Konjunktiv II – The General Subjunctive in German Grammar

Introduction

The general subjunctive, also: past subjunctive or subjunctive 2 (Konjunktiv II), expresses hypothetical situations. It is also used in indirect speech and in polite questions and statements.

Learn how to conjugate subjunctive II in German grammar and get tips on how and when to use it. In the exercises, you can practise what you have learnt.

Example

Usage

We use the German subjunctive II (Konjunktiv II) for:

  • unreal or hypothetical wishes and hopes
    Example:
    Ich wünschte, ich hätte Ferien.I wish I were on holiday.
  • unreal statements and conditional clauses (see conditional clauses)
    Example:
    Dann könnte ich in den Urlaub fahren.Then I could go on vacation.
    Wenn ich im Urlaub wäre, läge ich den ganzen Tag am Strand.If I were on vacation, I would lie on the beach all day.
  • indirect speech when the subjunctive I can’t be used (see also indirect speech)
    Example:
    Unser Lehrer sagt, wir müssten noch viel lernen.Our teacher says we still have to learn a lot.
  • polite or tentative questions or statements
    Example:
    Wärst du so freundlich, an die Tafel zu kommen?Would you be kind enough to come to the board?

Conjugation of German Verbs in Subjunctive II

There are two forms of the subjunctive II, one expresses situations in the present and the other situations in the past.

Situations in the Present

To express situations in the present with the general subjunctive:

  • We add the subjunctive ending to the simple past stem (see table below, in the column finden). Strong verbs get an umlaut.
Example:
finden (fand) – er fändeto find (found) – he would find
  • Weak verbs and some mixed verbs look the same in the subjunctive II as they do in the indicative simple past. Because of this, we generally use würde with these verbs (würde form).
Example:
ich wartete – ich würde wartenI waited – I would wait
  • In spoken German, the würde + infinitive is prefered for many strong verbs.
Example:
gehen – ich ginge/ich würde gehento go – I would go
subjunctive II (present)würde form
findenseinhaben
1st person singular ich fände ich wäre ich hätte ich würde …
2nd person singular du fändest du wär(e)st du hättest du würdest …
3rd person singular er fände er wäre er hätte er würde …
1st person plural wir fänden wir wären wir hätten wir würden …
2nd person plural ihr fändet ihr wär(e)t ihr hättet ihr würdet …
3rd person plural sie fänden sie wären sie hätten sie würden …

Situations in the Past

If we want to express a situation in the past, we use the subjunctive forms of sein/haben + past participle.

Example:
ich wäre gegangen/ich hätte gesagtI would have gone/I would have said