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Usage: Subjunctive in Noun Clauses

En España, hoy es miércoles el 18 de octubre de 2017.

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2014-10-03 – © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal UClick

The Subjunctive mode is used in noun clauses whenever the primary clause expresses doubt, emotion, or volition (will).

What is a noun clause?

A noun clause is a sentence fragment containing at least a subject and a verb which, when taken together, function as a noun, frequently as the direct object of the verb in the primary clause. In the following sentence:

I want a new car.

the direct object is “a new car.” It’s what “I want…” tutelandia

2015-01-14 – © Tute; Universal UClick


Iwanta new car.
SubjectVerbSimple Direct Object

It’s common for the direct object in such a sentence to be a full clause and not just a simple noun. For example:

Iwantyou to buy me a new car.
SubjectVerbDirect Object / Noun clause

In the above example, the fact that “I want” falls within my limit of absolute certainty and knowledge–my “bubble”, so in Spanish, I use the indicative mode to indicate this certainty. However, whether or not you will buy me a new car falls well outside bubble, and so I express this subjectivity using the subjunctive mode:

Quiero que me compres un coche nuevo.

(yo)quiero queme compres un coche nuevo.
SubjectVerb / ConjunctionDirect Object / Noun clause

Verbs of Volition (Will)

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2010-01-16 – © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal Press Syndicate

A number of verbs express volition, or the “will” of the speaker. The speaker is trying to impose his or her will upon someone or something outside their limit of absolute control. The verb in the subordinate noun clause after one of these verbs will be in the subjunctive mode. Some examples of verbs (or expressions) of volition are:

  • querer (to wish/want)
  • desear (to desire)
  • insistir en (to insist)
  • pedir (to ask for)
  • no permitir (to not permit)
  • prohibir (to prohibit)
  • preferir (to prefer)
  • Es importante (it’s important)
  • Es necesario (it’s necessary)
  • Es preciso (it’s necessary)

Quiero que vengas a la fiesta
Deseamos que termines temprano.
Insisto en que estudies.
Te pido que llegues a tiempo. Prohibo que te vayas.
Es necesario que limpies tu cuarto.

Verbs of Emotion

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2006-05-13 – © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal Press Syndicate

A number of verbs express the emotional state of the speaker in the primary clause. The verb in the subordinate noun clause will be in the subjunctive to express the speaker’s subjective relationship to the action of the subordinate clause. Some examples of verbs (or expressions) of emotion are:

  • sentir (to feel)
  • alegrarse (to be happy)
  • esperar (to hope)
  • temer (to fear)
  • Es una lástima (it’s a shame/pity)
  • Es triste (it’s sad)

Siento que estés enfermo.
Me alegro que hayas llegado!
Espero que puedas asistir.
Temo que no esté estudiando lo suficiente.
Es triste que no vengan.

Verbs of Doubt

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2006-09-25 – © Baldo Partners: Hector Cantú & Carlos Castellanos; Universal Press Syndicate

Verbs which express doubt in the primary clause will be followed by a verb in the subjunctive mode in the subordinate clause to express the speaker’s subjective relationship to the action of the subordinate clause. Some examples include:

  • dudar (to doubt)
  • no estar seguro (to not be sure)
  • no creer (to not believe)
  • Es dudoso (it’s doubtful)

Dudo que saque buenas notas.
No estoy seguro que empiece a las dos.
No creo que terminemos a tiempo.
Es dudoso que tengamos el tiempo.