When To Use The Spanish Imperfect Subjunctive [+13 Examples & Quiz]

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In this Spanish grammar lesson, you will learn when to use the Spanish imperfect subjunctive.

In this lesson you will learn about:

  • when to use the Spanish imperfect subjunctive
  • how the Spanish imperfect subjunctive is used in sentences in Spanish
  • how you can quiz yourself on when to use the Spanish imperfect subjunctive
  • how to practice with flashcards on when to use the Spanish imperfect subjunctive
  • how and why you should use the courses of Language Atlas to learn Spanish

By the end of the lesson you will know all about when to use the Spanish imperfect subjunctive!

Table of Contents

A Refresher On When To Use The Present Subjunctive

Before we start with when to use the Spanish imperfect subjunctive, we should first see when we use the present subjunctive in Spanish.

This will make understanding everything that comes after this a lot easier.

You will use the Spanish present subjunctive when information can fit in any of these categories:

  1. Emotional statement/comment
  2. Desire
  3. Ignorance
  4. Impersonal opinion
  5. Uncompleted action
  6. “Maybe” and “perhaps”
  7. “Even if”

In a nutshell, in sentences with a subjunctive clause, there is generally an indicative clause that is about emotion, desire, ignorance, or an impersonal opinion related to the action in the subjunctive clause.

When To Use The Spanish Imperfect Subjunctive

You will use the Spanish imperfect subjunctive in the same situations as you would use the present subjunctive, but then only in the past.

So in essence it is the same as the present subjunctive, but now we are looking at the past.

Here are some examples where on the left you see the present subjective and on the right the imperfect subjunctive:

tener

Espero que Ana tenga mis llaves.

I hope that Ana has my keys.

tener

Esperaba que Ana tuviera mis llaves.

I hoped that Ana had my keys.

tener

Dudo que Pablo tenga mi teléfono.

I doubt that Paul has my phone.

tener

Dudaba que Pablo tuviera mi teléfono.

I doubted that Paul had my phone.

Using the Spanish Imperfect Subjunctive with Hypothetical Si Clauses (If Clauses)

You can use the Spanish imperfect subjunctive to express a hypothesis.

To express a hypothesis in Spanish you will use:

  • [si + imperfect subjunctive] + conditional tense

Have a look at this hypothetical situation in English:

If I found a million euros, then I would buy an island.

The first clause (part) of this sentence is in the past simple (found), and the second clause is in the conditional present (would buy).

If I were to find a million euros, then I would buy an island.

The first clause (part) of this sentence is in the English subjunctive (were to find), and the second clause is in the conditional present (would buy).

This is how you would say that in Spanish:

Si encontrara un millón de euros, compraría una isla.

The first clause of this sentence uses si + imperfect subjunctive (encontrara), and the second clause uses the conditional tense (compraría).

Here are some more examples:

encontrar/comprar

Si encontrara un millón de euros, compraría una isla.

If I were to find a million euros, then I would buy an island.

ser/tener

Si la Tierra fuera cuadrada, nosotros tendríamos un horizonte puntiagudo.

If the Earth were square, we would have a pointed horizon.

tener/seguir

Si tuviera 30 años otra vez, seguiría estudiando.

If I were 30 years old again, I would still be studying.

dejar/ser

Si tu empresa te dejase trabajar desde casa, serías más feliz.

If your company would let you work from home, you would be happier.

enterarse/enfadarse

Si papá se enterase de esto, se enfadaría.

If Dad found out about this, he’d be angry.

tener/ayudar

Si tuviéramos tiempo mañana, te ayudaríamos.

If we had time tomorrow, we would help you.

cocinar/conocer

Si vosotros cocinaseis más a menudo, conoceríais mejor los utensilios.

If you cooked more often, you would be more familiar with the tools.

poner/hacer

Si las gallinas pusiesen huevos, haríamos una tortilla de patatas.

If the chickens laid eggs, we would make a potato omelette.

mentir/saber

Si ustedes me mintieran, lo sabría.

If you lied to me, I would know.

Example Sentences on When To Use The Spanish Imperfect Subjunctive Tense

This section of the lesson on when to use the Spanish imperfect subjunctive is about seeing the tense in action.

This is valuable because you can improve your understanding of when to use the Spanish imperfect subjunctive through examples.

tener

Espero que Ana tenga mis llaves.

I hope that Ana has my keys.

tener

Esperaba que Ana tuviera mis llaves.

I hoped that Ana had my keys.

tener

Dudo que Pablo tenga mi teléfono.

I doubt that Paul has my phone.

tener

Dudaba que Pablo tuviera mi teléfono.

I doubted that Paul had my phone.

encontrar/comprar

Si encontrara un millón de euros, compraría una isla.

If I were to find a million euros, then I would buy an island.

ser/tener

Si la Tierra fuera cuadrada, nosotros tendríamos un horizonte puntiagudo.

If the Earth were square, we would have a pointed horizon.

tener/seguir

Si tuviera 30 años otra vez, seguiría estudiando.

If I were 30 years old again, I would still be studying.

dejar/ser

Si tu empresa te dejase trabajar desde casa, serías más feliz.

If your company would let you work from home, you would be happier.

enterarse/enfadarse

Si papá se enterase de esto, se enfadaría.

If Dad found out about this, he’d be angry.

tener/ayudar

Si tuviéramos tiempo mañana, te ayudaríamos.

If we had time tomorrow, we would help you.

cocinar/conocer

Si vosotros cocinaseis más a menudo, conoceríais mejor los utensilios.

If you cooked more often, you would be more familiar with the tools.

poner/hacer

Si las gallinas pusiesen huevos, haríamos una tortilla de patatas.

If the chickens laid eggs, we would make a potato omelette.

mentir/saber

Si ustedes me mintieran, lo sabría.

If you lied to me, I would know.

.

Quiz Yourself on When To Use The Spanish Imperfect Subjunctive

At the end of every lesson you can do a small quiz.

You will see the sentences of the previous chapter.

You will either need to fill in the blanks, choose the correct multiple choice option, or both.

Once you are done the correct answer will be shown.

You can redo the quiz as many times as you want!

How to Practice With Flashcards for This Lesson

Using flashcards is an absolute necessity when it comes to learning a language!

It is the best way to memorize what you learn, you can personalize your progression because it adapts to your actions, and all flashcards have audio to improve your hearing and pronunciation.

Please read our article on how to learn a new language for more information on flashcards and the best way to learn a new language.

There are two ways to practice with Flashcards for this lesson.

  1. Anki
  2. The Flashcards in our Courses

Anki is a free software with which you can create and practice flashcards.

After you have downloaded Anki for free, you can get our Spanish B2 Anki Deck.

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The Courses of Language Atlas

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