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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Konjunktiv 2 in German: What it is and why you are doing it WRONG!

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(Mr. Teacher) Good morning, students.

Today we are learning the subjunctive 2 (Konjunktiv 2).

The subjunctive 2 (Konjunktiv 2) expresses wishes, dreams and possibilities.

For example:

I wish I were there.

If I were rich, I could quit my job.

This video could go viral.

(Curious Antrim) Ok, I understand thatI wish I were there.” is a wish.

But cant you also say it this way: I wish I am there.

The subjunctive 2 (Konjunktiv 2) is gone, but the wish remains.

The verbwishexpresses the wish, right?

(Mr. Teacher) Ok, lets try the second sentence.

If I were rich, I could quit my job.

Here I am expressing a dream

oh yeah, if it werent for that little wordif”.

(Curious Antrim) Here you can also say: If I am rich, I can quit my job.

The subjunctive 2 (Konjunktiv 2) is gone, but the dream remains.

The conjunctionifexpresses a condition, namely that you are rich.

Since you arent really rich, the sentence expresses a dream or wish.

(Mr. Teacher) Well, then lets see what you say to the last sentence:

This video could go viral.

That is a possibility or a probability, whichever you prefer

(Curious Antrim) Um… *ehem*...

This video can go viral.

Subjunctive 2 (Konjunktiv 2) nada. Possibility still there.

The verbcanexpresses the possibility

or the probability, whichever you prefer.

(Mr. Teacher) Well, those are just a few isolated instances that you have found.

(Real Antrim) No, they arent! The Konjunktiv 2 or Subjunctive 2 in German does not express wishes, dreams, and possibilities.

It is ONLY used when you want to express something contrary to reality.

Today I will explain what the Konjunktiv 2 really is and how you really use it.

(Sarcastic Antrim) Took you long enough! You teased this video in March of last year!

(Real Antrim) Then I should probably get to the point instead of wasting time arguing with you.

Konjunktiv 2 in German: What it is and why you are doing it WRONG!

As I mentioned in the intro, Konjunktiv 2 is simply used to express irreality or things that are contrary to reality.

It shows you that whatever is expressed in the Konjunktiv 2 is not the way things are in reality.

The Konjunktiv 2 can be used anytime that the indicative can be used

(You know, the normal stuff you are probably used to)

and conversely the indicative can be used where the Konjunktiv 2 is.

It is simply a question ofwhat do you want to express?”

If you want to express that this event, action, or condition is not real, use Konjunktiv 2.

If you want to express that this event, action or condition is real, will be real or even could be real, you use the indicative.

You dont need to know whether something is actually real.

It is just a matter of whether you want to express that reality or not.

For example:

Harry Potter is written almost exclusively in the indicative mood

even though none of it is real.

Sorry if I just ruined your dream of going to Hogwarts.

Wishes, dreams and possibilities are all expressed through context and grammatical structures

that are not directly expressed through the Konjunktiv 2.

Wishes, most often, are expressed with the verbwünschen”, which is just as often used in the indicative as it is the Konjunktiv 2.

Dreams and possibilities are often expressed with the conjunctionwenn”.

These, again, can be expressed either with the Konjunktiv 2 or without it.

Lets see some examples to drive this home.

Ich wünschte, ich hätte eine Katze. - I wish I had a cat.

This sentence shows a wish,

but the only part of the sentence that is expressing thewishingaspect is the verbwünschen”.

The Konjunktiv 2 in the verbhabenor more preciselyhätte

just shows us that I dont in fact have a cat.

(Mr. Teacher) If the Konjunktiv 2 is used to express irreality,

why iswünschenalso written in the Konjunktiv 2?

It isntWere I to wish something, Id wish I had a cat.”

It is simplyI wish I had a cat.”

(Herr Antrim) This is actually just matching moods and tenses to make the sentence sound better.

It is the same reason that you dont often hear people mix the Perfekt with the Präteritum in the same sentence.

It just sounds better that way even though the grammar says it shouldnt necessarily be that way.

The point is this: grammatical structures need to be clear in their purpose

and make the person understood without a doubt

or it loses its usefulness and consequently dies out.

The Konjunktiv 2 is alive and well, which means it does have a purpose.

The problem is that people assume the Konjunktiv 2 is showing the wish, dream or possibility,

when in fact, other things in the sentence do that.

The Konjunktiv 2s only function is to express irreality.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

You will often see the Konjunktiv 2 used with the conjunctionwenn”,

as this introduces a condition.

If that condition is not met, the situation needs to be expressed in the Konjunktiv 2, as it isnt real.

If the condition is met, you simply use the indicative like normal. For example:

Wenn ich zu Hause wäre, würde ich mir die Schuhe ausziehen. - If I were at home, I would take off my shoes.

Wenn ich zu Hause bin, ziehe ich mir die Schuhe aus. - If I am at home, I take off my shoes.

In the first one, I am not at home and the Konjunktiv 2 points this out.

In the second one, it indicates any occasion when I am at home, which is a real situation, which requires the indicative.

Lets try another.

Wenn ich mehr Geld hätte, würde ich mehr Geld ausgeben.

If I had more money, I would spend more money.

Wenn ich mehr Geld habe, gebe ich mehr Geld aus.

If I have more money, I spend more money.

Again, the first one shows you that I dont have more money,

but the second shows that when the condition of having more money is met, I spend more of it.

(Curious Antrim) Super. Weve established that my teacher is wrong on thewhypart of the lesson,

but can we get to thehowpart? I still need to learn the Konjunktiv 2 for the chapter test in Herr Dummkopfs class.

The easy way to form the Konjunktiv 2 is to start with the verbwerden”.

You have to conjugatewerdenin the Konjunktiv 2 and put the other verb you want to use at the end of the clause or sentence.

For example:

Ich würde ein Pony kaufen. - I would buy a pony.

The forms ofwerdenthat you need for the Konjunktiv 2 are as follows:

ich würde - I would

du würdest - you would

er, sie, es würde - he, she, it would

wir würden - we would

ihr würdet - you would

sie, Sie würden - they, you would

The second option for forming the Konjunktiv 2 is to use the actual Konjunktiv 2 version of the verb you need.

Every verb in German has a Konjunktiv 2 version,

but not all of them are used in the Konjunktiv 2,

as the Präteritum indicative form of regular verbs are identical to the Konjunktiv 2 version.

For this reason, most people default to thewürden” + infinitive constructions.

If you do use the Konjunktiv 2 version of a verb, it will very often include an umlaut in the stem of the verb that wasnt there in the Präteritum.

For example:

seinin Präteritum indicative iswar”.

Add an umlaut and some endings to make the Konjunktiv 2.

ich wäre - I were

du wärest - you were

er, sie, es wäre - he, she, it were

wir wären - we were

ihr wäret - you were

sie, Sie wären - they, you were

habenin Präteritum indicative ishatte”.

Add an umlaut and some endings to make the Konjunktiv 2.

ich hätte - I had

du hättest - you had

er, sie, es hätte - he, she, it had

wir hätten - we had

ihr hättet - you had

sie, Sie hätten - they, you had

findenin Präteritum indicative isfand”.

Add an umlaut and some endings to make the Konjunktiv 2.

Ich fände das schön. - I would find that beautiful/great.

Was fändest du toll? - What would you think is great?

Wenn er seine Augen öffnen würde, fände er seine Schlüssel.

If he would open his eyes, he would find his keys.

Wir fänden keine Pinguine am Nordpol.

We wouldnt find any penguins at the north pole.

Ihr fändet die Antworten im Buch.

You would find the answers in the book.

Die Schüler fänden die Lektion leichter, wenn Herr Antrim dort wäre.

The students would find the lesson easier, if Herr Antrim were there.

Using the Konjunktiv 2 with modal auxiliaries works the same way,

but obviously you have the option of adding another verb to the mix,

which will be in the infinitive form at the end of the clause or sentence.

Ich dürfte kein Eis essen, wenn ich laktoseintolerant wäre.

I wouldnt be allowed to eat ice cream if I were lactose intolerant.

Könntest du bitte leise kauen? - Could you please chew quietly?

Er sollte ins Bett gehen. - He should go to bed.

Note that there are no umlauts in the forms for "sollen" in the Konjunktiv 2.

Wir müssten das nicht tun. - We wouldnt have to do that.

Was wolltet ihr Einstein fragen? - What would you want to ask Einstein?

Again notice that there are no umlauts in the forms of "wollen" in the Konjunktiv 2.

Möchten Sie etwas trinken? - Would you like something to drink?

Lots of textbooks will use this as if it is its own verb,

because nowadays most people dont understand thatmöchtenis actually the Konjunktiv 2 version ofmögen”,

but rather a softened version ofwollen”.

You get the general idea by now.

If you are unsure if you should use thewürden” + infinitive construction or the simple past + umlauts construction,

choose thewürden” + infinitive format.

It is the more common option and avoid you using some weird form of a verb that you are unsure of.

All of what I have told you so far is about the Konjunktiv 2 is in the present tense.

If you want to talk about the future in the Konjunktiv 2,

simply use thewürden” + infinitive construction I mentioned before.

If you want to talk about the past, however, unlike in the indicative,

there is only one past tense with the Konjunktiv 2.

Start with the Perfekt tense.

This will give you the past participle you need at the end of the sentence

and your helping verb, eitherhabenorsein”.

Then conjugate the helping verbhabenorseinin the Konjunktiv 2

and formulate the rest of your sentence like you would in the Perfekt tense.

For example:

Hätte er den ganzen Kuchen nicht gegessen, hätte er keine Bauchschmerzen.

Had he not eaten the entire cake, he wouldnt have a stomach ache.

Wären wir nicht ins Kino gegangen, hätten wir unseren Chef nicht getroffen.

Had we not gone to the movie theater, we wouldnt have met our boss.

Now lets back up and make sure we are all on the same page.

Konjunktiv 2 does not express dreams, wishes, or possibilities.

It simply expresses something that is contrary to reality.

This is often used with dreams, wishes, and possibilities,

as they are most often contrary to reality.

When using the Konjunktiv 2, it is important to remember that it isnt necessary for you to know

if the situation is real or not, but rather do you want to express that it is unreal.

If you need more help with the uses of the verbwerdenboth with the Konjunktiv 2 and in other uses, I have a video here for that.

If you need help with the Perfekt tense, which is used to build the basis of the past tense in Konjunktiv 2, you can watch that over here.

If you need help with a variety of other topics mentioned in this video, I have a ton of links in the description that can help you along.

Das ist alles für heute. Danke fürs Zuschauen. Bis zum nächsten Mal. Tschüss.

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