Content in this post
1. Definition of subjunctive II
2. How to form subjunctive II with auxiliary verbs
3. How to form the subjunctive II of modal verbs
4. How to form the subjunctive II of main verbs
Table of content

The Konjunktiv II which is known as subjunctive II in English is the second part of the entire topic on Konjunktiv. Unlike Präsens, Perfekt, Präteritum which are all tenses, the Konjunktiv II is not a tense but it is expressed in the past participle tense in English which is called the Präteritum in Deutsch. So because it is not a tense on its own but a verb mood, you may want to ask, what it is then?

Konjunktiv II is politely used to express a wish or mood. That means, how someone feels about a situation or thing. This feeling could range from just a mare fantasy of impossibilities to a strong and hopeful desire which could eventually come true. Of course, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. This is just to say, this strong desire or wish might either be fulfilled or not. The subjunctive II in geman is often accompainied with the adverb gern which means “like to” when it specifically indicates a polite request or a dream and it’s placed in the adverbial position of a german sentence.

How to form the subjunctive II in German

The subjunctive II of german verbs is formed from their Präteritum by changing when available, the stem vowel (a, o, u) to that of the umlaut (ä, ö, ü) and conjugated with the table below. These verbs are always translated in english together with the auxiliary verb “would“. The formation of the subjunctive II is possible with all the various verb categories but those of the auxiliary verbs and modal verbs are mostly used unlike those of the main verbs. This is explained below.

Subject pronounsDeclined ending
ich
du
er/sie/es
wir
ihr
sie/Sie
-e
-est
-e
-en
-et
-en
declension suffix of german verbs in the subjunctive II

Subjunctive II of auxilliary verbs

The subjunctive II of German auxiliary verbs is derived from their Präteritum but with a different conjugation pattern and a change in the stem vowel to the umlaut variant. For instance the the Präteritum of werden, haben and sein are wurden, hatten and waren respectively. Their respective subjunctive II are then würden, hätten and wären.

With that being said, the infinitive of the “umlauted” Präteritum of the auxiliary verbs are then conjugated to their respective subjects using the table above after the verb-ending “en” is removed. Then the auxiliaries when conjugated become as shown below;

Subject Pronounswerden (würden)haben (hätten)sein(wären)
ich
du
er/sie/es
wir
ihr
sie/Sie
würde
würdest
würde
würden
würdet
würden
hätte
hättest
hätte
hätten
hättet
hätten
wäre
wärest
wäre
wären
wäret
wären
Translationwouldwould havewould be
Konjunctive II of haben, sein and werden

The subjunctive II of haben and sein can either be translated as “would have” and “had” or “would be” and “were” respectively in English. Take for instance;

Usage
1. If I were a man…–– wenn ich ein Mann wäre,…

2. If you were the president…–– wenn du der Präsident wärest,…

3. If she had money…–– wenn sie Geld hätte,…

4. That would be better.–– das wäre besser.

5. My mother would like to have some salad.–– meine Mutter hätte gern etwas Salat.

6. What would you like to have?–– was hättest du gern? was würdest du gern haben?

It is important to note that würden as an auxiliary is not used alone like hätten and wären. That is, you can’t say “Ich würde einen Mann” as that would literally mean “I would a man“. Rather, it is used as a help-verb or a stepping stone for german main verbs in the subjunctive II since the subjunctive II form of these main verbs are not often used, most especially in spoken german, würden is then conjugated to the subject while the infinite non-subjunctive II form of the verb is placed at the end. See the illustration below.

Usage
1. Ich würde ein schönes Haus kaufen, wenn ich sehr reich wäre.–– I would buy a beautiful house if i were very rich.

2. Ich würde gehen.–– I would go.

3. Sie würden Fußball spielen.–– they would play football.

Subjunctive II of modal verbs

The subjunctive II of modal verbs can be formed on one hand from their present tense by first detaching the verb-ending and substituting it with a “t”. On the other hand, they are formed from their known Präteritum and switching of the stem vowel with the umlaut variant with exception of sollen and wollen as shown in the table below before adding the conjugating suffix from above. In a subjunctive II sentence that contains a modal verb, the modal verb is conjugated to the subject while the second verb is placed at the end of the clause.

Infinitive Method 1 (Präsens)Method 2 (Präteritum)Konjunctive II 3rd personTranslation
können
müssen
mögen
dürfen
wollen
sollen
könnt
müsst
möcht
dürft
wollt
sollt
konnt- (ö)
musst- (ü)
mocht- (ö)
durft- (ü)
wollt-
sollt-
könnte
müsste
möchte
dürfte
wollte
sollte
could/ would be able to
would have to
would like to
would be allowed to
would want
should
Konjunctive II of german modal verbs
Usage
1. Wenn ihr drei Sprachen sprechen könntet, dann wäret ihr Linguisten.–– if you guys could speak three languages, then you would be linguists.

2. Mein Vater hätte keine Freundin, wenn er nicht heiraten wollte.–– my father would not have a girlfriend if he wouldn’t want to get married.

3. Sabine möchte gern Reis essen.–– Sabine would like to eat rice.

4. Wir sollten nichts kochen, wenn kein Besucher da .–ist– we shouldn’t cook anything when there would be no visitor.

5. Wenn ich Erwachsene wäre, könnte ich auf mich aufpassen.–– if i were an adult, i could be able to look after myself.

Subjunctive II of main verbs

The subjunctive II of german main verbs are equally formed from their präteritum with some irregularities. Strong (unregelmäßig) verbs that contain the vowels a, o and u in their präteritum have their vowels replaced with the umlaut variant while those with other vowels and diphthongs stay the same. Weak (regelmäßig) verbs are exactly the same in their subjunctive II as the präteritum. See the examples of main verbs in the subjunctive below…

PräsensPräteritum Subjunctive IITranslation
kommen
warten
suchen
sehen
fahren
schließen
gehen
heiraten
anfangen
fallen
verkaufen
kam
wartet-
sucht-
sah
fuhr
schloss
ging
heiratet-
fing… an
fiel
verkauft-
käm-
wartet-
sucht-
säh-
führ-
schlöss-
ging-
heirat-
fing-… an
fiel-
verkauft-
would come
would wait
would search
would see
would drive
would close
would go
would marry
would start
would fall
would sell
Konjunktiv II of german Main Verbs
Usage
1. I would come if only I had time.–– ich käme, wenn ich nur Zeit hätte.

2. They would drive the car to Berlin if they wanted.–– sie führen das Auto nach Berlin, wenn sie wollten.

The above form of subjunctive II is barely used in german. Instead of this, they form their subjunctive II with the help of the auxiliary würden. Where würden is conjugated to the subject while the infinite form of the main verb is placed at the end of the sentence or clause. For example;

Usage
1. Wenn sie ein Auto hätte, würde sie nicht auf dich warten.–– if she had a car, she wouldn’t wait for you.

2. Wenn du etwas Geld von meiner Tante wolltest, würdest du sie einfach fragen.––if you wanted some money from my aunt, you would simply ask her.

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