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Konjunktiv II in German


If you would read our current grammar material, you would learn how to make a subjunctive mood in German. What is this? Namely, what is transmitted by the particle “would”. That is, we express an assumption, describe the desired or describe the action. In German, these forms are almost the same in Russian and are expressed through Konjunktiv I and Konjunktiv II. The first one is used quite seldom and we will talk about it later. And today we will talk about Konjunktiv II.

The present form of Konjunktiv II is formed by adding personal endings to the second form of the verb (Präteritum) and umlaut in the root “a”, “o”, “u” (except for the verbs “wollte” and “sollte”). Let’s look at the example of the verb “haben” – “to have”. The second form of this verb (Präteritum) is “hatte”. We add umlaut and get “hätte”. Next we add the personal endings:

  • Ich – hätte;
  • Du – hättest;
  • Er, sie, es – hätte (we remember that in the second form the third person of the singular receives the same ending as the first person of the singular – “ich”);
  • Wir – hätten;
  • Ihr – hättet;
  • Sie, Sie – hätten;

The verb “können” – “may” on the same principle is “konnte” in Präteritum and “könnte” in Konjunktiv II:

  • Wenn ich mehr Geld hätte, (dann) könnte ich nach Spanien reisen – if I had more money, (then) I could travel to Spain (“dann” – “then” more often missed).

We continue to look into different situations, take the verb “versuchen” – “try”. According to the Konjunktiv II (Präteritum + umlaut) formation scheme, the forms of Konjunktiv II and Präteritum are absolutely the same:

  • versuchte” – “tried” (past time Präteritum);
  • versuchte” – “would try” (the subjunctive inclination of Konjunktiv II).

Agree, “tried” and “would try” are completely different things. To avoid confusion, they use the verb “werden”, which in Konjunktiv II will be “würde”:

  • Ich würde versuchen – I would try

Not many words will differ in Konjunktiv II from Präteritum, so usually the auxiliary verb “würde” is used to form conditional sentences with a “would”. They do not use it with modal verbs, with the verb “sein” (“wäre”) “to be” and with the verb “haben” (“hätte”) “to have”:

  • Ich wäre reich – I would be rich

One of the most popular uses of Konjunktiv II is, as in Russian, a polite form:

  • Ich hätte gern einen Tee – I would like tea;
  • Könnten Sie bitte leiser sprechen? – Could you keep your voice down?

We continue to disassemble the subjunctive mood – Konjunktiv II in German. The form of the past tense – Perfekt is formed in the same way, but instead of the usual auxiliary verbs “haben” and “sein” we use the same verbs in Konjunktiv II: “hätte”, “wäre”:

  • Wenn ich gestern ins Kino gegangen wäre, dann hätten wir uns getroffen – if I had gone to the movies yesterday, we would have met.

Compare it with the usual Perfekt offer without Konjunktiv II:

  • Ich bin gestern ins Kino gegangen und wir haben uns getroffen – I went to the movies yesterday and we met.

The only difference is that the auxiliary verbs in the first sentence are in Konjunktiv II, so they express a particle “would”, and “wenn” changes the word order and sends the declension verb to the end.

The future time will be expressed, as well as the present, by the verb “würde” + verb in the infinitive. And the modal verbs, the verb “sein” (“wäre”) “to be” and the verb “haben” (“hätte”) “to have”, as in the present, are used directly in Konjunktiv II (Präteritum + umlaut):

  • Ich würde nächstes Jahr nach Deutschland umziehen – I would move to Germany next year;
  • Ich hätte morgen mehr Zeit – I would have more time tomorrow.

Now you know everything you need to know about Konjunktiv II. Next we will talk about the less popular form of Konjunktiv I, which is used for direct speech. Still, it is used and knowing such things wouldn’t hurt your language skills.

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