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The Subjunctive Mood in Noun Clauses

Subj. mood - noun clauses - the rule - verbs of: influence or emotion or doubt - impersonal exprsns

Introduction: the subjunctive mood. Presumably, up until now you have been using primarily the indicative mood. The indicative ( modo indicativo) in both English and Spanish is used to indicate facts or states of being in the real world, and to ask questions:
Jorge dice la verdad. Jorge is telling the truth. Elena no canta hoy. Elena is not singing today. Are you tired? Ests cansado? In contrast to the indicative, the subjunctive mood ( modo subjuntivo) is very rarely used as the main verb of a sentence; it is used primarily in dependent (subjoined) clauses and to express a subjective view or the negation or the anticipation of an action or state. In the case of a subjective view, the action or state may in fact exist in reality; the emphasis, however, is on the reaction of the speaker. We can find some examples of situations where we use the subjunctive both in Spanish and in English; in the English translations note that the third person singular form does not end in the usual -s: We recommend that she *come. Recomendamos que ella venga. I insist that he *be here. Insisto en que est aqu. *Note that the normal forms are she comesand he is. Unfortunately at least for purposes of transferring our knowledge of English grammar to Spanish modern English uses the subjunctive very little. In Spanish it is used constantly, both in conversational and literary form, and you must be able to use it where appropriate.
Subj. mood - noun clauses - the rule - verbs of: influence or emotion or doubt - impersonal exprsns

Introduction: noun clauses. A clause is a group of words that expresses an idea and contains a subject and a conjugated or finite verb (in contrast to an infinite or non -conjugated form such as the infinitive). A sentence will have one or more main clauses, and may have one or more dependent clauses or none at all.
main clause dependent clause Espero que vengas a la fiesta. I hope (that) you'll come to the party. For purposes of this section on the subjunctive, noun clauses are dependent clauses which serve as the direct object or predicate complement of another verb (or as the subject of a verb), just as a noun can do. Please note that English frequently employs an infinitive in these cases, whereas Spanish frequently requires a conjugated verb. Quiero el libro. Quiero que compres el libro. I want the book. I want you to buy the book. El libro/the book is the direct object. In English the direct object is the phrase you to buy the book. The literal equivalent of the Spanish sentence is: I want that you buy the book, and the clause que compres el libro is the direct object of the verb Quiero.

In the above example involving a dependent clause I want that you buy the book please note that:

The governing verb (the verb which governs the dependent clause) is want / querer and that it expresses influence. The subject of the governing verb is I / yo. The subject of the dependent clause is you / t, different from the subject of the main verb (I / yo). The verb in the dependent noun clause is buy / compres; however, the clause does not express a fact such as you are buying the book but rather that it is my desire that you might buy the book.
Subj. mood - noun clauses - the rule - verbs of: influence or emotion or doubt - impersonal exprsns

The rule: In Spanish, the subjunctive mood is used for the verb in a dependent noun clause when:
1. 2. The subject of the governing verb is different from the subject of the dependent clause [e.g., you / t vs. I / yo in the above example], and The governing verb is one of: o Influence or willing [want, prefer, desire, insist, request, etc.], or o Emotion [fear, be angry, be sad, be happy, be surprised , etc.], or o Doubt or negation [be uncertain, be unsure, doubt, deny, etc.], or is an o Impersonal expression of influence, emotion, doubt, probability, possibility, necessity, or a subjective reaction on the part of the speaker [e.g.,: It's urgent / bad, wonderful / uncertain / possible / probable / unlikely, etc.]

In contrast: The infinitive is normally used when there is no change in subject (I want to leave = Quiero salir), and the indicative mood is used when the governing verb expresses knowledge (to know) certainty (to be certain / sure), truth (to be true / the truth), affirmation (to believe, think, affirm, assert, declare), or reporting (to say, indicate [when not used as a verb of influence], report). See also WIDEN vs. CART or WEIRDO for a short form of the rules.
Subj. mood - noun clauses - the rule - verbs of: influence or emotion or doubt - impersonal exprsns


Verbs of influence or willing. Verbs such as querer (to want), preferir (to prefer), desear (to desire), insistir en (to insist), mandar (to command), prohibir (to prohibit), requerir (to require), exigir (to demand, require), recomendar (to recommend), pedir (to request/ask for), decir (to tell, say [when not used as a verb of reporting]), alentar (to encourage), etc. require that the subjunctive be used in any subordinate clauses they govern. Queremos que lo cantes. Insistes en que lo hagamos? Deseo que te quedes. Ella prefiere que lleguemos a las seis. Recomiendo que salgas. Manda l que yo lo escriba? Se prohbe que entremos. Piden que cenemos all. No permitimos que lo compres. La ley exige que paguemos impuestos. We want you to sing it. Do you insist that we do it? (Or: Do you insist on our doing it?) I want you to stay. She prefers us to arrive at 6:00. I recommend that you leave. Is he ordering me to write it? It is forbidden for us to enter. They're asking us to dine there. We don't permit you to buy it. The law requires us to pay taxes.


NOTE: Some verbs can either indicate influence (and thus take the subjunctive) or reporting (and thus take the indicative):

Ella dice que nos vamos. Ella dice que nos vayamos. Yo insisto en que l viene. Yo insisto en que l venga. III.

She says we're leaving. She's telling us to leave. I insist that he is coming. I insist that he come.

[Reporting a fact: indicative] [Giving us a command: subjunctive] [Know it for a fact: indicative] [Giving an order: subjunctive]

NOTE: If the same person is the subject for both the verb of influence and the dependent verb, the infinitive is normally used instead of the subjunctive: Nadie quiere trabajar. No one wants to work. Yo prefiero manejar. I prefer to drive.


NOTE: Certain verbs of influence may be used either with the subjunctive or an infinitive, even when there's a change of subject. The infinitive is more frequent when the subject of the dependent verb is a pronoun (rather than a noun or noun phrase). Such verbs include hacer (to make [someone do something]), permitir (to permit), and dejar (to let, allow): Infinitive Nobody makes me think. Let me work in peace. They don't permit us to dance. Subjunctive No one makes the workers think about the Nadie hace que los trabajadores piensen en el future. porvenir. Let the secretaries work in peace. Deja que las secretarias trabajen en paz. They don't permit the other students to Ellas no permiten que los otros estudiantes dance. bailen. Nadie me hace pensar. Djame trabajar en paz. Ellas no nos permiten bailar. V. Subj. mood - noun clauses - the rule - verbs of: influence or emotion or doubt - impersonal exprsns Verbs of emotion. Expressions such as to be happy (estar alegre, alegrarse de), to be sad (estar triste), to fear, be afraid (temer, tener miedo de) to hope (esperar), to feel sorry, regret (sentir, dar lstima), to like, be pleased, be delighted (gustar, agradar, encantar), to dislike, be displeased (disgustar, desagradar), to be surprised (sorprender, estar sorprendido), etc., likewise require the use of the subjunctive in clauses they govern. Espero que vengan. Siento que ella no est aqu. Me alegro de que vaya a Madrid. Temo que haya muchos problemas. Tengo miedo de que no llegue. Te gusta que sea tan fcil? Le sorprende que vivamos as. I hope they come. I'm sorry she's not here. I'm glad he's going to Madrid. I fear there are many problems. I'm afraid she won't arrive. Are you pleased it's so easy? He's surprised we live like that.



Ojal (que), while not a verb in Spanish, is used like a verb of emotion or influence with the present subjunctive: I hope the food tastes good. Ojal que la comida sepa bien. Ojal nuestro equipo gane maana. I hope our team wins tomorrow. VIII. Subj. mood - noun clauses - the rule - verbs of: influence or emotion or doubt - impersonal exprsns Verbs of doubt and negation require the subjunctive in subordinate clauses; examples include negar (to deny), dudar (to doubt), no ser verdad (to not be true/the truth), no estar cierto/seguro (to be unsure, uncertain), no creer (to not believe), etc. Remember that expressions of certainty or belief take the indicative: no negar (to not deny), no dudar (to not doubt), afirmar (to affirm), creer (to believe), estar cierto/seguro (to be sure, certain), etc.


Dudamos que salgan bien. No creo que asistan a la clase. Niegas que yo pueda hacerlo? No estoy segura de que venga. X.

We doubt they'll do well. I don't think they attend class. Do you deny that I can do it? I'm not sure she's coming.

NOTE: Normally the reverse (positive/negative) of each of the above sentences does not indicate doubt or negation and thus takes the indicative. No dudamos que salen bien. Creo que asisten a la clase. No niegan que yo puedo hacerlo. Estoy segura de que viene. We don't doubt they'll do well. I think they attend class. They don't deny that I can do it. I'm sure she's coming.


XI. Subj. mood - noun clauses - the rule - verbs of: influence or emotion or doubt - impersonal exprsns Impersonal expressions do not have a specific person or thing as the subject. In English we use the non-specific it, but in Spanish the pronoun is omitted. Impersonal expressions such as those given below require the subjunctive in a subordinate clause because they indicate doubt, negation, emotion, influence, or a subjective reaction on the part of the speaker. Es bueno Es malo Es mejor Es peor Es horrible Es horrendo Es estupendo Es maravilloso Es posible Es imposible Es probable Es improbable Es increble Es necesario Es preciso que lo hagan. Es urgente Es importante Es interesante Es notable Es raro Es extrao Es estpido Es ridculo Es curioso Es dudoso Es difcil Es fcil No es seguro No es cierto No es verdad It's good It's bad It's better It's worse It's horrible It's horrendous It's stupendous It's marvelous It's possible It's impossible It's probable It's improbable It's incredible It's necessary It's necessary for them to do it (or: that they do it). It's urgent It's important It's interesting It's notable It's unusual/strange It's strange It's stupid It's ridiculous It's curious It's doubtful It's unlikely It's likely It's uncertain It's uncertain It's untrue


NOTE: An infinitive may be used after these expressions if no change of subject is involved: It's good to study a lot. Es bueno estudiar mucho. In contrast to: Es bueno que estudies mucho. It's good that you study a lot.


However, impersonal expressions indicating certainty, affirmation, and truth would take the indicative: It's certain Es cierto Es evidente que sabes esto. It's evident that you know this. It's true Es verdad


Some other verbs and expressions that normally take the indicative in subordinate clauses include those which express: knowledge: saber (to know); certainty: estar seguro, estar cierto (to be certain / sure); truth: ser verdad (to be the truth); affirmation: creer (to believe, think), pensar (to think), declarar (to declare). Verbs of reporting also take the indicative, although many of them can also be used as verbs of influence: decir (to say), indicar (to indicate), insistir en (to insist), reportar (to report), replicar (to reply), responder (to respond), contestar (to answer). S que Elena habla espaol. Es verdad que yo lo hice. Creo que estn en casa. Te digo que vienen. Te digo que vengas. Insistimos en que aprenden esto. Insistimos en que aprendan esto. I know that Elena speaks Spanish. It's true that I did it. I think they're at home. I'm telling you that they are coming. I 'm telling you to come. [= I 'm telling that you should come.] We insist that they are learning this. We insist that they learn this.
Knowlege: Indicative Truth: Indicative Affirmation or belief: Indicative Reporting: Indicative Influence or willing: Subjunctive Reporting: Indicative Influence or willing: Subjunctive