Where does the expression like "Que tengas un buen dia" and similar ones come from?

Is the full expression of it:

"(I hope) que (tu) tengas un buen dia"

where tengas is the subjunctive form for tu?

1 Answer 1


This kind of expression (que tengas...) can indeed be thought of as a short form of a explicit wish (espero que tengas...), but they are not analyzed like that by the native speakers. That is, we speakers of Spanish don't usually perceive these expressions as the shortened forms of longer full sentences. They are more like interjections.

Moreover, the meaning of que + subjunctive is not always one of wish or hope. It can also be an advice or a command. For example:

Que te vea un médico. = "Let a doctor see you."

In the third person, que + subjunctive is indeed the form that substitutes for the imperative:

Que venga a verme. = "Let him/her come to see me."

  • 2
    It's probably of use to point out that in older Spanish, the que wasn't used at all. It's possible the que was added later because it's so tightly associated with the subjunctive form and possibly helps to distinguish (in third person) from an Vd. command, but it's not a case of losing an initial espero o ojalá Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 16:23
  • @guifa Thanks. I was missing that historical info. Are you saying that people used to say just Tengas un buen día?
    – pablodf76
    Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 16:29
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    I haven't seen it as much with second person (that form isn't common in most of the books that I read), but for third person it was very common. Hence we get stuff like "Véase la página X" or "Haya luz". That's how it worked in Latin, so for a long time Spanish just matched the same structure. Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 16:34
  • but then why "tuenga(s)"? why not tiene(s)? is the subjunctive form a must?
    – nylypej
    Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 21:28
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    @nylypej yes, the subjunctive has always been there. It's because you are expressing something that is ought to / should / must happen. If you had "que tienes un buen día", you would be making a declarative statement ("that you are having a good day"), and in Modern Spanish, it is an incomplete fragment: I'd be expecting something more either before or after it. Commented Oct 8, 2018 at 23:53

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