The Future Subjunctive of Spanish

Verb form is nearly obsolete

rome.jpg
Adónde fueres haz lo que vieres. (Roughly, when in Rome do what the Romans do.).

Bert Kaufmann / Creative Commons.

The future subjunctive is the most elusive verb tense of Spanish. It isn't mentioned in many textbooks for Spanish students, and it's absent from most conjugation tables. But it still is understood by many Spanish speakers and finds occasional use.

Verb Form Has Disappeared From Everyday Use

Much like verb forms such as "wanteth" and "saith" in English, the future subjunctive in Spanish is all but obsolete. You're extremely unlikely to hear it used in everyday speech; the only times you're likely to come across it are in literature, in some legal language, in especially flowery language, and in a few phrases such as "Venga lo que viniere" (come what may, or, literally, what is coming is what will come) or "Adónde fueres haz lo que vieres" (wherever you go, do what you see, or, roughly, when in Rome do what the Romans do). It is fairly common in plays from the Golden Age, so it appears that at one time it was used in both speech and writing. But today it has all but disappeared.

Fortunately, if you ever have the occasion where you need to know the future subjunctive, it's fairly easy to learn if you already know the r form (the more common form) of the imperfect subjunctive. The -ra- in the imperfect subjunctive ending is replaced by -re-, so the future subjunctive forms of hablar, for example, are hablare, hablares, hablare, habláremos, hablareis and hablaren.

Generally, today the present subjunctive is used for both present and future tenses where the subjunctive mood would otherwise be called for. Thus, in a sentence such as "espero que me dé un regalo" ("I hope she will give me a present") or "no creo que venga" ("I don't believe he'll come"), the present subjunctive ( and venga) is used even though we're talking about an event that might happen in the future.

You have no need to learn the future subjunctive for competent use of the language, just as the foreign learner of English typically has no need to learn the verb forms of Shakespeare or the King James Version of the Bible.

Future Subjunctive in Literature

In literature, the future subjunctive is often used in clauses following si (if) and cuando (when), such as in "si tuvieres mucho, da con abundancia" (if you have much, give generously). In those cases now we'd usually use the present indicative with si and the present subjunctive with cuando.

In current legal usage, where the future subjunctive is most common today, the form is used mostly in cases involving an indefinite person (translated "one who" or "he who") as in "el que hubiere reunido mayoría absoluta de votos será proclamado Presidente de la República" (the one who receives an absolute majority of votes will be proclaimed president of the Republic).

Sample Sentences Using the Future Subjunctive

Lo que hablares lo hablarás a bulto. (What you speak you will speak without thinking. This is literary use; in modern Spanish, the future subjunctive would be replaced by the present subjunctive.)

Ésta es la ley para el que hubiere tenido plaga de lepra, y no tuviere más para su purificación. (This is the law for the one who has leprosy and who doesn't have the means for getting purified. The is from an old translation of the Bible; in modern versions, the present subjunctive is used in both instances.)

No pueden ser tutores las personas de mala conducta o que no tuvieren manera de vivir conocida. (Persons of ill conduct or those who have no known means of support cannot be legal guardians. This is legal language taken from current regulations in Spain.)

En los establecimientos que vendieren otros productos, solo permitirán la entrada a los menores con el fin de que compren otros productos diferentes a los licores. (In establishments that sell other products, the entry of minors will be permitted only if they are buying products other than liquors. This is excerpt from current Costa Rican regulations.)

Key Takeaways

  • Much like obsolete verb forms found in English literature from Shakespeare's day, the Spanish future subjunctive is a verb form that once was common but is no longer has everyday use.
  • In modern Spanish, the future subjunctive has been replaced by the present subjunctive, although the future subjunctive still has some formal legal usage.
  • The future subjunctive is conjugated in the same way as the imperfect subjunctive, except that the -ra- in the ending becomes -re-.