The Subjunctive & Impersonal Expressions in Spanish

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  • 0:05 Impersonal Expressions
  • 1:05 Examples of Impersonal…
  • 3:42 Practica
  • 5:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor
Pablo Serna

Pablo has taught college Spanish at the University of Missouri and Central Methodist University, and has a master's degree in Spanish literature.

Expert Contributor
Ana Benito Gonzalez

Ana has a PhD in Biology. She has taught college classes at leading U.S. universities, also works as a Biology tutor. She has published several scientific journals.

In this lesson, we will discuss impersonal expressions that are triggers for the subjunctive in Spanish. We will also look at how to use these in a sentence and at impersonal expressions that don't trigger the subjunctive.

Impersonal Expressions

Impersonal is as impersonal as it sounds. We will be looking at expressions that don't really seem to have a person involved. In English, an example would be, 'It is cold outside.' 'It' is very impersonal in this context. In Spanish, impersonal expressions that express uncertainty or subjective opinions trigger the subjunctive, while impersonal expressions that indicate facts do not trigger the subjunctive.

An interesting difference between Spanish and English is that in English, we have the word 'it' for impersonal expressions, but in Spanish, there is no direct translation. As we learn expressions below, notice that the verb ser (to be) is conjugated as es, but there is no subject like él or la that we can use.

Examples of Impersonal Expressions

Let's look at some of the impersonal expressions that trigger subjunctive first. Notice that they express an opinion or uncertainty.

Spanish English
Es bueno/malo que It is good/bad that
Es dudoso que It is doubtful that
Es importante que It is important that
Es imposible/posible que It is impossible/possible that
Es mejor que It is better that
Es menester que It is necessary that
Es necesario que It is necessary that
Es raro que It is rare that
Es terrible que It is terrible that
Es una lástima que It is a shame that
Es urgente que It is urgent that
No es cierto que It is not true that
No es seguro que It is not for sure that

Now let's look at some of the impersonal expressions that do not trigger subjunctive. Notice that they indicate a truth or certainty.

Spanish English
Es cierto que It is true that
Es obvio que It is obvious that
Es seguro que It is for sure that
Es verdad que It is true that
No es dudoso que It is not doubtful that

You are almost ready to practice, but before we practice, quickly review the following table of conjugations for the present subjunctive of regular verbs.

-AR -e, -es, -e, -emos, -éis, -en

-ER -a, -as, -a, -amos, -áis, -an

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Additional Activities

Let's Practice Impersonal Expressions

Impersonal expressions in Spanish often trigger the subjunctive but not always. It's important to learn the difference!

Activity

Let's practice by translating the following English sentences to Spanish. Please, pay close attention to which expressions require subjunctive and which ones don't.

  1. It is urgent that she goes to the doctor this afternoon since her wound is getting infected.
  2. It is true that you have to study more, but you have improved a lot since the school year began.
  3. It is a shame that you have to leave so early, the party just started and it won't be the same without you.
  4. It is true that they have a lot of work and they never take a long vacation.
  5. It is impossible that you will arrive on time to catch the plane today.

Answers:

  1. Es urgente que ella vaya al médico esta tarde ya que su herida se está infectando.
  2. Es cierto que tienes que estudiar más, pero has mejorado mucho desde que empezó el curso.
  3. Es una lástima que tengas que irte tan temprano, la fiesta acaba de comenzar y sin ti no será lo mismo.
  4. Es verdad que tienen siempre mucho trabajo y nunca se toman unas vacaciones largas.
  5. Es imposible que llegues a tiempo a coger el avión hoy.

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