tras.


Tuve un... hace unos meses atrás, me he ido a China.

I had a... some months ago, I've been to China.

Captions 28-29, Factor Fobia - Cucarachas

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As is evident, atrás can be used to indicate "ago," as in time past.


Yo empecé hace tres años atrás en el grupo Guamanique,

I started three years ago in the Guamanique group,

se llama Ballet Folklórico Guamanique, que es de Puerto Rico.

it's called the Guamanique Folk Ballet, which is from Puerto Rico.

Captions 3-4, Baile Folklórico de Puerto Rico - Los Bailarines

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Muchos años atrás, él fue general.
Many years ago, he was a general.

La última vez que nos vimos habrá sido unos seis años atrás.
Last time we met may have been some six years ago.


Of course, atrás is also commonly used to indicate "backwards" or "towards the back."


Si eso era un primer paso, había sido un paso atrás.

If that was a first move, it had been a move backwards.

Caption 24, Los Años Maravillosos - Capítulo 2

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Ella fue atrás.
She went backwards.

Vaya hacia atrás, por favor.
Go backwards, please.


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