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Subjunctive II

How to Form the “Past” Subjunctive

Konjunktiv II

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  Verbs > Subjunctive II - Intro > How to Form the Subj. II > Quiz

This is the continuation of our feature on the Subjunctive II in German and WHEN to use it. This part discusses HOW to form the Konjunktiv II (Subjunctive II).

Only after reviewing this page, you are invited to take our self-scoring Subjunctive II Quiz.

How Do You Form the Subjunctive II?
The Konjunktiv II is usually formed by adding an Umlaut ( ¨ ) to the vowel (a, o, or u ONLY) in the imperfect (simple past, preterite) form of the verb... and adding an -e (if there isn't one already; -en in the plural). Exception: The modals sollen and wollen do NOT add an umlaut in the subjunctive.

Four Examples:

haben to have (infinitive)
hatte had (imperfect, simple past)
hätte would have/had (Subjunctive II)

mögen to like (infinitive)
mochte liked (imperfect, simple past)
möchte would like (Subjunctive II)

gehen to go (infinitive)
ging went (imperfect, simple past)
ginge would go/gone (Subjunctive II)

sein to be (infinitive)
war was (imperfect, simple past)
wäre would be/were (Subjunctive II)

The most commonly used subjunctive forms are those for haben and sein and the modal verbs (e.g., möchte, könnte). For most other verbs, the würde (would) + infinitive combination (subjunctive substitution) is used.

Although technically every German verb has a subjunctive form, in practice the würde-subjunctive substitution is used for most verbs other than those named above. For example, instead of ginge (would go), more often one hears würde gehen (would go). This is particularly true for plural forms in which the subjunctive and the imperfect forms are identical: wir gingen (we went - imperfect, past) and wir gingen (we would have gone - subjunctive).

Example:
Wenn das Wetter schön wäre, gingen wir zum Strand. (Subjunctive II)
Wenn das Wetter schön wäre, würden wir zum Strand gehen. (würden + infin.)
If the weather were nice, we'd go to the beach.

This has the practical result that most learners need only learn the subjunctive forms of haben, sein and the modal verbs. For most other verbs they can just use the würde + infinitive construction. NOTE: The würde construction is NEVER used for haben, sein, or the modal verbs.

Subjunctive II of haben, sein,
the modals, and werden

ich/er du wir/sie ihr
hätte hättest hätten hättet
wäre wärest wären wäret
dürfte dürftest dürften dürftet
könnte könntest könnten könntet
müßte müßtest müßten müßtet
sollte solltest sollten solltet
wollte wolltest wollten wolltet
würde würdest würden würdet

Other Tenses
As we explained in Part One, the Subjunctive II is a verb mood, not a tense. The subjunctive can be used in any tense, present, past, or future. To form the various tenses in the subjunctive, the verbs haben, sein, and werden (in their subjunctive forms) are used to form a compound tense. Here are a few examples:

Hättest du Lust, mit uns zu gehen?
Do you feel like going with us? (present tense)
Ich wäre gern mit euch gegangen.
I would have liked to go with you guys. (past tense)
Wenn sie kein Geld gehabt hätte, wäre sie nicht nach Asien gefahren.
If she had not had the money, she wouldn't have gone to Asia. (past)
Ich würde es kaufen, wenn...
I would buy it if... (future/conditional)

Subjunctive II Quiz
Please make sure you have reviewed this page and Subjunctive II - Part One before taking this quiz.

BACK > Subjunctive II - Part One
MORE > Subjunctive I
MORE > Verb-Lexikon - Our German verb index

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  Verbs > Subjunctive II - Intro > How to Form the Subj. II > Quiz

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