Chapter 14   --   Expressing Uncertainty

In the Spanish language, when the primary idea of a sentence is an expression of uncertainty, denial, impersonal condition, or a request or a command to do something, any secondary idea will require a special verb form. Here are some examples.

          It is possible that it will rain today.

This sentence has two parts.   First, there is an expression of uncertainty (“It is possible..”).   Then, there is a secondary idea, namely that it might rain.

          I doubt that John will arrive on time.

There are two parts to the sentence.   First there is an expression of doubt, which is the primary idea.   Then, there is the secondary idea, namely what is doubted.

          The court ordered that he pay the fine.

Again, we have two ideas.   First, that a court issued an order, and second what the order was.

          In case of fire, break the glass.

This statement refers to a command to do something.

          I hope that our team will win this game.

This sentence is a statement of personal desire.

          The law requires that each person pay taxes.

This sentence describes an impersonal condition, namely a legal requirement.

In English, we depend on several methods to express these ideas, but in Spanish, a special verb is required in the second part of such a sentence.   This special verb is called the subjunctive, and is formed as follows.

Group 1   - ar verbs

The first person singular (the yo form) of the present tense is used as the stem, and the endings -e, -es, -e, -emos, -éis, -en are added.

For example:    hablar, The yo form of the present tense is hablo, thus the stem becomes habl-.  

When the endings are added, the forms are :  hable, hables, hable, hablemos, habléis, hablen

If the form of the first person singular is irregular, that irregularity is retained.   A few irregular forms follow.   Please refer to the appendix for other irregular verbs.

             examples : dar, dé, des, dé, demos, déis, den

                             estar, esté, estés, esté, estemos, estéis, estén

                             errar, yerre, yerres, yerre, erremos, erréis, yerren

                             enviar, envíe, envíes, envíe, enviemos, enviéis, envíen

                             mostrar, muestre, muestres, muestre, mostremos, mostréis, muestren

                             pensar, piense, pienses, piense, pensemos, penséis, piensen

Notice : the stems of the nosotros and vosotros forms are regular.

Group 2 the - er verbs

The first person singular of the present tense is used as the stem, and the endings -a, -as, -a, -amos, -áis, -an are added.

For example:   vender - the yo form is vendo, thus the stem becomes vend-

When the endings are added, the forms are venda, vendas, venda, vendamos, vendáis, vendan

If the verb form is irregular, that irregularity is retained.   Some irregular forms follow.   Please refer to the appendix for other irregular verbs.

          examples :    caber, quepa, quepas, quepa, quepamos, quepáis, quepan

                             caer, caiga, caigas, caiga, caigamos, caigáis, caigan

                             cocer, cueza, cuezas, cueza, cozcamos, cozcáis, cuezan

                             coger, coja, cojas, coja, cojamos, cojáis, cojan

                             conocer, conozca, conozcas, conozca, conozcamos, conozcáis, conozcan

                             hacer, haga, hagas, haga, hagamos, hagáis, hagan

                             poner, ponga, pongas, ponga, pongamos, pongáis, pongan

                             tener, tenga, tengas, tenga, tengamos, tengáis, tengan

                             traer, traiga, traigas, traiga, traigamos, traigáis, traigan

                             valer, valga, valgas, valga, valgamos, valgáis, valgan

                             ver, vea, veas, vea, veamos, veáis, vean

                             volver, vuelva, vuelvas, vuelva, volvamos, volváis,vuelvan

          There are two verbs with other irregularities.

                             haber, haya, hayas, haya, hayamos, hayáis, hayan

                             ser, sea, seas, sea, seamos, seáis, sean

Group 3, the - ir verbs:

The first person singular of the present tense is used as the stem, and the endings -a, -as, -a, -amos, -áis, -an are added.

For example:   abrir - the yo form is abro, thus the stem is abr-  

When the endings are added, the forms are abra, abras, abra, abramos, abráis, abran.  

If the verb form is irregular, that irregularity is retained.   A few irregular forms follow. Please refer to the appendix for other irregular forms.

          examples:      asir, asga, asgas, asga, asgamos, asgáis, asgan

                             corregir, correja, correjas, correja, correjamos, correjáis, correjan

                             distinguir, distinga, distingas, distinga, distingamos, distingáis, distingan

                             decir, diga, digas, diga, digamos, digáis, digan

                             huir, huya, huyas, huya, huyamos, huyáis, huyan

                             oir, oiga, oigas, oiga, oigamos, oigáis, oigan

                             pedir, pida, pidas, pida, pidamos, pidáis, pidan

                             reir, ría, rías, ría, riamos, riáis, rían

                             salir, salga, salgas, salga, salgamos, salgáis, salgan

                             traducir, traduzca, traduzcas, traduzca, traduzcamos, traduzcáis, traduzcan

                             venir, venga, vengas, venga, vengamos, vengáis, vengan

The following verbs have other irregularities.   Please refer to the appendix for other verbs.

                             consentir, consienta, consientas, consienta, consintamos, consintáis, consientan

                             dormir, duerma, duermas, duerma, durmamos, durmáis, duerman

                             ir, vaya, vayas, vaya, vayamos, vayáis, vayan  

Some examples of the usage follow.

John hopes that she will show her work.

Juán espera que ella muestre su trabajo.

My mother prefers that I study music.

Mi madre prefiere que yo estudie música.

I want them to stay here.

Yo deseo que se queden aquí.

The court orders that he pay the bill.

La corte ordena que él pague la cuenta.


Ojalá que ella cante bien.

In case of fire, call for help

En caso de fuego, llame por ayuda.

I advise that you save your money.

Yo aconsejo que tú ahorres tu dinero.

God willing, he will win the tournament.

Ojalá que él gane el torneo.

I ask that you come quickly.

Pido que tú vengas pronto.

Unless you hurry, we will be late.

A menos que te apure, estaremos tarde.

It is possible that they cannot come.

Es posible que no puedan venir.

I don’t know when they will arrive.

No sé cuándo ellos lleguen.

Don’t move.

No se mueva.

We want them to know the truth.

Deseamos que ellos sepan la verdad.

This verb form is also used to issue a command or a request, and is required after the expression por favor.

                   examples:    Close the door.                         Cierre la puerta.

                                      Be quiet.                                  Cállese.

                                      Speak softly.                            Hable suavemente.

                                      Please, bring me the coffee.      Por favor, traiga me el café

Because of the complexity of this verb form, it is common to use the expression favor de + an infinitive to ask for something.

          example:      Please, bring me a beer. Favor de traerme una cerveza .

After the word si, the regular tenses are used.

          example : Si tiene el tiempo, almorzaremos.          If you have the time, we will have lunch.

Because of the fact that they express uncertainty, some introductory phrases require this verb form.   A summary follows.

          a fin de que                     in order that, so that

          a menos que                   unless

          antes que                         before         

          a pesar de que                 inspite of

          aun cuando                     even if

          aunque                            although

          con tal que                       provided that

          cuando                            when

          de manera que                 so that

          de modo que                   so that

          después que                     after that

          en caso de que                 in case of

          es imposible que              it is impossible that

          es posible que                  it is possible that

          excepto que                     except that

          hasta que                        until

          luego que                        as soon as

          mientras que                    while

          no obstante que               notwithstanding

          para que                          in order that, in order to

          tan pronto como              as soon as

          siempre que                     whenever

All of the words which end in - quiera will require this form because they refer to unknown persons.
The list includes comoquiera, cualquiera, cuandoquiera, dondequiera, and quienquiera.   Naturally, the requirement applies to the plural forms of these words.

If no uncertainty exists, the regular tenses will be used.   Some examples follow.

Although the price was high, I bought the car.    Aunque el precio era alto, yo compré el carro.          (I actually bought the car.)

We waited until they came.      Esperamos hasta que los Carro vinieron.          (The Carro’s arrived.)

Usually, when he gets home, he calls me.    Usualmente, cuando llega a casa me llama.          (Calling me is his usual habit.)

In English, the use of may or might is often confused, and may is used when might was intended.
In Spanish, both may and might are rendered through the use of the verb poder.

NOTE: After the word "if", the subjunctive is NOT USED.


This book is available from under item number 3352644. Books purchased from Lulu are accompanied by a complete list of irregular verbs and all of their forms.

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