Mastering the Spanish Imperfect Subjunctive: A Comprehensive Guide (2023)


In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the nuances of the Spanish imperfect subjunctive tense, unlocking the key information necessary for mastery. From conjugation rules to usage scenarios, we've got you covered.

Conjugating the Spanish Imperfect Subjunctive

Basic Steps

To conjugate the imperfect subjunctive, start with the third-person plural preterite form of the verb. Remove the '-ron' ending and add the appropriate past subjunctive ending. Irregularities in the preterite tense are reflected in the subjunctive conjugation.

Conjugation Chart

  • Yo: -ra / -se
  • : -ras / -ses
  • Él/Ella/Usted: -ra / -se
  • Nosotros: -ramos / -semos
  • Vosotros: -rais / -seis
  • Ellos/Ellas/Ustedes: -ran / -sen

Regional Differences

Note that -ra endings are common in Latin American Spanish, while -se endings prevail in Spain. Accents are crucial in 'nosotros' conjugations.

Putting Theory into Practice

Let's apply the rules to verbs like pagar, tener, and vestirse:

  1. (Ellos) pagaron -> (Yo) pagara
  2. (Ellos) tuvieron -> (Tú) tuvieras
  3. (Ellos) se vistieron -> (Nosotros) nos vistiéramos

Reflexive Verbs

Remember to account for reflexive pronouns with reflexive verbs.

Dealing with Irregular Verbs

Irregularities in the past subjunctive mirror those in the past preterite. Replace the past indicative ending with the past subjunctive ending. For instance:

  • Te pedí que fueras a la tienda.
  • No quisiéramos molestarla.
  • Si tuviera más tiempo, aprendería a cocinar.

Usage Scenarios

1. Expressing Politeness

Utilize the past subjunctive for polite requests, often with verbs like querer and poder:

  • Quisiera pedirle un favor.
  • ¿Pudieran quedarse quietos un momento?

2. Referring to Past Demands, Hopes, Doubts, and Advice

Express past wishes, emotions, requests, and uncertainty:

  • No creía que fueras a venir.
  • Les pedí que tuvieran cuidado.

3. Conditions and Unreal Situations

Combine the imperfect subjunctive with si clauses to articulate unlikely conditions and hypothetical results:

  • Si fueras un animal, ¿que serías?
  • Todo sería diferente si pudiera hablar con ella.

Key Takeaways

To summarize, the imperfect subjunctive is derived from the third-person plural preterite form, maintaining irregularities. It is indispensable for discussing past doubts, wishes, advice, and conditions unlikely to happen.

Additional Resources

To master the past subjunctive, familiarity with preterite conjugations and understanding the subjunctive mood's applications is crucial. Test your knowledge with our practice quiz and download our Imperfect Subjunctive Spanish Guide PDF for a comprehensive reference.

Practice Quiz: Download PDF:

By mastering the Spanish imperfect subjunctive, you unlock a realm of linguistic finesse and elevate your proficiency in the language. Dive in, practice, and watch your command of Spanish reach new heights.


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