Learning Spanish: Subjunctive in Noun Clauses

By Curt Smothers

The Spanish subjunctive mood is mainly used in sentences with multiple clauses that express will and influence, emotion, and doubt or denial. The main clause is typically followed by a noun clause that serves as the object of the verb of will, influence, etc. (e.g. I hope that you have a good day).

The Subjunctive Mood in Noun Clauses

An example of a noun clause in English would be, “I ask that you go to the doctor." The subject (I) of the main clause, therefore, exerts influence or will on the subject of the subordinate clause (you), and both subjects are different. In Spanish the subjunctive mood is used in the subordinate noun clause in the following way:

Yo pido (main clause) + que (connector) + tú vayas al medico (subordinate clause with present subjunctive mood tú vayas). Note that the verb in the main clause (pido) is in the indicative mood.

The foregoing construction also includes some impersonal expressions such as es necesario que, es importante que, es urgente que. Example: Es urgente que tú vayas al medico.

Common Verbs that Precede Noun Clauses Taking the Subjunctive in Spanish

Verbs of Will and Influence:

aconsejar -to advise

desear - to wish; to desire

exigir - to demand

importar - to be important; to matter

insistir (en) - to insist (on)

mandar - to order

necesitar - to need

oponerse a - to oppose

pedir - to ask (for)

preferir - to prefer

prohibir - to prohibit

proponer - to propose

querer - to want

recomendar - to recommend

rogar - to beg; to plead

sugerir - to suggest

Two examples using a verb of will or influence and a connector (que) with a noun clause and subjunctive:

Necesito que busques a mi hermana en la iglesia. (I need you to look for my sister in the church.)

El medico siempre me recomienda que deje de comer comida basura. (The doctor always recommends that I stop eating junk food.)

Verbs of Emotion

alegrarse (de) - to be happy about

es extraño - it’s strange

es ridiculo - it’s ridiculous

es terrible - it’s terrible

es una pena - it’s a pity

esperar - to hope; to wish

gustar - to like; to be pleasing

molestar - to bother

ojalá que - I hope; I wish

sentir - to be sorry; to regret

sorprender - to surprise

temer - to fear

tener miedo (de) - to be afraid of

Two examples:

Me sorprende que no quieras salir a correr. (I am surprised that you don’t want to go running.)

Ojalá que te recuperes pronto. (I hope you get well soon.)

Verbs of Doubt or Denial

dudar - to doubt

negar - to deny

no creer - to disbelieve (but the affirmative of creer does not take the subjunctive)

no es verdad - it’s not true (but the affirmative es verdad does not take the subjunctive)

es imposible - it’s impossible

es improbable - it’s improbable

es poco seguro - it’s uncertain

(no) es possible - it’s (not possible)

(no) es probable - it’s not probable

Two examples:

No es verdad que Margarita vaya con nosotros. (It’s not true that Margarita is going with us.)

No creo que Mauricio quiera consultar a un dentista. (I don’t believe Mauricio wants to consult with a dentist.)

Read more about the subjunctive mood in noun clauses at:

About.com: Spanish Language - Introduction to the Subjunctive Mood

University of Indiana’s website: Subjunctive Mood in Noun Clauses

Durham University (UK) web page “The Subjunctive Mood in Spanish"

Bright Hub The Forms and Functions of Noun Clauses in English

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