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Do we use the subjunctive with emotional expressions in the past tense?

For example, should we translate the sentence

I'm glad you came

as

Me alegro de que vinieras

or as

Me alegro de que viniste

My reasoning is that we'd use the indicative in these sorts of scenarios, since the speaker is sure that the other person came (since it's past tense), but I'm not sure.

Thanks!

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    I think "Me alegro de que vinieras" is okay but you can also say, "Me alegro de que hayas venido", and that's actually what I would say. – aparente001 Jul 22 '19 at 4:21
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    "Me alegro de que vinieras" as well as "Me alegro de que hayas venido" are both common in Colombia. "Me alegro de que viniste" doesn't sound right but I'm not saying it is wrong because switching the verb "venir" for others like "barrer","bailar" etc, would sound right to me i.e "Me alegro de que barriste la casa" sounds fine to me. – DGaleano Jul 22 '19 at 14:51
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I agree with @guifa that the best sentence is:

  • Me alegro de que hayas venido. (The action of coming is previous to the speaker's feeling of happiness. If simultaneous or subsequent, we say:)

  • Me alegro de que vengas.

Past subjunctive will be used with a main verb in the past:

  • Me alegré de que hubieras venido. (action of coming previous to the speaker's emotion)

  • Me alegré de que vinieras. (action of coming simultaneous with or subsequent to the speaker's emotion)

Now, with this sentence similar in meaning, the indicative mood is also possible:

  • Me alegra que viniste. (Also: Me alegra que hayas venido.)

The sentence with "viniste" is informative (as explained in this site), and can be understood as follows: Viniste, y eso me alegra.

In the sentence with "hayas venido", the focus lies on the speaker's emotion rather than on the fact that the other person has come.

In conclusion, with verbs of feeling (verbos de afección) the subordinate verb will be indicative if the purpose is one of assertion, and subjunctive if the content is mainly emotional.

  • Such a clear, thorough answer. This cleared up some things for me I had never really understood. – aparente001 Jul 23 '19 at 2:37
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While it is true that the speaker is sure that the person came, you still have the emotional content. As a result, you still need to use subjunctive.

As @aparente001 mentioned in the comments, for reasons of tense sequencing, you actually should say:

Me alegro de que hayas venido

This is because you started the statement with me alegro, which is in the present tense. In casual speech, it's not uncommon for there to be a lot of rapid switching of time frames/contexts, which could justify using the past subjunctive, but in careful speech / writing, it's best to maintain the sequences: start in present, stay in present; start in past, stay in past. The perfect construction allows us to stay anchored in the present, but still refer back to another event in the past.

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