How do you translate the following phrase?

I hope that she [my sister] will not be ill.

The context of the phrase is that my family holiday will be cancelled if my sister continues to be ill.

From my limited experience of the subjunctive mood - which I presume must be used here as I am 'hoping' - I would use the future subjunctive. However, it seems that the further subjunctive is rather archaic in modern Spanish:

Nowadays, the present subjunctive is used in virtually all cases in which the future subjunctive would have been used.


With which tense should I translate it and would that be commonly understood?

1 Answer 1


Future subjunctive in this case would actually require the initial verb to be in the future: esperaré que no estuviere enferma mi hermana, but that's not going to be commonly heard.1 There are several ways you can represent the future in a clause that must go in the subjunctive:

  • Use the present subjunctive with or without temporal indications
    As you already noted, this is probably the most common. If you feel there may be confusion between a future reference and a present one due to lack of context, you can just add in some adverb or adverbial clause indicating the correct temporal reference:

    Espero que no esté enferma ahora (present reference)
    Espero que no esté enferma la semana que viene (future reference)

  • Use present subjunctive with periphrastic future
    Use the verb ir along with the preposition a and your main verb in the infinitive. This construction creates a future aspect. It's not very common, though.

    Espero que no vaya a estar enferma.

  • Just use plain future
    There are some grammarians who classify future and conditional in separate moods, and to me this is one of the good evidences as to why future shouldn't be considered strictly indicative:

    Espero que no estará enferma.

In order of commonality, you'll find present subjunctive the most, followed by simple future, followed lastly by the periphrastic. And based on NGrams, the proportion of usage is about 75/23/2, but that doesn't take into account the present-tense senses of the present subjunctive, so the simple future may be a bit commoner.

1. Note even in Portuguese where the future subjunctive is alive and well, you can't say espero que não estiver doente, it would be either espero que não esteja doente with present subjunctive or espero que não vá estar doente with present subjunctive and periphrastic future

  • 2
    "Espero que no estará enferma" Sounds really really weird. If someone told me that wouldn't even be able to understand it. In my opinion and in order to the given context the most natural way would be "Espero que ya no esté enferma". Aug 26, 2016 at 0:27
  • @Maurocrispin where are you from? There may be some geographic considerations to take into account. Aug 26, 2016 at 0:49
  • Well done, sir. But if I keep swapping back and forth between ES and PT, I fear my brain will burst. :)
    – tchrist
    Aug 29, 2016 at 2:28
  • @tchrist I spent this whole summer switching between ES/PT/AST. Needless to say, I now speak more of an asturportu[ñ|nh]ol Aug 29, 2016 at 2:33

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