The Imperfect (Past) Subjunctive: How?

       

Here's what you need to know to conjugate the subjunctive mood in the past tense:

Regular Imperfect Subjunctive Verbs

How do we form the imperfect subjunctive? Similar to the present subjunctive, we're going to do something that seems a little odd.

The first step is to conjugate in the third person plural (ellos/ellas/Uds.) preterite indicative. Don't remember the third person plural preterite indicative? Here's reminder:

hablar:

comer:

vivir:

hablé

hablamos

hablaste

hablasteis

habló

hablaron

comí

comimos

comiste

comisteis

comió

comieron

viví

vivimos

viviste

vivisteis

vivió

vivieron

Next, we drop the "-ron" ending from that conjugation. This becomes our new stem.

habla-, comie-, vivie-

And then we add these endings:

"-ar" / "-er" / "-ir" endings:

-ra

´-ramos

-ras

-rais

-ra

-ran

That's not a typo on the nosotros form. Once you conjugate in the ellos/ellas/Uds. form and drop the "-ron", you will be left with a vowel (either an "a" or an "e"). You need to add an accent to that vowel and then add "-ramos."

Here's what you get if you follow the steps correctly:

hablar:

comer:

vivir:

hablara

habláramos

hablaras

hablarais

hablara

hablaran

comiera

comiéramos

comieras

comierais

comiera

comieran

viviera

viviéramos

vivieras

vivierais

viviera

vivieran

And here are some examples:

viajar → viajaron→ viaja-

Me alegré que ella viajara a otros países.
I was happy that she traveled to other countries.

correr → corrieron → corrie-

Esperábamos que tú corrieras rápidamente.
We were hoping that you ran fast.

escribir → escribieron → escribie-

Ellos dudaban que escribiéramos novelas.
They doubted that we wrote novels.

Irregular Imperfect Subjunctive Verbs?

The good news: technically speaking, there are no irregular imperfect subjunctive conjugations. The conjugation rule is consistently applied to every verb. The bad news: as you may recall, there are many irregular preterite conjugations. Since the preterite conjugations are the basis of the imperfect subjunctive there are a few issues worth reviewing: spelling changes, "-ir" stem changing verbs, and irregulars in the preterite.

Note: For a complete listing of preterite irregulars, be sure to review The Preterite Tense and pay special attention to the ellos/ellas/Uds. forms.

Some examples:

leer → leyeron → leye-

El maestro quería que leyéramos el capítulo siete.
The teacher wanted us to read chapter seven.

dormir → durmieron → durmie-

Nos sorprendió que ella durmiera tanto.
It surprised us that she slept so much.

estar → estuvieron → estuvie-

Me molestaba que ellas estuvieran allí todos los días.
It bothered me that they were there every day.

Let's practice! Conjugate imperfect subjunctive verbs on ¡Practiquemos!

Imperfect Subjunctive "-se" Endings

They aren't as widely used but there is another possible set of imperfect subjunctive endings that you may see or hear in Spanish. The verbs are conjugated in exactly the same way; only the endings are different. These conjugations mean the same thing; it's completely up to you which form to use but you're more likely to be understood with the "-ra" forms.

Here are the "-se" endings, and the verb hablar conjugated with both the "-ra" endings and the "-se" endings for the sake of comparison.

"-se" endings:

hablar ("-ra"):

hablar ("-se"):

-se

´-semos

-ses

-seis

-se

-sen

hablara

habláramos

hablaras

hablarais

hablara

hablaran

hablase

hablásemos

hablases

hablaseis

hablase

hablasen

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