January 27, 2021 · ,


How and when do we use the different tenses


Subjunctive in spanish how to use them

So, if you are here, that means that you were able to go through our first blog about the modo subjuntivo and you’ve conquered the basics! Good for you! You’re quite an advanced student!


However, your battle doesn’t end here. You have learned that there are several tenses comprehended in the modo subjuntivo. Lucky for you, there are not as many as in the modo indicativo. Nevertheless, they can get very confusing! How do you use them? When? And how do you change them to reported speech?

Fear not! Vamos Spanish Academy is here to help you!

In order to do that, we’ll go over the different cases when you need to use the subjunctive. Those are:

Orders (órdenes) or requests (peticiones) when you don’t use the imperative
Recommendations (recomendaciones)
Wishes (deseos)
Emotions (emociones)
Doubts (dudas)
Purposes (finalidad)
“When” sentences (oraciones temporales)
Opinions (opiniones)
Conditionals sentences, types 2, 3 and mixed (oraciones condicionales, tipos uno, dos y mixtas)
Concessive sentences (oraciones concesivas)
Relative clauses with a hypothetical referent (oraciones de relativo con referente hipotético)
“How” sentences (oraciones modales)

So… which tenses go with each one of these cases and when?

In this article, we’re going to focus in the first four cases. However, you’ll notice that the patterns tend to be quite repetitive.

Only two tenses are likely to be used here: present subjunctive and imperfect subjunctive. Which one we use will depend of the main verb of the sentence.

For example:

Te pido (presente indicativo) que me ayudes (presente subjuntivo) = I ask you to help me Hence, present goes with present.
Te pedí (pretérito perfecto simple del indicativo) que me ayudaras (pretérito imperfecto del subjuntivo) = I asked you to help me.
Hence, past goes with past.

It is possible to use the pretérito perfecto or the pluscuamperfecto, but it would have to be a very peculiar situation. For example, “Te pido que, cuando yo vuelva, ya hayas terminado la tarea” (I ask you to have your homework finished by the time I come back) or, if we go further in the past for the same sentence, “Te pedí que, cuando yo volviera, ya hubieras terminado la tarea” (I asked you to have your homework finished by the time I came back).

They are similar to orders, because they are also more likely to use only the present or the imperfect tense.

Presente: The recomiendo que veas esta película = I suggest that you watch this movie.
Imperfecto: Te recomendé que vieras esa película = I suggested that you watched that movie.

As you can see, these are very common sentences. However, if we want to use the pretérito perfecto or the pluscuamperfecto in a recommendation, we’re going to find ourselves building very strange and unnecessarily complicated ones!

Pretérito perfecto: Te recomiendo que, cuando empiece la película, ya hayas ido al baño = I suggest that you have gone to the bathroom by the time the movie has started.

Something similar would happen with the pluscuamperfecto

Te recomendé que, cuando empezara la película, ya hubieras ido al baño = I suggested that you had gone to the bathroom by the time the movie started.

Here it’s when it gets a little tricky. Why? Because we can wish for things to be real in the present, future or past. Therefore, all the tenses are equally susceptible to be used.

First of all, we have to remember that is not the same to say “deseo”, “desearía” or “espero”. Those three mean different things.

“Deseo” would be used literally to make a wish, like on our birthday or to a fairy or genie.
“Desearía” means the same as “Ojalá”, it’s more realistic, like “I wish this were true, but I know that’s not the case”.
“Espero” means something like “I hope”, therefore there are more probabilities for the wished thing to happen.

Let’s take a simple sentence, such as “Espero que Juan venga”, as an example.

Espero que Juan venga = I hope Juan comes
Esperé que Juan viniera = I hoped Juan came
Esperaba que Juan viniera = I hoped Juan came
Espero que Juan haya venido = I hope that Juan has come
Esperé que Juan hubiera venido = I hoped that Juan had come (but in that moment I didn’t know whether he had)

Just as with wishes, we can have emotions about facts from the past, present or future. Therefore, we are going to have several combinations of tenses.

Bear in mind that verbs such as encantar, fascinar, molestar, sorprender, importar, preocupar, divertir, aburrir, interesar, favorecer, faltar, doler, impresionar, parecer, asustar, apetecer, alegrar, etc, work just as gustar!

A Juan le alegra que su perro juegue = It makes Juan happy that his dog plays (always, in general)
A Juan le alegra que su perro haya jugado = It makes Juan happy that his dog played (It makes him happy now that his dog was playing yesterday or this morning)
A Juan le alegró que su perro jugara = It made Juan happy that his dog played
A Juan le alegró que su perro hubiera jugado = It made Juan happy that his dog had played (That day he was happy because his dog had played the day before)

So that’s all for today! If you want to keep learning about the subjunctive in Spanish, keep up with our blogs!

Share this post!

Join the conversation on social:


We have new events and updates every week! Practice your Spanish, learn about Buenos Aires, or prepare for your trip to South America by browsing our blog.

The Preterite vs. the Imperfect: Your Go to Guide for Learning the two different past tenses in Spanish

Just like the majority of other Romance languages, Spanish also has two past tenses…

How to Dominate the Monstruos Subjunctive: Full Guide to Subjuntivo

Besides the difference between the pretérito perfecto simple and the imperfecto, few things terrify…

Prepositions in Spanish: How to use them

Your Guide to Preposiciones (Prepositions in Spanish) Like in any other language, prepositions in…