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The Subjunctive II (Konjunktiv II) in German

The subjunctive is used to express: Desire, dreams, fantasies or imaginary situations.

We want you to get in gear because this is one of the most difficult subjects in German. Our humble opinion is that Germans are good at making cars but have not done a good job with their Konjunktiv. Let's get going:

to dream

Use of "Konjunktiv II"

It is used to express:

  • desire, dreams, fantasies, imaginary situations

Was würden Sie machen, wenn Sie Bundeskanzler von Deutschland wären?
What would you do if you were the President of Germany?

  • polite form for asking for something

Ich hätte gern eine Cola
I'd like a Coca-Cola

  • indirect speech for when use of Konjunktiv I is ambiguous

Er meint er würde gut singen
He thinks that he sings well

  • Recommendations or suggestions

Wenn ich an deiner Stelle wäre, würde ich ein gutes Buch kaufen
If I were in your place, I'd buy a good book

  • With the German words "fast" or "beinahe" (both mean "almost"). When a situation is described that just barely did not take place.

die Frau wäre fast vom Pferd gefallen
die Frau wäre beinahe vom Pferd gefallen
The woman almost fell from the horse

Original form of the Subjunctive II (Konjunktiv II)

The original "Konjunktiv II" form is used for auxiliary verbs, for modal verbs and some irregular verbs. The reason is that for regular verbs the "Konjunktiv II" is the same as the "Präteritum", which is why the construction "würde" + infinitive is used to avoid confusion (this construction is sometimes called "Konjunktiv III").


Was möchtest du tun?
What would you like to do?

Other verbs that use the original Konjunktiv II form

The original Konjunktiv II form is used with very few verbs. The most important ones are:

Important note: The Konjunktiv II expresses the PRESENT.

VerbKonjunktiv II
brauchen (to need)ich bräuchte
bringen (to bring)ich brächte
denken (to think)ich dächte
finden (to find)ich fände
geben (to give)ich gäbe
gehen (to go)ich ginge
kommen (to come)ich käme
tun (to do)ich täte
wissen (to know)ich wüsste

Würde + Infinitive

Given that the original form of the Konjunktiv II is the same as the Präteritum for most verbs, the "würde" + infinitive construction is used often, which is called Konjuntiv III by some authors.

NOTE 1: Würde + Infinitive expresses the present or future.

NOTE 2: It is interesting that the Würde + Infinitive form is Futur I with the auxiliary verb werden conjugated in Konjuntiv II

Wenn ich an deiner Stelle wäre, würde ich Deutsch lernen
If I were in your place, I would learn German

Pron.Conj. würde
ichwürde singen
duwürdest singen
er/sie/eswürde singen
wirwürden singen
ihrwürdet singen
siewürden singen

Other Verb Tenses of Konjunktiv II

As we have seen, the Konjunktiv II is problematic in that it is not normally distinguishable from the Präteritum which is why the auxiliary verb werden is used to construct an alternative form (Würde + Infinitive). Indeed, the original Konjunktiv II form has another problem: It only expresses the present.

The solution to this problem is to once again use an auxiliary verb.

Plusquamperfekt Konjunktiv II

Despite the name, this is just used to express the PAST and not the past perfect

It is formed simply by conjugating the auxiliary verb ( haben or sein, depending on the verb) in Konjunktiv II Präteritum

Ich hätte dich geliebt wie keine andere
I would have loved you like no other

Futur I Konjunktiv II

It is formed by conjugating werden in Konjunktiv II: würde + infinitive:

Ich würde in Zukunft gerne ein Auto haben
In the future, I would like to have a car

Futur II Konjunktiv II

Just like Futur I, it is formed by conjugating werden in Konjuntiv II: würde + participle II + ( sein or haben):

Ich würde dieses Haus gekauft haben
I would have bought this house