Konjunktiv 2 Mastery: Usage & Formation in Past, Present, Future

In this lesson I will explain the Konjunktiv 2 in German. You will learn how to form the Konjunktiv 2 and when to use it. You will also learn how to use the Konjunktiv 2 in the Präsens (present tense), Futur (future tense), and Vergangenheit (past tense). If you are looking for a particular topic within the scope of the Konjunktiv 2 in German, you should take a look at the table of contents below the bunnies.

If you just started learning German, close this tab now. You are about to see a part of the rabbit hole that you are not supposed to see for a long time. If you think you can handle this topic, enjoy the image of the bunnies below, because that will be the most pleasant thing about this post.

Konjunktiv 2 Skit –
Sketch mit Konjunktiv 2

Konjunktiv 2 Mastery: Usage & Formation in Past, Present, Future

Before we get into the weeds of the Konjunktiv 2, we need to dispel some rumors you may have heard about it. Since it is often pretty boring to just read these things, I have created a skit for that. You can watch the skit in the video above or read along in the script below.

Typical Konjunktiv 2 Examples –
Typische Beispiele im Konjunktiv 2

(Herr Lehrer) Guten Morgen, Schüler. Heute lernen wir den Konjunktiv 2. Der Konjunktiv 2 drückt Wünsche, Träume und Möglichkeiten aus. Zum Beispiel:
Good morning, students. Today we are learning the Konjunktiv 2. The Konjunktiv 2 expresses wishes, dreams and possibilities. For example:

Ich wünschte, ich wäre da.
I wish I were there.

Wenn ich reich wäre, könnte ich meinen Job kündigen.
If I were rich, I could quit my job.

Dieses Video könnte viral gehen.
This video could go viral.

Does the Konjunktiv 2 really express wishes? –
Drückt der Konjunktiv 2 wirklich Wünsche aus?

(Curious Antrim) Ok, verstehe, “Ich wünschte, ich wäre da.” ist ein Wunsch. Aber kann man das nicht auch so sagen: Ich wünsche mir, ich bin da. Der Konjunktiv 2 ist raus, aber der Wunsch bleibt. Das Verb “wünschen” drückt also den Wunsch aus, oder? 
Ok, I understand “I wish I were there.” is a wish. But can’t you also say it this way: I wish, I am there. The Konjunktiv 2 is gone, but the wish remains. The verb “wünschen” (to wish) expresses the wish, right?

Does the Konjunktiv 2 really express dreams? –
Drückt der Konjunktiv 2 wirklich Träume aus?

(Herr Lehrer) Ok, versuchen wir den zweiten Satz: Wenn ich reich wäre, könnte ich meinen Job kündigen. – If I were rich, I could quit my job. Hier drücke ich einen Traum aus…ach ja, wenn das Wörtchen “wenn” nicht wär…
Ok, let’s try the second sentence: If I were rich, I could quit my job. – Wenn ich reich wäre, könnte ich meinen Job kündigen. Here we are expressing a dream… oh, if it weren’t for that little word “wenn” (if).

(Curious Antrim) Hier könnte man aber auch sagen: Wenn ich reich bin, kann ich meinen Job kündigen. – If I am rich, I can quit my job. Wieder ist der Konjunktiv 2 weg, aber der Traum bleibt. Die Konjunktion “wenn” drückt eine Bedingung aus, nämlich dass Sie reich sind. Da Sie nicht wirklich reich sind, drückt der Satz einen Traum oder Wunsch aus.
Here we could say: If I am rich, I can quit my job. – Wenn ich reich bin, kann ich meinen Job kündigen. Again the Konjunktiv 2 is gone, but the dream remains. The conjunction “wenn” (if) expresses a condition, namely that you are rich. Because you aren’t really rich, the sentence expresses a dream or a wish.

Does Konjunktiv really express possibilities? –
Drückt der Konjunktiv 2 wirklich Möglichkeiten aus?

(Herr Lehrer) Gut, dann sehen wir mal was du zu dem letzten Satz sagst: Dieses Video könnte viral gehen. – This video could go viral. Das ist eine Möglichkeit oder Wahrscheinlichkeit, was dir lieber ist…
Fine, let’s see what you say to the last sentence: This video could go viral. – Dieses Video könnte viral gehen. That is a possibility or a probability, whichever you prefer.

(Curious Antrim) Ähm…*räusper*…Dieses Video kann viral gehen. Konjunktiv 2 nada, Möglichkeit noch da. Das Verb “können” drückt die Möglichkeit aus… oder Wahrscheinlichkeit, was Ihnen lieber ist. 
Um… *ehm*… This video can go viral. Konjunktiv 2 nada, possibility still there. The verb “können” (can) expresses the possibility… or probability, whichever you prefer.

(Herr Lehrer) Gut, das sind aber nur Einzelfälle, die du da gefunden hast.
Well, those are just isolated instances you have identified.

Hört auf mit diesem Wahnsinn!

(Real Antrim) No, they aren’t! The Konjunktiv 2 or Subjunctive 2 in German does not express wishes, dreams, and possibilities. It is ONLY used when you want to express something contrary to reality. Today I will explain what the Konjunktiv 2 really is and how you really use it. 

(Sarcastic Antrim) Took you long enough! You teased this video in March of last year

(Real Antrim) Then I should probably get to the point instead of wasting time arguing with you. 

When is the Konjunktiv 2 really used? –
Wann wird der Konjunktiv 2 wirklich benutzt?

As I mentioned in the intro, Konjunktiv 2 is simply used to express irreality or things that are contrary to reality. It shows you that whatever is expressed in the Konjunktiv 2 is not the way things are in reality. The Konjunktiv 2 can be used anytime that the indicative can be used (normal stuff you are probably used to) and conversely the indicative can be used where the Konjunktiv 2 is.

It is simply a question of “what do you want to express?” If you want to express that this event, action, or condition is not real, use Konjunktiv 2. If you want to express that this event, action or condition is real, will be real or even could be real, you use the indicative.

You don’t need to know whether something is actually real. It is just a matter of whether you want to express that reality or not. For example: Harry Potter is written almost exclusively in the indicative mood even though none of it is real. Sorry if I just ruined your dream of going to Hogwarts. 

Wishes, dreams and possibilities are all expressed through context and grammatical structures that are not directly expressed through the Konjunktiv 2. Wishes, most often, are expressed with the verb “wünschen”, which is just as often used in the indicative as it is the Konjunktiv 2. Dreams and possibilities are often expressed with the conjunction “wenn”. These, again, can be expressed either with the Konjunktiv 2 or without it. Let’s see some examples to drive this home. 

Wishes –

Ich wünschte, ich hätte eine Katze.
I wish I had a cat. 

This sentence shows a wish, but the only part of the sentence that is expressing the “wishing” aspect is the verb “wünschen”. The Konjunktiv 2 in the verb “haben” or more precisely “hätte” just shows us that I don’t in fact have a cat.

(Herr Lehrer) If the Konjunktiv 2 is used to express irreality, why is “wünschen” also written in the Konjunktiv 2? It isn’t “Were I to wish something, I’d wish I had a cat.” It is simply “I wish I had a cat.” 

This is actually just matching moods and tenses to make the sentence sound better. It is the same reason that you don’t often hear people mix the Perfekt with the Präteritum in the same sentence. It just sounds better that way even though the grammar says it shouldn’t necessarily be that way. 

The point is this: grammatical structures need to be clear in their purpose and make the person understood without a doubt or it loses its usefulness and consequently dies out. The Konjunktiv 2 is alive and well, which means it does have a purpose. The problem is that people assume the Konjunktiv 2 is showing the wish, dream or possibility, when in fact, other things in the sentence do that. The Konjunktiv 2’s only function is to express irreality. Nothing more. Nothing less. 

Dreams & Possibilities –
Träume und Möglichkeiten

You will often see the Konjunktiv 2 used with the conjunction “wenn”, as this introduces a condition. If that condition is not met, the situation needs to be expressed in the Konjunktiv 2, as it isn’t real. If the condition is met, you simply use the indicative like normal. For example: 

Wenn ich zu Hause wäre, würde ich mir die Schuhe ausziehen.
If I were at home, I would take off my shoes. 

Wenn ich zu Hause bin, ziehe ich mir die Schuhe aus.
If I am at home, I take off my shoes. 

In the first one, I am not at home and the Konjunktiv 2 points this out. In the second one, it indicates any occasion when I am at home, which is a real situation, which requires the indicative. Let’s try another. 

Wenn ich mehr Geld hätte, würde ich mehr Geld ausgeben.
If I had more money, I would spend more money. 

Wenn ich mehr Geld habe, gebe ich mehr Geld aus.
If I have more money, I spend more money. 

Again, the first one shows you that I don’t have more money, but the second shows that when the condition of having more money is met, I spend more of it. 

Politeness –

The Konjunktiv 2 is often used to show politeness. Because it illustrates something that is contrary to reality, it gives the listener the choice of doing the action or not. For example:

Würden Sie mir bitte eine Tasse Tee bringen?
Would you please bring me a cup of tea?

While the word “bitte” is actually what makes this sentence express politeness, it is aided by the Konjunktiv 2. The entire sentence is relegated to the hypothetical, which makes it less of a command and more of a request. This is the same reason that “möchten” is considered to be more polite than “wollen“, as it is the Konjunktiv 2 of “mögen”.

Irony & Sarcasm –
Ironie & Sarkasmus

You can be rude with any kind of sentence in any language. It simply depends upon how you phrase things and your intonation of the expression. In order to use the Konjunktiv 2 with irony and sarcasm, you simply form something as if it were a polite request, but add in some flair to make it sound like you are being mean or spiteful towards the other person.

Würdest du bitte im Betrieb spielen?
Would you please play in traffic?

Indicative Tenses

What you have more than likely learned up until this point in your German learning is the indicative mood and all of its tenses. You have probably also learned the command form or the imperative, which is technically another mood. While tenses indicate when something happened, moods indicate the manner in which it was done. The indicative mood can be used in 6 tenses. For example:

Präsens – Present Tense
Ich esse Kekse.
I am eating cookies.

Perfekt – Present Perfect (Spoken Past)
Ich habe Kekse gegessen.
I ate cookies.

Präteritum – Preterite (Simple Past, Written Past)
Ich aß Kekse.
I ate cookies.

Plusquamperfekt – Pluperfect (Past Perfect)
Ich hatte Kekse gegessen.
I had eaten cookies.

Futur 1 – Future
Ich werde Kekse essen.
I will eat cookies.

Futur 2 – Future Perfect
Ich werde Kekse gegessen haben.
I will have eaten cookies.

Tenses of the Konjunktiv 2

The subjunctive (Konjunktiv II) is used with things that aren’t currently happening, might have happened in the past, or might happen in the future. For that reason, there are only three tenses for the Konjunktiv 2; present, future, past. Here are a few examples:

Präsens oder Futur – Present or Future
Wenn ich Hunger hätte, würde Kekse essen.
If I had hunger, I would eat cookies.

Vergangenheit – Past
Wenn ich Hunger gehabt hätte, hätte ich Kekse gegessen.
If I had had hunger, I would have eaten cookies.

How Do You Form the Konjunktiv 2 with “würden”? –
Wie wird den Konjunktiv 2 mit “würden” gebildet?

Subjunctive 2 with "würden" - 3 Minuten Deutsch #69 - Deutsch lernen

(Curious Antrim) Super. We’ve established that my teacher is wrong on the “why” part of the lesson, but can we get to the “how” part? I still need to learn the Konjunktiv 2 for the chapter test in Herr Dummkopf’s class. 

Certainly. The easy way to form the Konjunktiv 2 is to start with the verb “werden”. You have to conjugate “werden” in the Konjunktiv 2 and put the other verb you want to use at the end of the clause or sentence in the infinitive form. For example:

Ich würde ein Pony kaufen.
I would buy a pony. 

Forms of “würden” –
Formen von “würden”

The forms of “werden” that you need for the Konjunktiv 2 are as follows: 

ich würde – I would 
du würdest – you would 
er, sie, es würde – he, she, it would 
wir würden – we would 
ihr würdet – you would 
sie, Sie würden – they, you would 

Examples with “würden” –
Beispiele mit “würden”

Ich würde einen Hund kaufen.
I would buy a dog.

In this sentence, I’m not buying a dog. I could have restated this sentence in the indicative form by saying, “Ich kaufe keinen Hund.” (I’m not buying a dog.) The use of “würden” indicates that you might purchase a dog, if you were in a different situation, but the reality of the situation is that you aren’t buying a dog.

Examples with Irreality –
Beispiele mit Irrealität

Ich würde vier Hunde haben.
I would have four dogs.

Würdest du je so etwas machen?
Would you ever do something like that.

Zod würde dich nicht am Leben lassen.
Zod would not let you live.

Mein Bruder und ich würden nie ein Zimmer teilen können.
My brother and I would never be able to share a room.

Würdet ihr eine Rinderzunge essen?
Would you eat a cow tongue?

Die Außerirdischen würden dich zurücklassen.
The aliens would leave you behind.

Examples with Politeness –
Beispiele mit Höflichkeit

Würdest du bitte die Tür zumachen?
Would you please close the door?

Würdet ihr bitte nicht so laut reden?
Would you please not talk so loudly?

Würden Sie mir ein Glas Wasser bringen?
Would you bring me a glass of water?

Ich würde gerne einen Vorschlag machen.
I would like to make a suggestion.

Würden Sie mir bitte einen Daumen hoch geben?
Would you give me a thumbs up?

Würdest du etwas in die Kommentare schreiben?
Would you write something in the comments?

Wenn ihr diesen Kanal auf Patreon unterstützen würdet, würde mich das freuen.
If you would support this channel on Patreon, I would be happy.

Ich würde gerne wissen, warum du denkst, dass deine Meinung so wichtig ist?
I would like to know why you think that your opinion is so important?

Examples with Sarcasm & Irony –
Beispiele mit Sarkasmus & Ironie

Mich würde es höchstens erfreuen, wenn Sie mich nie wieder anrufen würden.
It would please me greatly, if you would never call me again.

Wie wär’s, wenn du einfach nach Hause gehen würdest?
How would it be, if you simply went home?

How Do You Form the Konjunktiv 2 without “würden”? –
Wie wird der Konjunktiv 2 ohne “würden” gebildet?

Subjunctive 2 with "hätten" & "wären" - 3 Minuten Deutsch #68 - Deutsch lernen

The second option for forming the Konjunktiv 2 is to use the actual Konjunktiv 2 version of the verb you need. Every single verb in the German language has a Konjunktiv II version. I rarely ever use any of them other than the forms of “sein”, “haben” and the modal auxiliaries. The rest of the time, I either use “würde” and the infinitive of the verb I need or “wäre” or “hätte” and the past participle of the other verb. “Sein” and “haben” are popular for obvious reasons.

While every verb in German has a Konjunktiv 2 version, not all of them are used in the Konjunktiv 2, as the Präteritum indicative form of regular verbs are usually almost completely identical to the Konjunktiv 2 version. For this reason, most people default to the “würden” + infinitive constructions. If you do use the Konjunktiv 2 version of a verb, it will very often include an umlaut in the stem of the verb that wasn’t there in the Präteritum. For example: 

“sein” in Konjunktiv 2

“sein” in Präteritum indicative is “war”. Add an umlaut and some endings to make the Konjunktiv 2. 

ich wäre – I were 
du wärest – you were 
er, sie, es wäre – he, she, it were 
wir wären – we were 
ihr wäret – you were 
sie, Sie wären – they, you were 

Side note: While Duden says both “wärst” and “wärest” as well as “wärt” and “wäret” are technically acceptable, I personally prefer “wärest” and “wäret” for the “du” and “ihr” forms.

Examples of “sein”

Wärest du glücklicher?
Would you be happier?

Wenn er reich wäre, wäre er nicht hier.
If he were rich, he wouldn’t be here.

“haben” in Konjunktiv 2

“haben” in Präteritum indicative is “hatte”. Add an umlaut and some endings to make the Konjunktiv 2. 

ich hätte – I had 
du hättest – you had 
er, sie, es hätte – he, she, it had 
wir hätten – we had 
ihr hättet – you had 
sie, Sie hätten – they, you had 

Examples of “haben”

Wenn ich viel Geld hätte, hätte ich ein neues Auto.
If I had a lot of money, I would have a new car.

Hättest du einen Hund, wärest du glücklicher.
If you had a dog, you would be happier.

“finden” in Konjunktiv 2

“finden” in Präteritum indicative is “fand”. Add an umlaut and some endings to make the Konjunktiv 2. 

ich fände – I would find
du fändest – you would find
er, sie, es fändet – he, she, it would find
wir fänden – we would find
ihr fändet – you would find
sie, Sie fänden – they, you would find

Examples of “finden”

Ich fände das schön.
I would find that beautiful/great. 

Was fändest du toll?
What would you think is great? 

Wenn er seine Augen öffnen würde, fände er seine Schlüssel.
If he would open his eyes, he would find his keys. 

Wir fänden keine Pinguine am Nordpol.
We wouldn’t find any penguins at the north pole.  

Ihr fändet die Antworten im Buch.
You would find the answers in the book. 

Die Schüler fänden die Lektion leichter, wenn Herr Antrim dort wäre.
The students would find the lesson easier, if Herr Antrim were there. 

Miscellaneous Other Verbs

essen – to eat
Ich äße Kekse.
I would eat cookies.

spielen – to play
Wenn er Fußball spielte…
If he would play soccer…

tanzen – to dance
Wenn wir im Mondlicht tanzten…
If we would dance in the moonlight…

As you can see from the last two examples, a lot of the time the simple past and the Konjunktiv II is going to be the exact same thing. This is the main reason that a lot of people go with the “würde” and infinitive construction. Here are the same examples using “würde”.

Ich würde Kekse essen.
I would eat cookies.

Wenn er Fußball spielen würde…
If he would play soccer…

Wenn wir im Mondlicht tanzen würden…
If we would dance in the moonlight…

Using the Konjunktiv 2 with modal auxiliaries works the same way that it does with “würden”, but obviously you have the option of adding another verb to the mix, which will be in the infinitive form at the end of the clause or sentence. 

To form the modal verbs in the Konjunktiv 2, start with the Präteritum indicative form and add umlauts with everything except “sollen” and “wollen“.


ich dürfte – I would be allowed
du dürftest – you would be allowed
er, sie, es dürfte – he, she, it would be allowed
wir dürften – we would be allowed to
ihr dürftet – you would be allowed to
sie, Sie dürften – they, you would be allowed to

Examples of “dürfen”

Ich dürfte kein Eis essen, wenn ich laktoseintolerant wäre.
I wouldn’t be allowed to eat ice cream if I were lactose intolerant. 

Dürftest du mit mir ins Kino gehen, wenn wir älter wären?
Would you be allowed to go to the movies with me, if we were older?


ich könnte – I could
du könntest – you could
er, sie, es könnte – he, she, it could
wir könnten – we could
ihr könntet – you could
sie, Sie können – they, you could

Examples of “können”

Könntest du bitte leise kauen?
Could you please chew quietly? 

Er könnte eine ganze Stadt kaufen.
He could buy an entire city.


ich sollte – I should
du solltest – you should
er, sie, es sollte – he, she, it should
wir sollten – we should
ihr solltet – you should
sie, Sie sollten – they, you should

Examples of “sollen”

Er sollte ins Bett gehen.
He should go to bed. 

Wir sollten unsre Hausaufgaben machen.
We should do our homework.


ich müsste – I would have to
du müsstest – you would have to
er, sie, es müsste – he, she, it would have to
wir müssten – we would have to
ihr müsstet – you would have to
sie, Sie müssten – they, you would have to

Examples of “müssen”

Wir müssten das nicht tun.
We wouldn’t have to do that. 

Müsstet ihr den Fernseher zurückbringen?
Would you have to bring back the TV?


ich wollte – I would want
du wolltest – you would want
er, sie, es wollte – he, she, it would want
wir wollten – we would want
ihr wolltet – you would want
sie, Sie wollten – they, you would want

Examples of “wollen”

Was wolltet ihr Einstein fragen?
What would you want to ask Einstein? 

Die Kinder wollten alles aufessen.
The children would want to eat up everything.


ich möchte – I would like
du möchtest – you would like
er, sie, es möchte – he, she, it would like
wir möchten – we would like
ihr möchtet – you would like
sie, Sie möchten – they, you would like

Examples of “mögen”

Möchten Sie etwas trinken?
Would you like something to drink? 

Ich möchte den Rinderbraten bestellen.
I would like to order the roast beef.

You get the general idea by now. If you are unsure if you should use the “würden” + infinitive construction or the simple past + umlauts construction, choose the “würden” + infinitive format. It is the more common option and avoid you using some weird form of a verb that you are unsure of. 

Konjunktiv 2 in the Past Tense –
Konjunktiv 2 in der Vergangenheit

All of what I have told you so far is about the Konjunktiv 2 is in the present tense. If you want to talk about the future in the Konjunktiv 2, simply use the “würden” + infinitive construction I mentioned before. If you want to talk about the past, however, unlike in the indicative, there is only one past tense with the Konjunktiv 2.

Start with the Perfekt tense. This will give you the past participle you need at the end of the sentence and your helping verb, either “haben” or “sein”. Then conjugate the helping verb “haben” or “sein” in the Konjunktiv 2 and formulate the rest of your sentence like you would in the Perfekt tense. For example: 

Mein Bruder wäre Anwalt, wenn er sein Studium fertig gemacht hätte.
My brother would be a lawyer, if he had finished his studies.

In this sentence you can see that the verb “haben” changed to the Konjunktiv 2 version “hätte”. The other verb in the clause “machen” is used as a Partizip 2 (past participle). I chose “hätte” instead of “wäre” in that clause, as “machen” requires “haben” in the Perfekt tense.

Examples in the Past with Konjunktiv 2
Beispiele in der Vergangenheit mit dem Konjunktiv 2

Ich habe viel Spaß gehabt. Ich bin zu Hause geblieben.
I had a lot of fun. I stayed at home.

Ich hätte mehr Spaß gehabt, wäre ich nicht zu Hause geblieben.
I would have had more fun, if I wouldn’t have stayed at home.

Ich habe die Lektion nicht verstanden. Ich habe nicht wirklich zugehört.
I didn’t understand the lesson. I didn’t really listen.

Ich hätte die Lektion verstanden, wenn ich wirklich zugehört hätte.
I would have understood the lesson, if I had really listened.

Meine Schwester ist ins Kino gegangen. Sie hat kein Geld.
My sister went to the movie theater. She has no money.

Wäre meine Schwester nicht ins Kino gegangen, hätte sie Geld.
If my sister hadn’t gone to the movies, she would have money.

Hätte er den ganzen Kuchen nicht gegessen, hätte er keine Bauchschmerzen.
Had he not eaten the entire cake, he wouldn’t have a stomach ache.

Wären wir nicht ins Kino gegangen, hätten wir unseren Chef nicht getroffen.
Had we not gone to the movie theater, we wouldn’t have met our boss. 

Konjunktiv 2 with the Song “Was wäre wenn” by Thomas Godoj

Was wäre wenn - Thomas Godoj: Lyrical Analysis - German Learning Tips #23 - Deutsch lernen

The song “Was wäre wenn” by Thomas Godoj can teach you a lot about the Konjunktiv 2 in German. In the video above I talk about how it can teach you the basics of the simple past (preterite/Präteritum/Imperfekt) and of the conditional (Konjunktiv 2). Watch the video above to learn more about the Konjunktiv 2 and watch the video below to listen to the song.

Thomas Godoj "WAS WÄRE WENN" Akustikversion
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