Okay, I'm struggling a lot with Spanish grammar. And I was wondering if you knew of any websites or videos that explained it a bit better-particularly in relation to verbs and infinitive/subjunctive forms. Or if you have any posts that you could possibly link me to?
In my experience, you’re more likely to find people explaining the subjunctive forms and how it works rather than what it is or why.
The infinitive is just the default verb form left unconjugated like ir, ser, dar, ver, venir, caber, decir… they aren’t conjugated forms, so I call them “dictionary forms” since if you saw bailar “to dance” you’d see that it’s a verb and different from el baile “a dance” as a noun.
With subjunctive, it helps to know that English subjunctive doesn’t really exist as far as separate conjugations which is why it’s difficult for us to spot it. The only real subjunctive that exists for us in English is the imperfect subjunctive, but even then not always.
Subjunctive mood in its core is about wishes, desire, uncertainty, hypothetical situations, assumptions, or contrary to fact statements.
The most clear-cut subjunctive deals with specific verbs and an imposition of will. With these, it’s two separate subjects and two separate verbs; one will acting on another. This would be the difference between quiero poner la mesa “I want to set the table” vs. quiero que pongas la mesa “I want you to set the table”
In this sense, the que works to break up two conjugated verbs [which in a lot of cases for Spanish contain the subject tacitly; quiero only exists for yo so a yo is understood even when not stated]
These simpler subjunctive phrases can also include emotional or value judgements of an event, or sometimes doubt. This would be like… me alegro que vaya bien “I’m glad that it’s going well”, or es necesario que lo hagas “it’s necessary that you do it” [instead of necesitas hacerlo], or no creo que sea posible “I don’t think that’s possible”
(Side Note: pensar que and creer que are indicative… pienso que es buena idea while no pensar que and no creer que are subjunctive… no pienso que sea buena idea)
There are subjunctive clauses like antes que “before (something happens)”, hasta que “until (something happens)”, con tal de que “provided that (something happens)”, para que “in order for (something to happen) / so that (something happens)”, or others where they don’t always include a different verb. They do show up with things like es necesario que, es probable que but these shorter ones are more about cause and effect.
The more confusing present subjunctive deals with implied doubt or uncertainty because in a lot of cases it can be ambiguous when you’re dealing with words like si, aunque, and cuando
Cuando tienes tiempo. = When you have time.
Cuando tengas tiempo. = Whenever you have time.
It tends to deal with how much doubt you’re implying, or whether something is contrary to fact.
Aunque es de noche… = However, it is nighttime… / Although it is nighttime…
Aunque sea de noche… = Even if it is nighttime…
For aunque when it’s with indicative it shows up more as certain and it’s a “however” or “although”… for uncertainty or possible contrary to fact statements, it’s “even if” or “even though”.
*Note: That only applies to present tense, aunque in past tense is normally indicative; aunque era de noche “even though it was nighttime”… saying “even if it is” for present tense is possibly contrary to fact, or hypothetical
But for si and cuando the subjunctive is used for deference and politeness.
Most expressions that have an -ever in English would qualify as subjunctive in Spanish.
Haz lo que quieras. = Do whatever you want.
Lo que sea. = Whatever (it is).
como quieres = how you want
como quieras = however you like / as you wish
A quien corresponda… = To whom it concerns… / To whomsoever it concenrs…
Quien lea esto… = Whoever reads this…
Dondequiera que estés… = Wherever you are…
Adondequiera que vayas… = Wherever you go…
*Note: adondequiera “(to) wherever” vs. a dónde quiera(s) “(to) wherever you (would/might) want” are technically different.
Imperfect subjunctive deals with subjunctive in the past and now the future. In the past, it’s normally subjunctive phrases that happened in the past like me dijeron que pusiera la mesa “they told me to set the table” or querían que hiciera los deberes “they wanted me to do chores/homework”
Imperfect subjunctive in the future talks about hypothetical situations and contrary to fact, and is formally used with conditional tense.
This is the part that could look like English.
For Spanish, si fuera/fuese could be translated as “if I was” or “if I were”
Although there is technically a difference where “was” is past and “were” is future subjunctive, they’re the same difference in English translation:
Si fuera presidente/presidenta… = If I was president…
Si fuera presidente/presidenta… = If I were president…
*Note: Latin America prefers the endings in -ara/-iera, while Spain prefers the -ase/-iese endings for imperfect subjunctive. Latin America would use fuera while Spain would say fuese
Overall, there are three moods in Spanish: indicative, subjunctive, and imperative.
Subjunctive deals with uncertainty, desire, imposition of wills, hypotheticals, deferential ways of speaking, doubt, more polite commands… Subjunctive exists in present and imperfect subjunctive. There was a future subjunctive but it’s now obsolete, so that’s why imperfect subjunctive can be future or hypothetical futures as well
And imperative are the basic affirmative and negative commands.
Indicative is just… everything else, so most things are indicative: present, imperfect, preterite, future, conditional
The perfect tenses using haber can be indicative or subjunctive depending on how you conjugate haber… he hecho vs. haya hecho and había hecho vs. hubiera hecho
And as far as verb forms, there’s…
infinitive - the dictionary form, “to (do something)” which can be used as a basic non-conjugated verb, or to describe “the act/result of doing something”… hablar, comer, vivir, ser, ir, ver
progressive - the -ing form of a verb, usually conjugated with estar or a verb of motion to describe something happening at that moment… hablando, comiendo, viviendo, siendo, yendo, viendo
past participle - the adjectival form of a verb, often used with haber to mean “to have (done something)”, though they can exist by themselves as regular adjectives. It would be the difference between something like “to be” and “been” or “to eat” and “eaten”… hablado, comido, vivido, sido, ido, visto