German Concepts Explained /

Subjunctive II

Remember when we were learning basic restaurant conversation and we used:
Ich hätte gern ein Bier.
I would like to have a beer.
There is something called Konjunktiv II and we used it, for example, to:
  • make friendly requests
  • express wishes
  • make suggestions
  • give advice
The good news is that, as in English, the Konjunktiv II is built with an auxiliary verb:
Ich esse.
Ich würde essen.
Du isst.
Du würdest essen.
Er/Sie/Es isst.
Er/Sie/Es würde essen.
Wir essen.
Wir würden essen.
Ihr esst.
Ihr würdet essen.
Sie essen.
Sie würden essen.
I would eat, you would eat, he would eat, ... Okay, in English "would" stays the same, but the endings here are almost entirely the same as the ones used in the present tense conjugation. Can you spot the one and only difference?
It's in the "er/sie/es conjugation" (3rd. Person Singular):
er/sie/es würdeter/sie/es würde
I'm wondering why we say "Ich hätte gern" instead of "Ich würde gern haben"?
Great question! It's more common for some verbs to have their own Konjuktiv II forms, they want to be independent, so to speak.
These are the most important ones for now:
Ich würde haben
Ich hätte
Ich würde sein
Ich wäre
Ich würde können
Ich könnte
While those two forms mean grammatically the same, no one ever uses the longer ones with würden.
Here are some examples:
Könntet ihr bitte warten?
Could you please wait?
Das wäre falsch.
That would be a mistake.
Würden Sie bitte zurückrufen?
Would you call me back?