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German Verbs: Subjunctive II
Konjunktiv II

GERMAN SUBJUNCTIVE and CONDITIONAL

German Verbs > Future > Subjunctive I > Subjunctive II

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The Subjunctive II and the Conditional
As we pointed out in Part 1, the subjunctive mood has two basic forms, one based on the present tense, the other based on the past. The “past subjunctive” is called the Konjunktiv II (Subjunctive II). While a passive knowledge of the Subjunctive I is adequate (being able to recognize it), it is important to be able to actively use the Subjunctive II, since it it used widely in conversation and in writing.

The Konjunktiv II is used to convey:
   (1) Doubt or uncertainty that something happened or will happen.
   (2) Politeness and courtesy, especially in formulaic phrases.
   (3) “Unreal” conditional situations: If this were so, then that.

You’ll want to learn the more common subjunctive forms (e.g., wäre, ginge, könnte, möchte, hätte, usw.) so you can both understand and use them actively yourself. See the examples below for more.

Subjunctive IIKonjunktiv II
Unlike the Konjunktiv I, the Konjunktiv II of strong/irregular verbs has unique forms for almost all persons and is used for more of them. If the one-word Subjunctive II form (based on the past tense) does not differ from the indicative (as with regular/weak verbs), the würde + infinitive conditional form is used and has the same meaning. (Würde is the Subjunctive II form of werden.) This is similar to a “would” phrase in English.
DEUTSCH ENGLISH
  SUBJUNCTIVE II EXAMPLES: CONDITIONAL (UNREAL)
  Hätten wir das Geld...   If we had the money...
  Wenn er das machen würde...   If he would do that...
  Wenn wir das gesehen hätten, dann...   If we had seen that, then...
  Wäre das der Fall...   If that were the case...
  SUBJUNCTIVE II EXAMPLES: POLITENESS
  Könntest du bitte...   Could you please...
  Möchten Sie Kaffee?   Would you like coffee?
  Hätten Sie Zeit...?   Would you have time...?
  SUBJUNCTIVE II EXAMPLES: DOUBT / UNCERTAINTY
  Ob es regnen würde...   Whether it will rain (or not)...
  Das dürfte die Karla
gewesen sein.
  That might have been Karla.
  Ich würde auch meinen, dass...   I’d also say that...
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How to form the Subjunctive II
The Subjunctive II form of strong (irregular) verbs and some modals is based on the simple past tense (imperfect) form plus an "e" or "en" ending. Past tense forms with an a, o, or u vowel add an umlaut in the subjunctive. Below are examples showing how to create the Subjunctive II forms.
NORMAL PAST (IMPERFECT) SUBJUNCTIVE II FORM
  dürfen > durfte (might)   dürfte = might be
  gehen > ging (went)   ginge = would go
  haben > hatte (had)   hätte = would have
  kommen > kam (came)   käme = would come
  können > konnte (could)   könnte = would be able
  laufen > lief (ran)   liefe = would run
  mögen > mochte (liked)   möchte = would like
  müssen > musste (had to)   müsste = would have to
  nehmen > nahm (took)   nähme = would take
  sein > war (was)   wäre = would be, were
  sprechen > sprach (spoke)   spräche = would speak
  wissen > wusste (knew)   wüsste = would know

 
The Subjunctive II can fill in for Subjunctive I
When using indirect speech (indirekte Rede, the “quotative”), if the Subjunctive I form does not look any different from the indicative, then the Subjunctive II form may be substituted. See Part I for more.

MORE > The Subjunctive in German (About.com)

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