Spanish Grammar: Past (Imperfect) Subjunctive – Basics

Spanish Grammar: Past (Imperfect) Subjunctive

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Spanish Grammar: Past (Imperfect) Subjunctive – Basics
la gramática española: el subjuntivo pasado (imperfecto) – los básicos

  • The subjunctive is a verb mood, not a tense in terms of time.
  • Describes how the verb is understood in the sentence.
  • There are many different ways to utilize the subjunctive, in the present or past.



The subjunctive is used when we do not know if the action will take place. If we know that it is or will be a reality, the indicative is used. The subjunctive is used to express doubt, how a person feels about an action or state of being, a wish, intent or command. It can also be used to express facts that are the opposite of reality.

When to use the Imperfect (Past) Subjunctive:

The imperfect subjunctive works in the same way as the present subjunctive, except when the verb in the main clause is in the PAST tense.

For example:

Present Subjunctive:
Main clause = present tense
Subjunctive clause = present subjunctive form

Past Subjunctive:
Main clause = past tense
Subjunctive clause = past subjunctive form

How to form the Imperfect (Past) Subjunctive: 

Take the third person plural form of the preterite past tense, (hablaron) then drop the [-on] from the end, which gives you the stem [hablar-] for the imperfect subjunctive, then add the appropriate ending. The endings are the same for all verbs (AR, ER, & IR VERBS):

hablar -a
hablar -as
hablar -a
hablá-amos (note the accent over the “a” in the root)
hablar -ais
hablar -an

There’s also a second form that’s used for the Past Subjunctive. Usage of this form depends on geographic location and context.

habla -se
habla -ses
habla -se
hablá -semos
habla -seis

habla -sen


Yo le recomendé que tomara la medicina.
I recommended to him that he take the medicine.

Era importante que usara las herramientas correctas.
It was important that he use the correct tools.

Era necesario que habláramos con el doctor.
It was necessary that we speak with the doctor.

El niño no quería que le dieran una inyección.
The child did not want them to give him a shot.