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Learning Spanish: Subjunctive in Adjective Clauses

written by: Curt Smothers • edited by: Rebecca Scudder • updated: 2/14/2012

The Spanish subjunctive mood is used in a subordinate clause (i.e., adjective clause) that refers to a person, place or thing whose existence is uncertain or indefinite, or does not exist (e.g., “I am looking for a person who can help me"). When the existence is certain, use the indicative mood.

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    The Subjunctive Mood in Adjective Clauses

    An example of an adjective clause in English would be, “I do not know anyone who can help you." The adjective clause in the foregoing sentence modifies the pronoun “anyone," which is the antecedent of that clause. In Spanish the subjunctive mood is used in the subordinate adjective clause in the following way:

    No conozco a nadie (main clause) + que (connector) + pueda ayudarte (subordinate clause with present subjunctive mood pueda). Note that the verb in the main clause (conozco) is in the indicative mood.

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    Subjunctive Mood is Not Always Used

    The foregoing example refers to a person (nadie) who, in the opinion of the speaker, does not exist. However, if the adjective clause refers to a person, place or thing that does exist, Spanish uses the indicative mood in the adjective clauses. Note the following examples:

    • The antecedent is uncertain. Use the subjunctive:

    Espero que alguien pueda ayudarte. (I hope someone can help you.)

    En mi barrio no hay ninguna tienda que venda flan. (In my neighborhood, there is no store that sells flan.)

    • The antecedent is certain. Use the indicative:

    Conozco a alguien que puede ayudarte. (I know someone who can help you.)

    En mi barrio hay una tienda que vende flan. (In my neighborhood, there is a store that sells flan.)

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    Some Quick Pointers on Using the Subjunctive in Adjective Clauses

    • When the antecedent of the clause is nadie or ninguno/a (a negative pronoun), the verb in the subordinate clause is always in the subjunctive:

      En mi familia, no hay nadie que fume. (In my family there is no one who smokes.)

      No conocemos a nadie que sepa la cura. (We don’t know anyone who knows the cure.)

      • Except for nadie and alguien, the personal a is not used with direct objects that are hypothetical:

      Busco un médico que hable ingles. (I’m looking for a doctor who speaks English.)


      Busco a un medico que trabaja en el Hospital General. (I’m looking for a doctor that works at General Hospital.)

      • When seeking information, the speaker commonly uses the subjunctive mood in questions. If the person who responds knows the answers, the indicative is used:

      ¿Me recomiendas una restaurante que esté cerca de aqui? (Can you recommend a restaurant that is near here?)

      Si. A tres cuadras de aqui queda un restaurante excelente. (Yes. Three blocks from here there is an excellent restaurant.)

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      Read more about the subjunctive mood in adjective clauses at:

      e Learn Spanish Language - Using the Spanish Subjunctive with Adjective Clauses

      Spanish-Kit Spanish Learning Tools - The Subjunctive in Adjective Clauses

    Learning Spanish: The Subjunctive Mood

    Spanish verbs come in two moods: the indicative (stating the real) and the subjunctive (stating the hypothetical or wishes). This series is all about the subjunctive, which Spanish uses much more extensively than English.
    1. Learning Spanish: The Subjunctive Mood
    2. Learning Spanish: Subjunctive in Noun Clauses
    3. Learning Spanish: Subjunctive in Adjective Clauses
    4. Learning the Spanish Subjunctive in Adverbial Clauses
    5. Teaching Spanish: The Spanish Past Subjunctive