The subjunctive I which is called Konjunktiv I in German is the first out of the two types of subjunctive. It is used to either make an indirect or a reported speech. What then is an indirect or a reported speech?

A reported speech is one where a person quotes the exact words or speech of someone else. In plain terms, a reported speech is a repetition of speaker A comment by speaker B. Simple enough?. One key thing about this type of subjunctive is that it is centered in repeating what someone has earlier said. A common scenario is usually the case of a News reporter. In English, a reported speech is usually indicated at the start and end of the speech with the use of the quotation marks (“ ”) while in German the quotation („ “) may or may not be used.

A reported speech in English may or may not be introduced with the conjunction “that” which is translated as dass in German. This is not the same for German as the subjunctive I has no need for dass or any other conjuction but rather, a comma is used to separate the reporter from the speech. Also note that the order of the SVO is maintained in both statement.

In the speech sentence, If the conjunction dass is used, the sentence must be converted to the indicative/ direct form. See illustration below;

  • They said ….
  • They said that… etc.

illustration;

  • your sister said that she is going home.—— deine Schwester hat gesagt, dass sie nach Hause geht.
  • Your sister said she is going home.—— deine Schwester hat gesagt, sie geht nach Hause.

Tenses in the subjunctive 1

The Subjunctive 1 in German occurs in three tenses;

  • Present tense
  • Perfect tense
  • Future tense

One beautiful thing about the subjunctive 1 is that all verbs are treated and conjugated the same way. What this means is that, there are no rooms for stem vowel changes like those that occur in strong verbs. All verbs are simply conjugated from their finite form using the conjugation pattern for subjunctive I below.

SubjectsDeclined suffix
ich
du
er/sie/es
wir
ihr
sie/Sie
-e
-est
-e
-en
-et
-en
conjugation pattern for the subjunctive I in german

Subjunctive I in the present tense

In the present tense, the subjunctive I of all verbs is formed by detaching the verb ending “-en” from the infinite verb and then conjugating them appropriately using the above conjugation table as shown below.

subjecthabenseinwerdenlesenkennen
ich
du
er/sie/es
wir
ihr
sie/Sie
habe
habest
habe
haben
habet
haben
sei
seiest
sei
seien
seiet
seien
werde
werdest
werde
werden
werdet
werden
lese
lesest
lese
lesen
leset
lesen
kenne
kennest
kenne
kennen
kennet
kennen
verbs in the present tense Konjunktiv

Usage;

  • David said he is not a boy but a man.—— David hat gesagt, er sei kein Junge sondern ein Mann.
  • “The police has the situation under control”, said the president.—— „die Polizei habe die Situation unter Kontrolle“, sagte der Präsident.
  • My mother once said to me, “you can be anything you want to be”.—— meine Mutter hat mir einmal gesagt „du könnest etwas sein, was du werden willst“.

Subjunctive I & perfect tense

The perfect tense of subjunctive I is formed using the auxiliary verbs haben and sein like the indicative perfect tense. But unlike the indicative, the auxiliary verbs of the the subjunctive I are conjugated like their present tense in the second position while the Partizip II / past participle of the supported verb goes to the end of the sentence. study the list below.

Subjectseinhabenwerdentunmachenfahren
ichsei… gewesenhabe… gehabtsei… gewordenhabe… getanhabe… gemacht sei… gefahren
duseiest… gewesenhabest… gehabtseiest… gewordenhabest… getanhabest…gemachtseiest… gefahren
er/sie/essei… gewesenhabe… gehabtsei… gewordenhabe… getanhabe… gemacht sei… gefahren
wirseien… gewesenhaben… gehabtseien… gewordenhaben… getanhaben… gemachtseien… gefahren
ihrseiet… gewesenhabet… gehabtseiet… gewordenhabet… getanhabet… gemachtseiet… gefahren
sie/Sieseien… gewesenhaben… gehabtseien… gewordenhaben… getanhaben… gemacht seien… gefahren
german verbs in the subjunctive

Usage;

  • Susan and John said that they (have) bought a house.—— Susan und John haben gesagt, sie ein Haus gekauft haben.
  • Jane said you were not at home last night.—— Jane hat gesagt, du seiest letzte Nacht nicht zu Hause gewesen.
  • The children said you guys promised to buy cake for them.—— die Kinder haben gesagt , ihr habet ihnen versprochen, Kuchen zu kaufen.

Subjunctive 1 & Future Tense

Subjunctive I can be expressed in both future tense I & II although that of future tense II is barely used. To formulate the subjunctive 1 of future tense in German, the auxiliary verb werden which means will is used. Werden is conjugated in the second in the present tense of its subjunctive 1, while the second verb goes to the end of the sentence in its finite form. For example see below…

3rd Person auxiliaryEnglish translation
werde… werden
werde… fahren
werde… kommen
werde… versuchen
werde… singen
werde… schlafen
werde… schreiben
werde… tanzen
werde… kochen
werde.. machen
werde… lesen
werde… gehen
will… become
will… drive
will… come
will… try
will… sing
will… sleep
will… write
will… dance
will… cook
will… make/do
will… read
will… go
lists of verbs in the future tense of subjunctive

Usage;

  • I thought you said you will travel to Berlin.—— ich habe gedacht, du hast gesagt, du werdest nach Berlin reisen.
  • The woman asked me “why will you not buy a new car?”—— die Frau hat mich gefragt „warum werdest du ein neues Auto nicht kaufen?“
  • Susan said, she will buy a new gown.—— Susan sagte, sie werde ein neues Kleid kaufen.

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