The subjunctive mood has been known to break students.
Every serious Portuguese student runs straight into it. Some get hurt. Do not let that happen to you! The Portuguese Subjunctive is actually a rose with thorns. It's a beautiful part of the language that should be embraced and used with style, for it is truly cool. Even if unnecessary 😉
Triggers for the Portuguese Subjunctive
Let's look at some sentences in English that are pretty simple for us, but that each triggers a different subjunctive conjugation. And remember: the trigger for this mood is always one thing: UNCERTAINTY: expressions that contain something hypothetical, or a wish. In English we express uncertainty like this:
I hope that x.
If you were to y.
When she does z.
In Portuguese these are three different versions of the subjunctive, each with its own conjugation rules. Let me repeat that: Those three little examples above that seem so simple to us, require a different set of conjugation rules in Portuguese!
The secret to happiness is to learn certain PATTERNS that occur over and over again. Do_not get overwhelmed by this. It's really not that hard. The conjugations are no big deal -- it's all about learning when to use it.
Ok, since this post is really just a bridge to separate posts on all three of the Subjunctives - I'll simply present a description and a useful example of each case. A then link the hell out of here before it gets too Grammarly.
Portuguese Subjunctive Flavors
Sometimes called, the Past Subjunctive.
Use this tense to talk about things that are or were, very unlikely to happen.
Use this tense to talk about things that are uncertain to happen: in the present. Hypothetical.
Use this tense to talk about things that are uncertain to happen: in the future. Hypothetical.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
If you get existential about these or try to take their definition too literally, your head will begin to ache. So, don't. Just start using it. You will get the feel for it, trust me.
Let's find out. Here's a little test. For each of these sentences, I want you to quickly say whether it needs the past, present or future subjunctive treatment:
(a) If I pay for your drink will you come with us?
(b) I hope that she pays for my drink!
(c) If I were to pay your bar tab, I'd be a poor man.
If you answered future, present, past you are way ahead of the game!