Chapter seven

Spanish subjunctive phrases: 33 incredibly useful phrases to help you master the subjunctive

Rob Ashby
The Spanish Obsessive

In this final chapter of our guide to the sujunctive, we present 33 common Spanish subjunctive phrases, which you will frequently hear and use. We suggest you memorise these – even if you don’t understand why the subjunctive is used – as it will help you to internalise the grammar and become more fluent with using the Spanish subjunctive.

A little bit about these phrases

We didn’t just invent these phrases. We’ve extracted the most common uses of the subjunctive from native speakers using a “corpus” (enormous body of native Spanish text), so we are sure that these are absolutely the most useful Spanish subjunctive phrases to memorise. Enjoy!

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Phrases with sea

Sea comes from the verb ser, “to be”. It’s an extremely common verb, and is the most common Spanish verb that you’ll find in the subjunctive:

O sea… That is…

We’ve started with the most common expression that you’ll hear. O sea means “that is”, “in other words”, “or rather”, “that is to say”. You’ll hear it all the time, almost as a verbal tic among native Spanish speakers across the Spanish speaking world.

 

Sea como sea – No matter how, at any cost

 

Cuando sea – Whenever

 

Ya sea por x o ywhether it be for x or y

 

You can use ya sea por to mean “whether”, and this usually comes with an “or”, for example: ya sea por motivos de trabajo o diversión (“whether it be for reasons of work or fun”)

Phrases with aunque sea

Aunque means “although”, and aunque sea is one of the most common constructions you’ll hear. Learn these phrases using aunque sea to build fluency in your conversation:

Phrases with ojalá

Ojalá stands out as a Spanish word, and it is always followed by the subjunctive. The history of this little word is fascinating – it’s originally from the Arabic Insha’Allah!, meaning “If God wills”. Today it’s used to mean “I hope”, or “may it be so”. Here are some of the most common phrases using ojalá:

Ojalá que

Although purists sometimes argue that ojalá que is incorrect, in everday Spanish it is used all the time. Here are some phrases using ojalá que:

And while we’re at it, there’s a song called “Ojalá que llueva café” (“I hope it rains coffee”):

Phrases with cuando

Cuando is often used with the subjunctive. It’s usually used with a verb to refer to some future action or event which is not yet a reality (hence the use of the subjunctive):

Phrases with quiero que

Quiero que (I want) almost always takes the subjunctive, as it refers to the imposition of will or desire. These very common short phrases illustrate that perfectly:

Phrases with para que

Para que means “so that”, and is often used with the subjunctive:

Impersonal expressions with the Spanish subjunctive

An impersonal expression simply means that no personal pronoun (ie, yo, tú, usted, etc) is used. These take the form “es ADJECTIVE que”, and are often followed by the subjunctive. Note that when you are sure about the result of something, or affirming the reality of something, the indicative is used (e.g. Es cierto que sabe):

These are some of the most common and popular expressions that you’ll hear using the Spanish subjunctive, and will help you build mastery of this “mood”. Are there any common expressions that you use? Let us know in the comments below!

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