The subjunctive I form, also known as present subjunctive or special subjunctive (Konjunktiv I) is a grammatical form that is mostly used when making statements as indirect speech.
But what IS indirect speech?
Indirect speech takes place when someone repeats something that someone else said; it’s when you quote someone but indirectly.
Der Lehrer sagt: „Deutschlernen ist leicht.” (=Indikativ, oder „Normalmodus”)
The teacher says: "Learning German is easy." (=Indicative or "normal" speech)
Du erzählst Anna: „Mein Lehrer sagt, Deutschlernen sei leicht.” (=Konjunktiv)
You tell Anna: "My teacher says learning German be (is) easy".
If this looks tricky, don't worry: The good news, however, is that the subjunctive is rarely used in German!
You are most likely to come across it in the news on TV or in newspapers.
This is how it works:
leben in Subjunctive I, Konjunktiv I
(same as indicative!)
The subjunctive I is often replaced by the subjunctive II. This is often the case because it’s not always possible to differentiate the subjunctive I and the indicative:
In der Zeitung steht, Heidi Klum ernähre sich hauptsächlich von Protein-Shakes und immer mehr Prominente leben vegetarisch.
It says in the newspaper that Heidi Klum lives mostly on protein shakes and more and more celebrities "live" vegetarian.
Leben looks exactly the same as it would be in the indicative, so it can be changed to the subjunctive II for the sake of clarity Konjunktiv II = würden leben
→... und immer mehr Prominente würden vegetarisch leben.
Past form of the subjunctive I
There is only one form of indirect speech in the past.
To construct it, we take the subjunctive I (or II) from the verbs sein and haben (to be and to have) + perfect particilpe (Partizip Perfekt).
The point in time when the sentence is uttered is independent of the point in time in the indirect speech.
Sein is, as usual, irregular:
Haben is regular. If you can’t tell if the subjunctive I is being used or not because it’s identical to the indicative, you should use subjunctive II instead´:
haben in subjunctive I
habe → same as indicative,
so we use the subjunctive II ⇒ hätte
haben ⇒ hätten
haben ⇒ hätten
„Immer mehr Prominente haben sich im letzten Jahr für eine vegetarische Ernährung entschieden.“
Ich habe in einem Artikel gelesen, immer mehr Prominente ⇒ haben hätten sich für eine vegetarische Ernährung entschieden.
The most usual form of the subjunctive I that you are likely to come across is the one in the 3rd person singular (er, sie, es, man). For the other grammatical persons, it is more common to use subjunctive II to avoid misunderstandings.
That's it! You're now on your way to conquering the subjunctive :)