Spanish Grammar


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Expressing wishes with the subjunctive in Spanish

Expressing wishes with the subjunctive is probably the first contact that students of Spanish have with this verb mood.

It is necessary to remember that we use the indicative mood to express information, realities and descriptions in an objective way. However, the subjunctive helps us to express other subjective nuances: the unreal world, probabilities, expectations, will and, of course, wishes.

However, today we are going to focus on expressing wishes with the subjunctive in Spanish.



Wishes with the infinitive

When we speakers wish something for the future, we are usually a bit selfish; in other words, our wish is going to benefit ourselves. In this case, our sentence has only one subject. Therefore, in this situation expressing wishes with the subjunctive is not an option; it is only necessary to conjugate the main verb and the subordinate verb is used in the infinitive.

Main verb + infinitive

There are many verbs that can introduce wishes in Spanish. Let’s look at some of them:

  • Desear
  • Esperar
  • Querer
  • Anhelar
  • Pedir
  • Rogar
  • Apetecer
  • Tener ganas de

Let’s put some of them in context:

Deseo vivir en una ciudad más cosmopolita pero mis padres no quieren mudarse. Por eso, mis hermanos y yo nunca tenemos ganas de hacer nada en esta ciudad. Sin embargo hoy me apetece ir al cine.

Nevertheless, we sometimes become more generous and make wishes for other people. In these cases expressing wishes with the subjunctive is necessary.

Expressing Wishes with the Subjunctive: Different Subjects

Indeed, when the two verbs have different subjects, we must conjugate both. To do so, we must use the main verb (usually in the present indicative) and the subordinate verb in the present subjunctive. To do this, we join both clauses with the conjunction que.

Main verb + que + present subjuntive

Before we continue, in this article you can remember how to conjugate the present subjunctive in Spanish.

Let’s look at some examples expressing wishes with subjunctive in Spanish:

Dentro de dos meses tengo el examen DELE. Espero que mi profesor me ayude a prepararlo. Solo deseo que las tareas no sean muy difíciles, aunque en siempre me piden que me tranquilice y confíe en sus profesores.

As we can see in the examples above, the subjects are different. Let’s see how the verb tenses change depending on the subjects:

  • Quiero comer = yo quiero y yo voy a comer

  • Quiero que comas = yo quiero y vas a comer

Although it may seem that everything is already explained and the rule is very clear, there are always exceptions. Let’s look at the most popular ones.

Expressing Wishes with Subjunctive: Ojalá

Expressing wishes with subjunctive is possible using a very well known term in Spanish: ojalá. This word has its origin in the Hispanic Arabic expression, law šá lláh (if God wills).

Actually, we are not dealing with a verb, but with an interjection (an exclamatory expression). Consequently, we must conjugate the subordinate verb in the subjunctive, since, otherwise, we would not know who is making the wish. We can use the connector que or omit it.

¡Ojalá (que) tengas suerte mañana y consigas ese trabajo!

¡Ojalá (que) no llueva y podamos ir al parque!

Omission of the Main Verb: Que Tengas…

In spoken language and in the colloquial register, we usually make wishes for other people by eliminating the main verb. In this way, we only need the conjunction que and the subordinate verb in the present subjunctive.

¡Que tengas buen viaje y que os lo paséis muy bien!

¡Qué mala suerte has tenido! ¡Que te recuperes pronto!

Now you know that expressing wishes with subjunctive in Spanish is easy. But, is it possible to use the imperfect preterite subjunctive to express wishes? Can we express frustrated wishes in the past? You can get the answer by reserving classes with us at Our teachers will be happy to teach you all about the subjunctive and wishes: ¡ojalá quieras aprender español con nosotros!

Infographics about expressing wishes with the subjunctive in Spanish