What many German students don’t realise is that there are two subjunctives in the German language- Konjunktiv I (reported speech) and Konjunktiv II (the conditional tense). In this article, I explain what they are.
The first subjunctive (Konjunktiv I), also known as reported speech in German or “indirekte Rede”, is used to report the statement made by another person. It conveys neutrality and is common practice in journalism and formal contexts.
Der Politiker sagte, er habe davon nichts gewusst.
(The politician said he didn't know about it).
You'll find a detailed explanation of subjunctive I in German here.
The second subjunctive, also known as the conditional tense in German or Konjunktiv II is used for hypothetical statements, for polite requests, suggestions, and to give advice.
Was wäre, wenn er recht hätte?
(What if he were right?)
Check out my post on the subjunctive 2 in German here.
Even though the subjunctive in English has almost died out, in German the subjunctives are used quite widely. So it is important to learn it properly.
An earlier version of this blog post was published on medium.com