When to Use the Subjunctive Mood

Most of us are baffled by the subjunctive mood because it is so subjective! After all, how do you know in what mood the speaker is? By using a simple thought process, however, you can determine which mood (subjunctive or indicative) is appropriate for any context.

The best way to learn when to use the subjunctive mood is to understand the different reasons or psychological states that cause a Spanish speaker to use the subjunctive. The problem with this approach, however, is that an English speaker does not think like a Spanish speaker, so it is difficult for an English speaker to understand the reasons for using the subjunctive. Therefore, until you understand the subtleties of the subjunctive mood, you can memorize vocabulary lists that represent the reasons to use the subjunctive.

To determine the correct mood of the verb, you will have to analyze the entire sentence structure. Most sentences have an independent clause and at least one dependent clause, joined by a conjunction. Most often, the conjunction is the word que (or includes the word que). For example:

  • Ellas dudan que yo recuerde sus cumpleaños.
  • They doubt that I will remember their birthdays.
  • Nosotras queremos que ellos bailen con nosotras.
  • We want them to dance with us.

Que, the conjunction that generally joins two clauses in Spanish, is the key word. The thought expressed in the clause in front of que often determines the mood of the verb after que. The term subjunctive indicators is used for the collection of verbs that express the types of thoughts that cause the subjunctive to be used after que.