Everything about German Verbs
Verbs are the most important part of learning German. Learn More.

Learn the German Conditional

There are two different ways to form the Conditional Mood (or Konjunctiv II & I) in German). There is a fully conjugated form or Simple Conditional, and there is also a Compound Conditional form that uses werden as a helper verb.

When to use the German Conditional

  1. When talking about some hypothetical or imaginary situations.
    • Das wäre besonders widerwärtig. → That would be especially repulsive.
  2. To make requests sound more polite.
    • Könnten Sie mein Bier passieren? → Could you pass me my beer?
  3. With “if-then” type statements.
    • Wenn es regnet, bleibe ich zu Hause. → If it rains, I am staying home.
  4. Various other “conditional” type circumstances.
    • Hätte ich gewusst, hätte ich dir einen Kaffee gekauft. → Had I known, I would have bought you a coffee.

The most important verbs to remember for the conditional form are the Auxiliary verbs. Especially keep an eye on the conjugation for werden.

Auxiliary Verbs conjugated in the German Conditional Mood

 be 
sein volume_up volume_up
ichwäre volume_up volume_up
duwärest volume_up volume_up
erwäre volume_up volume_up
wirwären volume_up volume_up
ihrwäret volume_up volume_up
siewären volume_up volume_up
 have 
haben volume_up volume_up
ichhätte volume_up volume_up
duhättest volume_up volume_up
erhätte volume_up volume_up
wirhätten volume_up volume_up
ihrhättet volume_up volume_up
siehätten volume_up volume_up
 will 
werden volume_up volume_up
ichwürde volume_up volume_up
duwürdest volume_up volume_up
erwürde volume_up volume_up
wirwürden volume_up volume_up
ihrwürdet volume_up volume_up
siewürden volume_up volume_up

You can see that these conjugations all add an umlaut to the Simple Past form of the verb. It is most important to remember the conjugation of werden, because for most verbs the conditional is formed using the conjugated form of werden and the infinitive.

 go 
gehen volume_up volume_up
  • ich
  • du
  • er
  • wir
  • ihr
  • sie
  • würde
  • würdest
  • würde
  • würden
  • würdet
  • würden
  • gehen
  • gehen
  • gehen
  • gehen
  • gehen
  • gehen
 pay 
bezahlen volume_up volume_up
  • ich
  • du
  • er
  • wir
  • ihr
  • sie
  • würde
  • würdest
  • würde
  • würden
  • würdet
  • würden
  • bezahlen
  • bezahlen
  • bezahlen
  • bezahlen
  • bezahlen
  • bezahlen

The other main conditional conjugation to remember is for the modal verbs. These are used quite frequently.

Modal Verbs conjugated in the German Conditional Mood

 be able 
können volume_up volume_up
ichkönnte volume_up volume_up
dukönntest volume_up volume_up
erkönnte volume_up volume_up
wirkönnten volume_up volume_up
ihrkönntet volume_up volume_up
siekönnten volume_up volume_up
 should 
sollen volume_up volume_up
ichsollte volume_up volume_up
dusolltest volume_up volume_up
ersollte volume_up volume_up
wirsollten volume_up volume_up
ihrsolltet volume_up volume_up
siesollten volume_up volume_up
 want 
wollen volume_up volume_up
ichwollte volume_up volume_up
duwolltest volume_up volume_up
erwollte volume_up volume_up
wirwollten volume_up volume_up
ihrwolltet volume_up volume_up
siewollten volume_up volume_up
 have to 
müssen volume_up volume_up
ichmüsste volume_up volume_up
dumüsstest volume_up volume_up
ermüsste volume_up volume_up
wirmüssten volume_up volume_up
ihrmüsstet volume_up volume_up
siemüssten volume_up volume_up
 be allowed 
dürfen volume_up volume_up
ichdürfte volume_up volume_up
dudürftest volume_up volume_up
erdürfte volume_up volume_up
wirdürften volume_up volume_up
ihrdürftet volume_up volume_up
siedürften volume_up volume_up
 like 
mögen volume_up volume_up
ichmöchte volume_up volume_up
dumöchtest volume_up volume_up
ermöchte volume_up volume_up
wirmöchten volume_up volume_up
ihrmöchtet volume_up volume_up
siemöchten volume_up volume_up

For the remaining verbs, the conjugated form of the Conditional is less common, however you may still see it from time to time. Just remeber that it will be almost identical to the Simple Past tense except with an umlaut change.

Attributed Speech

There is a second type of conditional mood that is primarily only used in newspapers and writing, so it’s not critical to learn but it is worth mentioning. You use this form of the conditional to distance oneself from the action being spoken about.

It’s probably used most often with sein and haben.

Examples of sein and haben conjugated in Attribution (Conditional)

 be 
sein volume_up volume_up
ichsei volume_up volume_up
duseiest volume_up volume_up
ersei volume_up volume_up
wirseien volume_up volume_up
ihrseiet volume_up volume_up
sieseien volume_up volume_up
 have 
haben volume_up volume_up
ichhabe volume_up volume_up
duhabest volume_up volume_up
erhabe volume_up volume_up
wirhaben volume_up volume_up
ihrhabet volume_up volume_up
siehaben volume_up volume_up

All other verbs conjugated in this form follow a pretty straight forward pattern. Here are some examples of the types of verbs that you will likely see conjugated in this fashion.

Examples of common verbs conjugated in Attribution (Conditional)

 say 
sagen volume_up volume_up
ichsage volume_up volume_up
dusagest volume_up volume_up
ersage volume_up volume_up
wirsagen volume_up volume_up
ihrsaget volume_up volume_up
siesagen volume_up volume_up
 hear 
hören volume_up volume_up
ichhöre volume_up volume_up
duhörest volume_up volume_up
erhöre volume_up volume_up
wirhören volume_up volume_up
ihrhöret volume_up volume_up
siehören volume_up volume_up
 read 
lesen volume_up volume_up
ichlese volume_up volume_up
dulesest volume_up volume_up
erlese volume_up volume_up
wirlesen volume_up volume_up
ihrleset volume_up volume_up
sielesen volume_up volume_up

References

  1. The General Subjunctive Mood (der Konjunctiv II) - dartmouth.edu
  2. The Special Subjunctive Mood (der Konjunktiv I) - dartmouth.edu
  3. The Konjunctiv Moods - germanforenglishspeakers.com
  4. The Subjunctive II (Konjunktiv II) in German - germanveryeasy.com
  5. The Subjunctive I (Konjunktiv I) in German - germanveryeasy.com