Spanish Advanced Sample – El Imperfecto del Subjuntivo

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LECCIÓN 6  / Advanced

EL IMPERFECTO DEL SUBJUNTIVO

We have learned that the subjunctive is used with commands (Lección Cuatro) and after verbs of emotion (Lección Cinco). All examples of the subjunctive thus far have referred to action in the present or in the future.

What form do we use, however, when the verb in the main clause is in a past tense, or when the action in the dependent clause is in the past?

The imperfect subjunctive and the pluperfect subjunctive are the two tenses used. The imperfect subjunctive is found in dependent clauses (after “que”) usually describing action in the past. The main clause will be either in a past indicative tense (preterite, imperfect, pluperfect, conditional), or possibly in a present or future tense.

This lesson will look only at the past subjunctive tenses used after a command or verb of emotion.

EXAMPLES
Mi abuela quería que yo la visitara cada domingo.
My grandma wanted me to visit her every
Sunday.
¡Ojalá que el equipo de Cristiano Ronaldo ganara el partido ayer!
I hope that Cristiano Ronaldo’s team won the
game yesterday!
Me alegro de que Ricky Rubio jugara tan bien
durante su segunda temporada en la NBA.

I’m glad that Ricky Rubio played so
well during his second season in the NBA.
¿Sentiste que Elián González volviera a Cuba?
Were you sorry that Elián González returned to
Cuba?
Me gustaría que Uds. compraran otros discos compactos de Eva Ayllón.
I would like you all to buy other Eva Ayllón
CDs.
¡CUIDADO! Remember, if there is no change of subject (and no “que”), there will be no subjunctive. e.g., Me gustaría comprar otros discos compactos de Eva Ayllón. I’d like to buy other Eva Ayllón CDs.
How is the imperfect subjuntive formed?

*Note: The “nosotros/nosotras” form will always need an accent on the antepenultimate syllable — i.e., the third syllable from the end!

Here are the imperfect subjunctive forms of three common verbs:
¡CUIDADO! The “nosotros/nosotras” form is the only one that ever has an accent in the imperfect subjunctive.

What is great about the imperfect subjunctive is that the above formula works for all verbs. If you know the preterite form of a verb, you can easily conjugate the imperfect subjunctive. If you’ve forgotten the preterite forms, review Lección Uno.

Here are a few more examples of the imperfect subjunctive:

Note: There is another way to form the imperfect subjunctive. Although the following conjugations are not as common, you will likely hear and see these forms at some point. This other imperfect subjunctive formula starts the same way:
1. Take the 3rd person plural of the preterite.
2. Now take offron.”
3. Finally, add “se, ses, se, semos, seis, sen.”
The imperfect subjunctive of “hablar” would be: “hablase, hablases, hablase, hablásemos, hablaseis, hablasen.”

EXAMPLES
Nuestros padres nos dijeron que asistiéramos (asistiésemos) a una universidad de Wisconsin.
Our parents told us that we had to attend a
university in Wisconsin.
Mis amigas te rogaron que les dieras (dieses) el informe.
My friends begged you to give them the report.
Espero que Uds. no le dijeran (dijesen) nada a nadie ayer.
I hope that you all didn’t tell anyone anything
yesterday.
“Me alegro de que el otro candidato no destruyera (destruyese) mi reputación”, dijo Rafael Correa, presidente de Ecuador.
“I am glad that the other candidate didn’t
destroy my reputation,” said Rafael Correa, the
president of Ecuador.