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Some Phrases Nearly Always Followed by the Subjunctive Mood

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Although the subjunctive mood in Spanish is used most often in sentences that take the form "noun + indicative verb + que + subjunctive verb," it is used in other situations as well. Probably the most common is following a phrase that functions as a subordinating conjunction.

For example, note the use of the subjunctive in the following sentence: Debes comer alimentos nutritivos para que tengas un bebé sano. (You should eat nutritious foods in order to have a healthy baby.) In this example, para que functions as a subordinating conjunction, and a conjugated form of tener is in the subjunctive mood.

Para que is one of those phrases that, at least in standard written Spanish, is always followed by a verb in the subjunctive (although this rule, like many others, may not always be followed in casual speech in some regions). Following is a list of phrases that you can safely assume will be followed by the subjunctive. Note that many of them mean "in order that," "provided that" or something similar; meanings given are the most common translations but not the only ones possible. Note also that this list isn't intended to be complete — phrases used in the same way with similar meanings will usually also require the subjunctive.

A fin de que (in order that, so that):

  • A fin de que no haya confusiones te llamé Pablo. So there is no confusion, I will call you Pablo.
  • ¿Qué se debe hacer a fin de que no ocurra este problema? What needs to be done so this problem doesn't occur?

A menos que (unless):

  • No es fácil ir a una tienda y escoger ropa o accesorios, a menos que vayamos acompañados de una buena amiga. It's not easy to go to the store and choose clothing or accessories, unless we go with a good friend.
  • Al menos que se caiga el cielo y todas la estrellas dejen de existir, yo nunca dejaré de amarte. Unless the sky falls and the stars cease to exist, I'll never stop loving you.

Antes de que, antes que (before):

  • El examen de sangre terminará antes de que puedas contar hasta 20. The blood test will be over before you can count to 20.
  • Esta foto fue tomada unas horitas antes de que viajaran a Argentina. This photo was taken a few short hours before they traveled to Argentina.
  • El hecho ocurrió ayer al mediodía, poco antes que lloviera. The act occurred yesterday at noon, a little bit before it rained.

Con tal de que, con tal que (provided that, as long as):

  • Haré lo que me pidas con tal de que me ames. I'll do what you ask me as long as you love me.
  • Mi madre se queda tranquila con tal de que estemos entretenidos viendo la televisión y que no demos guerra. My mother stays quiet provided that we're being entertained watching TV and not causing trouble.
  • Con tal que todo sea en beneficio del equipo, yo lo hago. As long as it's all for the good of the team, I'll do it.

En caso de que, en caso que (in the event that, in case):

  • Tenemos consejos en caso de que usted o un miembro de su familia sufra un accidente. We have advice in case you or a member of your family has an accident.
  • Voy a dejar un recado en caso de que venga mi papa. I'm going to leave a message in case my father comes.
  • Èstas son las recomendaciones que hace la Cruz Roja en caso que se presente caída de ceniza volcánica. These are the recommendations that the Red Cross gives in the event that volcanic ash falls.

Para que (in order that, so that):

  • Creo que me dijo eso para que me sienta mejor. I believe he told me that so I would feel better.
  • Necesito estudiar para que a mi hija no le falte nada. I need to study so my daughter has what she needs.
  • ¿Qué se necesita para que podamos crear nuestra propia empresa? What is needed in order to create our own business?

Siempre y cuando (only when, if and only if):

  • El Motel Bianco es ideal siempre y cuando tengas auto. The Motel Bianco is ideal if and only if you have a car.
  • Tenemos la libertad de expresión siempre y cuando no ofenda a nadie. We have freedom of expression only when it doesn't offend anyone.

Sin que (without):

  • Sin que España resuelva sus problemas, no hay solución. Without Spain resolving its problems, there's no solution.
  • Cómo cocer huevos sin que se rompa la cáscara. How to cook eggs without the shell breaking.

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  9. Spanish Phrases Followed by the Subjunctive Mood — Subordinating Conjunctions in Spanish

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