Cambiar Conjugation: Subjunctive & Preterite

Instructor: Elena Sacramento Lechado

Elena teaches Spanish as a foreign language and has a PhD in linguistics.

The Spanish verb 'cambiar' means 'to change.' Learn how to talk about changes in your life with its preterite, and how to express wishes or possibility with its present subjunctive.

Making Changes

Imagine that you recently changed jobs or that you made a significant change in your life. To talk about this in Spanish, you'll need the verb cambiar (pronounced: kahm-BYAHR), which means 'to change.'

You can use this verb to talk about things or routines you've changed or want to change, or to say that someone changed their mind about a decision or plan.

In this lesson, we go over its conjugation in the present subjunctive and the preterite, while we see how to use this common verb in different contexts.

Translation: To change direction

Present Subjunctive of Cambiar

The subjunctive is a set of verbal forms we use to express subjective information, such as wishes or hope, and to talk about possibilities.

Cambiar is a regular verb, so its conjugation is pretty simple. Just take its stem cambi- and add the endings below:

VERB: cambiar (kahm-BYAHR) - to change

Pronunciation Translation
yo cambie (KAHM-byeh) I change
cambies (KAHM-byehs) you change
cambie (KAHM-byeh) he/she changes
you (formal) change
cambiemos (kahm-BYEH-mohs) we change
cambiéis (kahm-bee-AYS) you all change
cambien (KAHM-byehn) they change
you all change

Note: You'll only hear the form vosotros/as in Spain, which speakers use to address a group of people in informal situations. In the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, everyone says ustedes.

Uses & Examples of Cambiar in the Subjunctive

Take a look at the different ways in which you can use the present subjunctive in Spanish. To do this, we'll hear Carmen and her family talking about the changes they'd like to make in their lives.

Expressing Wishes

You can use these expressions to introduce your sentences:

  • Espero que (I hope that)
  • Quiero que (I want that)
  • Ojalá (Hopefully/I hope)

Carmen tells us that she'd like her husband to change jobs and her daughter, María, agrees.

Carmen: Espero que Juan cambie de trabajo pronto. (I hope Juan changes jobs soon.) Está demasiado estresado. (He's too stressed.)

María: ¡Sí, ojalá cambie su estilo de vida! (Yes, I hope he changes his lifestyle!)

Talking about Possibilities

To talk about probabilities or possibilities, start with:

  • Es probable que (It's probable that)
  • Es posible que (It's possible that)
  • Probablemente (Probably)
  • Posiblemente (Possibly)

Juan tells us:

  • Probablemente cambien algunas cosas en la oficina. (Some things will probably change at the office.)
  • Así que es probable que cambie de trabajo a finales de mes. (So it's possible that I change jobs at the end of the month.)

Translation: It is possible that I change jobs soon.

Expressing Necessity

In order to express necessity (or lack of it), use these phrases:

  • Hace falta que (You/we need to)
  • No hace falta que (You/we don't need to)

Carmen says:

  • Hace falta que cambiemos algunas cosas y todo irá mejor. (We need to change some things and everything will be better.)

What about yourself? Is there anything you'd like to change about your lifestyle? You can answer using the structures:

  • Es posible que cambie (It's possible that I change…)
  • Hace falta que cambie (I need to change…)

Preterite of Cambiar

Let's see the preterite now. We use this tense to talk about finished actions in the past that happened once or momentarily. So use the preterite of cambiar to say that you changed jobs last month or someone changed their mind about something.

To conjugate this verb in the preterite, keep using its stem cambi-, but add these endings now:

VERB: cambiar (kahm-BYAHR) - to change

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