For Deed Doers (On Subjunctive)

This is meant for advanced (really advanced) learners. Once a Spanish learner becomes upper-intermediate, the use of subjunctive becomes an obsession for him/her. This is more than understandable. After having presumably struggled with the past tenses —not a piece of cake in Spanish—, they find themselves, like Greek heroes, before a huge and dissuasive obstacle: the weird, undecipherable and apparently random subjunctive. And, to top it all, we use it a lot and in many different structures!

We won’t lie to you. It takes a lot of practice to use the Spanish subjunctive properly. But if it’s any consolation, here are some tips to deal with this thousand-headed dragon:

-True, subjunctive is hugely used in Spanish, but you can make yourself understood without it. Now, if you want to be really proficient, you’ll have to fight for it…

-The first step would be to learn how it is formed. Basically, it’s about swapping endings (apply the –AR verbs endings to –ER / –IR verbs, and inversely). Irregular verbs usually stay so in subjunctive. So you’ll need to complete a few dozens of exercises here.

-Once you’ve mastered that, move on to the next phase. Choose one of the structures requiring subjunctive and practice it “in chunks”.

Now the practical bit:

Here’s a little exercise for brave subjunctive and imperative learners, based on a car advert.  The objective of this exercise is to practice the structure: Cuando + subjunctive (with future sense) and, to kill two birds with one stone, the imperative too.

  1. Before watching the ad, fill the gaps following the structure: Cuando + subjuntivo / Imperativo, both for the “tú” person:  e.g. Cuando hables, habla. Note that in line 5, the order is inverse: Imperativo / Cuando +subjuntivo (Jump when you jump). In line 14, the subjunctive is repeated: And when you lose, specially when you lose, lose.
  2. Then watch the video and check your answers.
  3. After watching the video, try to continue the following sentences using “Cuando + subjuntivo” (remember, it has a future sense) according to your plans, e.g., “Haré un viaje cuando tenga tiempo y dinero.”
  • Estaré más tranquilo/a cuando…
  • Hablaré mejor español cuando…
  • Dejaré de beber cuando…
  • Cambiaré de coche cuando…

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