When to use the subjunctive #1: EMOTION

Spanish Tutorial

When to use the subjunctive #1: EMOTION


Let’s presume that you know how to conjugate verbs in the subjunctive mood, but your big problem is when to use it. Well, don’t worry: That’s everybody’s problem! Learn pointer #1: The subjunctive is subjective, and we often express subjectivity with verbs of emotion.

Sample Problem

Which of these sentences is correct?

Me alegra que Pepe esté viviendo con nosotros.

Me alegra que Pepe vive con nosotros.

Estoy alegre que Pepe vive con nosotros

Estoy alegre que Pepe está viviendo con nosotros.

Estoy alegre que Pepe vivir con nosotros


The first thing to notice is “que”, the pronoun that’s connecting the primary and secondary clauses, “me alegro” and the bit about where Pepe’s living. Clauses, as a reminder, are parts of a compound sentence that could be sentences all by themselves because they contain a verb.

The second thing to notice is that the subject of the primary clause (yo) and the secondary clause (Pepe) are different. This is a prerequisite for subjunctive mood in a two-clause sentence.

Finally, notice that the emotion expressed in the primary clause forces the secondary clause verb to be in the subjunctive verb.

WHY, you may ask? After all, Pepe actually lives with us, right? Yes, he does so it’s hardly a hypothetical statement. But the emotion expressed in the first clause projects itself onto the secondary clause, causing the subjunctive mood to be required. In other words, it’s not just that Pepe is living with us, it’s that I am happy that he is.

In other words: The subjunctive expresses the subjective.

Can you think of more emotions and connect them with statements in the subjunctive?

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I am a full-time freelance teacher and writer. Former adjunct professor of Spanish at The New School for Social Research, Einstein College of Medicine, and Princeton Adult School, I have also taught Spanish at Columbia University's Chazen School of Business, IBM, and New York Medical College. As a w...
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