Konjunktiv I – Special Subjunctive in German Grammar

Introduction

The special subjunctive, also called subjunctive 1 or present subjunctive (Konjunktiv I), is primarily used in newspaper articles and reports when statements are repeated as indirect speech. The special subjunctive is also used in certain idiomatic expressions.

Learn the rules for conjugating the present subjunctive in German grammar and get tips on when to use it. Then put your knowledge to the test in the exercises.

Example

Nachrichten

Hoch lebe das Geburtstagskind! Zu seinem 90. Geburtstag sagte der Schauspieler, er habe sich noch nie so jung gefühlt.

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Usage

The subjunctiv I is used to express:

  • indirect speech (in colloquial speech the indicative is more common; see indirect speech)
    Example:
    Er sagt, er habe sich noch nie so jung gefühlt.He said he has never felt so young.
  • some idiomatic expressions
    Example:
    Hoch lebe das Geburtstagskind!Long live the birthday boy!

Conjugation of German Verbs in Subjunctive I

There are a few points to consider when conjugating the subjunctive I:

  • Only the verb sein is still common in all its subjunctive I forms:
    ich sei, du sei(e)st, er sei, wir seien, ihr seiet, sie seien
    Example:
    Er sagte, sie seien im Kino.He said they were in the cinema.
  • We generally only use the subjunctive I in the 3rd person singular (er/sie/es/man) with all other verbs. We only have to remove the n from the infinitive.
    Example:
    haben – er habeto have - he has/had
    schreiben – er schreibeto write - he writes/wrote
  • In the 2nd person (du/ihr), the only difference between the subjunctive I and the indicative is that there is an e before the ending in the subjunctive form.
    Example:
    du träumst – du träumestyou dream - you dream/dreamed
    ihr geht – ihr gehetyou go - you go/went
    It is common to use the subjunctive II in the second person, instead of the subjunctive I because it’s easier to tell it apart from the indicative.
  • There is no difference between the subjunctive I and the indicative in the 1st person singular (ich), as well as the 1st and 3rd person plural (wir, sie) which is why we have to use the subjunctive II in this situation.
    Example:
    „Sie gehen joggen.“ – Er sagt, sie gingen joggen. “They’re going jogging.” – He says they’re going jogging. (subj. II)

Tenses in the Subjunctive I

We can use the subjunctive I in the present, present perfect, and future tenses.

subjunctive I
present er gehe
er sage
present perfect er sei gegangen
er habe gesagt
future er werde gehen
er werde sagen
future perfect er werde gegangen sein
er werde gesagt haben