Forms of the Present Subjunctive

Summary of how to form the present subjunctive

Start with the first person singular (yo form) of the present indicative.

  1. If this form does not end in an -o, the verb is irregular in the present subjunctive; memorize the forms: [ser: soy -> sea; estar: estoy -> esté; ir: voy -> vaya; dar: doy -> ; saber: sé -> sepa; haber: he -> haya].

  2. If the stem of the yo form is exactly the same as the stem of the infinitive, the verb is regular; use this stem and attach the appropriate endings [the endings for the subjunctive are for the most part the “opposite” conjugation endings of the present indicative].

  3. If the stem of the yo form shows a stem change when compared to the stem of the infinitive (e -> ie, o -> ue, or u -> ue) and it's an -ar or -er verb, the stem will undergo the same changes as in the present indicative; substitute the subjunctive endings for the indicative ones [volver: vuelva, vuelvas, vuelva, volvamos, volváis, vuelvan].

  4. If the stem yo form, when compared to that of the infinitive, shows that an -ir stem-changing verb is involved, all forms of the present subjunctive will have stem changes: the same ones as in the present indicative (e -> ie, o -> ue), plus special changes in the nosotros and vosotros forms (e -> i, o -> u) [sentir: sienta, sientas, sienta, sintamos, sintáis, sientan; dormir: duerma, duermas, duerma, durmamos, durmáis, duerman].

  5. We are left with a yo form stem which is NOT the same as the one for the infinitive and which is NOT a stem changing verb: use this stem for all forms of the present subjunctive [conocer: conozca, conozcas, conozca, conozcamos, conozcáis, conozcan; tener: tenga, tengas, tenga, tengamos, tengáis, tengan]

The subjunctive is used in various ways; for example, it appears in all negative commands as well as all formal commands, and is used in dependent clauses to indicate doubt, non-existence, or an emotional reaction. Other handouts will deal with the various uses; this one will deal only with the formation of the present subjunctive.

  1. Endings: For all but the most irregular of verbs, the endings for the present subjunctive are as follows:

    -ar verbs:   -e,   -es,   -e,   -emos,   -éis,   -en
    -er and -ir verbs: -a, -as, -a, -amos, -áis, -an

  2. Regular verbs: Attach the above endings to the present indicative stem (the infinitive minus the last two letters):






    hable   hablemos coma   comamos viva   vivamos
    hables habléis comas comáis vivas viváis
    hable hablen coma coman viva vivan

  3. Stem changing verbs of the first (-ar) and second (-er) conjugations:

    These verbs experience the same stem changes as the present indicative; that is, the stem vowel changes into a diphthong whenever it is stressed. To put it another way, the vowel in the stem changes in all forms except those for nosotros and vosotros.

    e -> ie    pensarpiense, pienses, piense, pensemos, penséis, piensen
    [Sample verbs: cerrar (close), *comenzar (begin), *empezar (begin), encender (burn, turn on), entender (understand), *negar (deny), pensar (think), perder (lose), querer (want), sentar (sit)]

    o -> ue    mover: mueva, muevas, mueva, movamos, mováis, muevan
    [Sample verbs: acordar (remember), *almorzar (lunch), apostar (bet), colgar (hang up), contar (count, relate), costar (cost), demostrar (demonstrate), encontrar (find), llover (rain), mostrar (show), mover (move), poder (be able), recordar (remember), volver (return)]

    u -> ue    jugar: juegue, juegues, juegue, juguemos, juguéis, jueguen
    Jugar (to play) and its compounds is the only one verb which has this change; note that it also undergoes an orthographic change (g -> gu) to maintain the hard “g” sound.

  4. -Ir stem changing verbs:

    In the nosotros and vosotros forms -ir stem changing verbs show a special change; the stem vowel is reduced to a single vowel: o -> ue -> u; e -> ie -> i. The other forms undergo the same changes as in the present indicative (a stem vowel change occurs whenever the stem vowel is stressed, that is, in all forms except for nosotros and vosotros).

    o -> ue -> u    dormir: duerma, duermas, duerma, durmamos, durmáis, duerman
    [Sample verbs: dormir (sleep) and morir (die)]

    e -> ie -> i     sentir: sienta, sientas, sienta, sintamos, sintáis, sientan
    [Sample verbs: consentir (consent), convertir (convert), herir (injure), preferir (prefer), mentir (lie) and sentir (feel, regret), and sugerir (suggest)]

    e -> i -> i     pedir: pida, pidas, pida, pidamos, pidáis, pidan
    [Sample verbs: competir (compete), *conseguir (get), *corregir (correct), despedir (say goodbye, dismiss), *distinguir (distinguish), *elegir (elect), medir (measure), pedir (request), reír (laugh), *repetir (repeat), *seguir (follow, continue), servir (serve), and vestir (dress)]

    *Spelling (or orthographic) change also involved. See section 5.

  5. Orthographic changes:

    First conjugation (-ar) verbs whose stem ends in -c, -g, or -z undergo a spelling change, as do -er and -ir verbs whose stem ends in -gu or -g. These changes are necessary to preserve the sound occurring in the infinitive.

    -carc -> qu     buscar: busque, busques, busque, busquemos, busquéis, busquen
    [Sample verbs: atacar (attack), buscar (look for), clasificar (classify), criticar (criticize), indicar (indicate), practicar (practice), publicar (publish), sacar (take out), secar (dry), tocar (touch, play)]

    -garg -> gu      pagar: pague, pagues, pague, paguemos, paguéis, paguen
    [Sample verbs: cargar (load, charge), castigar (punish), entregar (deliver), *jugar (play), obligar (oblige), pagar (pay), pegar (hit), and tragar (swallow)]

    -zarz -> c         abrazar: abrace, abraces, abrace, abracemos, abracéis, abracen
    [Sample verbs: abrazar (hug), bautizar (baptize), cazar (hunt), *comenzar (begin), *empezar (begin), lanzar (throw), rechazar (reject), rezar (pray), and simbolizar (simbolize)]

    -guirgu -> g      distinguir: distinga distingas distinga distingamos distingáis distiguen
    [Sample verbs: *conseguir (get), distinguir (distinguish), *perseguir (persecute), and *seguir (follow, continue)]

    -girg -> j         dirigir: dirija, dirijas, dirija, dirijamos, dirijáis, dirijan
    [Sample verbs: *corregir (correct), dirigir (direct), *elegir (elect), exigir (demand), fingir (pretend), and *regir (rule)]

    *Stem change also involved. See sections 3 and 4.

  6. Verbs with a special yo form (but one which still ends in -o):

    Verbs which in the present indicative have a special yo form ending in an -o use the stem of that form for all the present subjunctive forms: Verbs with the addition of a -g- in the yo form:

    decir   say   digo:   diga, digas, diga, digamos, digáis, digan
    hacer do hago: haga, hagas, haga, hagamos, hagáis, hagan
    oír hear oigo: oiga, oigas, oiga, oigamos, oigáis, oigan
    poner put: pongo: pongas, ponga, ponga, pongamos, pongáis, pongan
    salir go out: salgo salga, salgas, salga, salgamos, salgáis, salgan
    tener have: tengo tenga, tengas, tenga, tengamos, tengáis, tengan
    traer bring: traigo traiga, traigas, traiga, traigamos, traigáis, traigan
    valer be worth: valgo valga, valgas, valga, valgamos, valgáis, valgan
    venir come: vengo venga, vengas, venga, vengamos, vengáis, vengan

    Verbs with the infinitive ending -cer (with -zco in the yo form):

    conocer   know   conozco:   conozca, conozcas, conozca, etc.
    nacer be born nazco: nazca, nazcas, nazca, etc.
    obedecer obey obedezco: obedezca, obedezcas, obedezca, etc.
    pertenecer belong pertenezco: pertenezca, pertenezcas, pertenezca, etc.

    Special case: ver (original stem was ve-):

    ver   see   veo:   vea, veas, vea, veamos, veáis, vean

  7. Irregular verbs (verbs where the yo form does not end in -o):

    Verbs whose first person singular form of the present indicative does not end in -o have irregular present subjunctive forms:

    dar   give   doy   dé, des, dé, demos, deis, den
    estar be estoy esté, estés, esté, estemos, estéis, estén
    haber have he haya, hayas, haya, hayamos, hayáis, hayan
    saber know sepa, sepas, sepa, sepamos, sepáis, sepan
    ser be soy sea, seas, sea, seamos, seáis, sean
    ir go voy vaya, vayas, vaya, vayamos, vayáis, vayan

Contact: Fred F. Jehle


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