The subjunctive is used after some conjunctions in Spanish to express hypothetical conditions or uncertainty, in addition to the other uses we have discussed in “When to use the Spanish subjunctive.” However, not all the conjunctions trigger the subjunctive. In this post, we will review what conjunctions are, which conjunctions require the subjunctive, and when to use the subjunctive after certain conjunctions that also accompany the indicative. If you want to know more, keep reading!
Table of Contents
What is a conjunction?
A conjunction is a word used to connect sentences or parts of sentences. In our previous post, we learned what the main clause and the subordinate clause of a sentence are. We also saw that the subordinate clause is connected to the main clause by the conjunction que (that). Sometimes, the main clause can also be connected to the subordinate clause by other conjunctions. Take a look at the following examples:
|MAIN CLAUSE||CONJUNCTION||SUBORDINATE CLAUSE|
llegues a casa.
me vaya de vacaciones.
If this is the case, we can use the subjunctive or the indicative in the subordinate clause. The choice will depend on the conjunction. Some conjunctions require only the subjunctive, while with some others we can use the indicative or the subjunctive. Let’s explore them!
Conjunctions that require the subjunctive
Some Spanish conjunctions, like a menos que and antes de que, always require the subjunctive.
a menos que (unless):
No voy a aprobar a menos que estudie mucho.
I am not going to pass the exam unless I study hard.
antes de que (before):
Llámame antes de que hagas el examen.
Call me before you take your exam.
The conjunctions antes de que (before), para que (so that), and sin que (without) require the subjunctive when the subject of the main clause and the subject of the subordinate clause are different. When both subjects are the same, we use the infinitive. In these cases, we omit que. Take a look at the following examples:
Te he llamado para que me hables del proyecto.
Te he llamado para hablar del proyecto.
antes de que
Antes de que llegues, te llamaré para saber dónde estás.
Antes de llegar, llámame.
Conjunctions that require subjunctive or indicative
Some other conjunctions can trigger the subjunctive or the indicative in the subordinate clause. When do we need to use the subjunctive and when do we use the indicative? Well, when the main clause expresses a future event or a command, then, we need to use the subjunctive in the subordinate clause. If, on the other hand, the main clause expresses a past event or a habit in the past, we use the indicative. Let’s dive into it!
Future event or commandLet’s consider the following example:
Iremos a este restaurante
In the previous example, we have a verb in the Spanish future tense (iremos, we will go) in the main clause and we are talking about a future event (i.e., a graduation) thus, we need to use the subjunctive in the subordinate clause.
We observe the same structure when we express commands:
termines tu entrevista.
We don’t use the subjunctive when we talk about the future in questions that start with cuándo:
¿Cuándo vendrás mañana? When are you coming tomorrow?
When the main clause refers to a past event or a habit in the past, then we use the indicative in the subordinate clause:
Fuimos a este restaurante
Íbamos a este restaurante
estábamos de vacaciones.
Notice that aunque (even though / if or although) triggers the subjunctive when the speaker is reiterating something they assume is already known (even though / even if). On the other hand, when introducing new information or facts (although), the indicative is used:
Aunque no sea buen estudiante, voy a aprobar el examen.
Even though I’m not a good student, I’m going to pass the exam.
Aunque no soy buen estudiante, voy a aprobar el examen.
Although I’m not a good student, I’m going to pass the exam.
In the first example above, we used the subjunctive (sea) because the speaker assumes that the listener already knows they are not a good student. In the second example, we used the indicative (soy) because the speaker is stating the fact that they are not a good student.
Conjunctions such as tan pronto como (as soon as) and después de que (after) follow this pattern and are usually used with the indicative or the subjunctive (it depends on the time expressed). Take a look at the following examples; as observed, when the clause implies future, we need to use the subjunctive, while when it implies a past event, we use the indicative.
Tan pronto como sepas la nota, avísame. As soon as you know your grade, let me know.
Tan pronto como llegábamos a casa, dejábamos los zapatos en la entrada.
As soon as we arrived home, we would leave our shoes in the entryway.
If you want to know more conjunctions that go with the indicative and subjunctive, check out the list we created! Also, here you have this acronym that may help you remember the conjunctions that go with the subjunctive and indicative
To sum up
In this article, we went over the use of the subjunctive after conjunctions. We saw that some conjunctions always require subjunctive in the subordinate clause (antes de que (before), a menos que (unless), among others). Some other conjunctions can trigger the subjunctive or the indicative but we learned that if we express a future event in the main clause, then the subjunctive must be used in the subordinate clause. On the other hand, if we talk about a past event in the main clause, then the indicative is used.
We created some Spanish exercises to practice the use of the subjunctive after conjunctions. Also, don’t forget to check out the lists of conjunctions so that you know when to use the indicative or the subjunctive!
Conjunctions are words that are used to connect sentences and parts of a sentence.
⚬ Some examples of conjunctions in English are:
When I arrived home, I heard a strange noise.
Although I don’t like pork, I eat jamón!