Requested tip from a student:
I always struggle with the subjunctive even on duolingo practices. tips??
Response from Caro:
The subjunctive is complicated because there are several factors involved, first in deciding if you should use the subjunctive, then which of the 4 subjunctive tenses you should use and then finally remembering the conjugation. It’s also very different from English, which makes it more complicated. But I will tell you that when you break it down into sections, it’s actually quite simple. The best recommendation I can give you, is to learn it one section at a time.
For example, this week in class we’re practicing the subjunctive with recommendations. You now know that if you make a recommendation, a suggestion, you give advice, you insist that someone do something, you beg them to do something, you propose something (basically all suggestions in varying degrees, all things you have no control over), you know you need to use the subjunctive. That is the first part, knowing that you use the subjunctive with recommendations.
Now the 2nd part is knowing which of the 4 subjunctive tenses to use. This week you learned that if you give a suggestion now (using the present tense), you need to use the present subjunctive:
Te recomiendo (present indicative) que tengas (present subjunctive) más cuidado.
Les sugiero (present indicative) que lean (present subjunctive) el artículo.
Next week you will learn in class that if you already gave the suggestion in the past, you would use the imperfect subjunctive:
Me recomendó (preterit) que tuviera (imperfect subjunctive) más cuidado.
You will also learn that if you use the conditional (making it hypothetical) you would also use the imperfect subjunctive.
Les recomendaría (conditional) que leyeran (imperfect subjunctive) el artículo.
With practice this week and next week, this should start to stick. Now if you went above and beyond that and made a list of things that you would suggest to other people, that would help to reinforce it. Another option would be to do exercises online or in a workbook related to this topic. The more that you practice it, the easier it will get until it becomes second nature.
The bottom line is that with anything this big, it needs to be broken down into small sections so that you do not get overwhelmed and say F*** it. So many Spanish students refuse to learn the subjunctive because they find it overwhelming. The thing is, if you don’t learn the subjunctive you will never be able to fully communicate well in Spanish, you will only be able to stay on a superficial level. Apart from that you will miss out on the most fascinating part of this beautiful language. Do you not find it fascinating that we have an entire grammar mood related to things you cannot control? That is absolutely fascinating to me (in case you didn’t know before, now you know what a geek I am 🙂 ). If you haven’t watched this Ted Talk, I highly suggest it (Les recomiendo que vean este discurso):
One small bite at a time…the important thing with learning a language is that you know something more than you did yesterday.