Ultimate Guide to the Spanish Subjunctive. Ser (To Be)

blog post 52 Ultimate Guide to the Spanish Subjunctive. Ser (To Be)

Learning the Spanish subjunctive up to an intermediate level is a lot easier than many courses and teachers would lead you to believe.

The trick is to learn the subjunctive in parallel with the indicative tenses, making comparisons between the two and finding patterns that will help you remember all the forms easily.

That’s what we’re going to do here today in this Ultimate Guide to the Spanish Subjunctive.

We’re going to concentrate on the subjunctive forms of the irregular Spanish verb ser, the most essential of all verbs.

First, we’re going to see this verb in the subjunctive tenses: present, present perfect, imperfect and pluperfect. Then, we’re going to compare the Spanish subjunctive and indicative forms.

Spanish subjunctive. Present tense

Ser :: To be
yo sea
seas
él / ella / usted sea
nosotros / nosotras seamos
vosotros / vosotras seáis
ellos / ellas / ustedes sean

Spanish subjunctive. Present perfect tense

Ser :: To be
yo haya sido
hayas sido
él / ella / usted haya sido
nosotros / nosotras hayamos sido
vosotros / vosotras hayáis sido
ellos / ellas / ustedes hayan sido

Spanish subjunctive. Imperfect tense

Ser :: To be
yo fuera / fuese
fueras / fueses
él / ella / usted fuera / fuese
nosotros / nosotras fuéramos / fuésemos
vosotros / vosotras fuerais / fueseis
ellos / ellas / ustedes fueran / fuesen

Spanish subjunctive. Pluperfect tense

Ser :: To be
yo hubiera / hubiese sido
hubieras / hubieses sido
él / ella / usted hubiera / hubiese sido
nosotros / nosotras hubiéramos / hubiésemos sido
vosotros / vosotras hubierais / hubieseis sido
ellos / ellas / ustedes hubieran / hubiesen sido

Spanish subjunctive vs. indicative. Present

Let’s now compare the present subjunctive with the present indicative, and let’s compare them both with the present subjunctive of the regular ‘er’ verb vender (to sell):

Present indicative Present subjunctive Present subjunctive
soy sea venda
eres seas vendas
es sea venda
somos seamos vendamos
sois seáis vendáis
son sean vendan

Here are some notes that will help you remember the present subjunctive, and indeed the present indicative, of the irregular Spanish verb ser more easily:

  • In the present subjunctive, the first and third persons are identical: sea.
  • In the present indicative, the first and third persons are different: soy and es.
  • In the present subjunctive, all six forms of the verb ser start with the letters ‘se’.
  • In the present indicative, the second and third persons start with the letter ‘e’. The first, fourth, fifth and sixth persons start with an ‘s’.
  • In the present indicative, the first, fourth, fifth and sixth persons have an ‘o’ after the initial ‘s’.
  • In the present subjunctive, all six forms have the letters ‘se’ followed by the regular ‘er’ verb endings for this tense.
  • In the present indicative, the first and third person endings don’t show any similarities with the regular ‘er’ verb present subjunctive endings.
  • The other four persons, in the present indicative, show some similarities with the regular verb endings: ‘eres’ ends in ‘s’, like ‘vendas’; ‘somos’ ends in ‘mos’, like ‘vendamos’; ‘sois’ ends in ‘is’, like ‘vendáis’, and ‘son’ ends in ‘n’, like ‘vendan’.

Spanish subjunctive vs. indicative. Present perfect

Now let’s compare the present prefect subjunctive with the present prefect indicative, and let’s compare them both with the present prefect subjunctive of the regular ‘er’ verb vender (to sell):

Present perfect indicative Present perfect subjunctive Present perfect subjunctive
he sido haya sido haya vendido
has sido hayas sido hayas vendido
ha sido haya sido haya vendido
hemos sido hayamos sido hayamos vendido
habéis sido hayáis sido hayáis vendido
han sido hayan sido hayan vendido

To help you remember the present perfect subjunctive, and indeed the present perfect indicative, of the irregular Spanish verb ser, notice that:

  • In the present perfect subjunctive, the first and third persons are identical: haya sido.
  • In the present perfect indicative, the first and third persons are different: he sido and has sido.
  • In the present perfect subjunctive, the auxiliary verb (haber, to have) is in the present subjunctive.
  • In the present perfect indicative, the auxiliary verb (haber, to have) is in the present indicative.
  • All six forms of both the present perfect subjunctive and indicative have the past participle sido.
  • The past participle of the verb ser (sido) ends in ‘ido’, just like the past participle of the regular verb vender (vendido).

Spanish subjunctive vs. indicative. Imperfect

Here we’re going to compare the imperfect subjunctive with the preterite indicative, and we’re also going to go through the imperfect subjunctive of the regular ‘er’ verb vender (to sell):

Preterite indicative Imperfect subjunctive Imperfect subjunctive
fui fuera / fuese vendiera / iese
fuiste fueras / fueses vendieras / ieses
fue fuera / fuese vendiera / iese
fuimos fuéramos / fuésemos vendiéramos / iésemos
fuisteis fuerais / fueseis vendierais / ieseis
fueron fueran / fuesen vendieran / iesen

Mastering the imperfect subjunctive of the irregular Spanish verb ser is easy if you remember that:

  • In the imperfect subjunctive, the first and third persons are identical: fuera / fuese.
  • In the preterite indicative, the first and third persons are different: fui and fue.
  • In both the imperfect subjunctive and indicative, all six forms start with the letters ‘fu’.
  • In the imperfect subjunctive, the letters ‘fu’ are followed by the regular verb endings for this tense minus the letter ‘i’.
  • In the preterite indicative, the first, second and third person endings don’t show similarities with the regular ‘er’ verb imperfect subjunctive endings.
  • In the preterite indicative, the fourth, fifth and sixth person endings show some similarities with the regular verb endings: ‘fuimos’ ends in ‘mos’, like ‘vendiéramos / vendiésemos’; ‘fuisteis’ ends in ‘is’, like ‘vendierais / vendieseis’; and ‘fueron’ ends in ‘n’, like ‘vendieran / vendiesen’.

Spanish subjunctive vs. indicative. Pluperfect

Finally, we’re going to compare the pluperfect subjunctive with the pluperfect indicative, and we’re also going to see the pluperfect subjunctive of the regular ‘er’ verb vender (to sell):

Pluperfect indicative Pluperfect subjunctive Pluperfect subjunctive
había sido hubiera/hubiese sido hubiera/hubiese vendido
habías sido hubieras/hubieses sido hubieras/hubieses vendido
había sido hubiera/hubiese sido hubiera/hubiese vendido
habíamos sido hubiéramos/hubiésemos sido hubiéramos/hubiésemos vendido
habíais sido hubierais/hubieseis sido hubierais/hubieseis vendido
habían sido hubieran/hubiesen sido hubieran/hubiesen vendido

To help you master the pluperfect subjunctive, and indeed the pluperfect indicative, of the irregular Spanish verb ser, here are some interesting notes:

  • In the pluperfect subjunctive, the first and third persons are identical: hubiéramos / hubiésemos sido.
  • In the pluperfect indicative, the first and third persons are also identical: había sido.
  • All six forms of both the pluperfect subjunctive and indicative have the past participle sido.
  • In the pluperfect subjunctive, the auxiliary verb (haber, to have) is in the imperfect subjunctive.
  • In the pluperfect indicative, the auxiliary verb (haber, to have) is in the imperfect indicative.
  • The past participles of both ser and vender end in ‘ido’: sido and vendido.

Spanish subjunctive. Another learning tip

Whenever you study a new irregular verb, make sure you can see the similarities between different tenses and persons. Compare them also to the regular verb patterns. That way you’ll remember all the forms much more easily.

If you want to master the Spanish subjunctive in no time, have a look at this highly recommended Spanish verb course.

For more tips on how to learn the Spanish subjunctive fast and efficiently, see my study guide How to Learn Spanish.

It’s your turn

What do you find most difficult about the Spanish subjunctive? Let me know. Leave a comment below!

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