Chapter five

Spanish Subjunctive uses 3: Additional uses

Rob Ashby
The Spanish Obsessive

In our final section on subjunctive uses, we’ve compiled those which do not fit neatly into the previous categories.

Negative statements

Any statement which expresses denial (ie, saying that something is not something…) uses the subjunctive. For example:

no es que + subjunctive

No es que no les guste “It’s not that they don’t like it”

No quiere decir que lo tengas que hacer “It doesn’t mean you have to do it”

No significa que los hayamos perdido “It doesn’t mean we’ve lost them”

Future actions

The following patterns are often used to refer to the future, in which case the subjunctive is used.

antes de que always uses the subjunctive, as by its nature it always refers to a future, yet to be completed action:

  • ¿Te importa hablar con él antes de que se vaya“Do you mind speaking with him before he goes?”
  • Asegurate de que este hecho antes de que llegue “Make sure it’s done before he/she arrives”
después de que uses the subjunctive, provided that it refers to a future, uncompleted action:
  • Después de que lo hagan mañana “After they do it tomorrow”
Hasta que also uses the subjunctive when referring to a future, uncompleted action:
  • No me iré hasta que me digan que va a pasar “I’m not leaving until they tell me what’s going to happen”
  • No metes la pasta hasta que el agua empiece a hervir “Don’t put the pasta in until the water starts boiling”

When cuando refers to a future action, it also uses the subjunctive:

  • Vuelve cuando lo tengas “Come back when you have it”

Aunque, “even if”

Aunque takes the subjunctive if it implies doubt about what it is referring to (ie, is not a “fact” – that’s when we’d use the indicative). It’s the difference between “even if” and “even though”:

  • Voy a venir, aunque es difícil (“I’m going to come, even though it’s difficult”)
  • Voy a venir, aunque sea difícil (“I’m going to come, even if it’s difficult”)

Para que, expressing purpose

Para que often uses the subjunctive, provided that there is a change of subject (otherwise, we’d just use the infinitive). It’s the difference between “in order to(para), and “in order that, so that(para que):

  • Lo necesito para pagarte (“I need it in order to pay you”)
  • Lo necesito para que me pueda pagar (“I need it in order that he/she can pay me”)

Whether or not…

One set subjunctive expression is for “whether VERB or not”: [verb in subjunctive] o no…

  • Lo tienes que hacer, te guste o no (“You have to do it, whether you like it or not”)
  • Me llamen o no, voy a ir (“I’m going, whether they call me or not”)

-ever statements. Whoever, whichever, whenever, however.

Another meaning that the subjunctive can give statements is to add an “-ever” meaning:

  • Como quieras “However you want”
  • Cuando quieras “Whenever you want”
  • Donde sea “Wherever”
  • Quien sea “Whoever”

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