The origin of the word ojalá is said to be from the Arabic for God willing or if God wills it.
Ojalá is a very commonly used expression in Spanish that means I hope that… It is always used with the subjunctive. To learn how to use it with El Presente de Subjuntivo see Using ojalá + El Presente de Subjuntivo to express hope (present subjunctive).
Ojalá is also used with past tenses in the subjunctive to express: "hoping for something to happen or to have happened"
- It can also refer to a hypothetical past event.
Bear in mind that ojalá can be followed by "que", without changing the meaning.
Let's see it with the different past tenses in the subjunctive:
Ojalá with El Pretérito Imperfecto de Subjuntivo
- can refer to a future event, that is considered not very probable.
Ojalá que nos dejaran ir a la fiesta del instituto.I wish they would let us go to the party at the high school.
- can also refer to a present event that is seen as not very probable at the moment of speaking.
Ojalá que tuviéramos más dinero para irnos al Caribe.I wish we had more money to go to the Caribbean.
- can refer to a past event that is considered unlikely (i.e. not very probable).
Ojalá llegaran a tiempo a la estación.I hope they arrived at the station on time.
This last example could be taken as a wish for the past or a wish for the future if there is no more context. We could be wishing that they arrived on time or that they will arrive on time if they are still on their way to the station. For example:
Ojalá llegaran a tiempo a la estación para coger el tren que sale esta noche a las diez. (clearly referring to the future)I hope they [manage] to arrive on time at the station so they can take the train that leaves tonight at 10.
Ojalá llegaran a tiempo a la estación y estén ya montados en el tren. (clearly referring to a past event)I hope they managed to arrive on time at the station and that they are now on the train.
Note that in the context of the last example that refers to the past, it is a lot more common to use El Pretérito Perfecto de Subjuntivo, to express the same thing.
Ojalá with El Pretérito Perfecto de Subjuntivo
- refers to something that someone wishes has happened, either very recently or with no particular time in mind.
Ojalá hayamos aprobado todos el examen.I hope we've all passed the exam.
Ojalá hayan seleccionado a Carla para el puesto.I hope they've selected/chosen Carla for the post.
¿Te acuerdas de los Ramírez? Ojalá hayan tenido una buena vida, después de aquel desastre.Do you remember the Ramirez family? I hope they've had a good life, after that horrible event.
Ojalá with El Pretérito Pluscuamperfecto de Subjuntivo
- it refers to a wish that is seen as impossible to have happened in the past.
Ojalá me hubieses hecho caso. Ahora no sé qué vas a hacer.I wish you'd paid attention to me. I don't know what you are going to do now.
Ojalá hubiera comprado el otro vestido. Este me queda estrecho.I wish I'd bought the other dress. This one is tight for me.
Bear in mind that the word ojalá is always placed at the beginning of the sentence.
Ojalá can also be used as an expression on its own meaning "I wish!"/ "Let's hope for that!", for example:
A ver si tenemos suerte y nos toca la lotería. ¡Ojalá!Let's see if we're lucky and we win the lottery. I wish!/Here's hoping!
- Tranquilo, todo va a salir bien. - ¡Ojalá!- Don't worry, everything will be alright. - Let's hope so!
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