A Subjunctive in the Wild

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I had a real grammar geek moment last week while I was listening to the Spanglish language Pacha Massive album (yes they really mix Spanish and English).

The moment was...I heard a Spanish subjunctive verb in the lyrics (dondequiera que estés) which rhymed with distrés. Unfortunately, my Spanish is still only good enough for picking up phrases, but I was still excited to hear that the subjunctive is still around somewhere.

The subjunctive is one of those verb forms that seem pretty arcane to most English speakers. For an English speaker, it seems odd that you have to learn yet another set of verb forms just to indicate "maybe or maybe not". It doesn't help that in many European languages including English, Welsh and others, the subjunctive is usually "dying out."

But once you see or hear one of these exotic forms in a real-life context (i.e."in the wild"), the form is instantly transformed from the exotic grammatical concept to a familiar "Oh that's what they use that for."

Interestingly, I think this is something that has to happen outside the classroom. I'm sure this song (or one of the songs called "Dondequiera que Estés") may be played in a Spanish language classroom, but if students are cynical like me, they are probably convinced the instructor somehow "made it up"...just to demonstrate the subjunctive.

On the other hand, hearing the song straight out of my iTunes is convincing evidence that Spanish speakers really do use the subjunctive some of the time. Even with years of learning from dedicated Spanish language instructors using real-life examples that the subjunctive exists, I still was amazed to hear it in this song.

Instructors, it's OK if you want to hit your head on a wall now.