The Konjunktiv I in German

"Wir Deutschen haben die Welt beherrscht,
fremde Völker, die Nordsee und die Natur - den Konjunktiv nie."
"We Germans have dominated the world, foreign peoples, the North Sea and Nature but never the subjunctive"
Quote from the cabaret artist and German writer Dieter Hildebrandt (1927-2013)

Use of "Konjunktiv I"

Indirect speech

Konjunktiv I is used primarily for indirect speech. Indirect speech is when the narrator communicates what has been said by another person.

You can see this more clearly with a couple of examples:

Hans: Ich bin 30 Jahre alt
Hans: "I am 30 years old" (Direct speech)

Hans sagt, er sei 30 Jahre alt
Hans says that he is 30 years old (Indirect speech)

Hans: Ich habe Durst
Hans: "I'm thirsty" (Direct speech)

Hans sagt, dass er Durst habe
Hans says that he's thirsty (Indirect speech)

You can see that the clause with Konkunktiv I ("er habe Durst") is accompanied by a main clause in the Indicative ("Hans sagt").

The verbs used most often with indirect speech

  • erzählen (to narrate, to tell)
  • fragen (to ask)
  • hören (to hear)
  • lesen (to read)
  • sagen (to say, to tell)
  • vermuten (to assume, to suppose)
  • versprechen (to promise)

Indirect speech without "Konjunktiv I"

  • If you use the particle "dass", it is correct if the subordinate clause is in the indicative instead of Konjunktiv I:
Konjunktiv I
Hans sagt, er sei 30 Jahre alt
Konjunktiv I + dass
Hans sagt, dass er Durst habe
Indikativ + dass
Hans sagt, dass er Durst hat
Indikativ sin dass
Even though you can hear people speak this way

  • If the Konjunktiv I is the same in the Indikativ (something that happens quite often), usually the Konjunktiv II is used in place of Konjunktiv I for indirect speech.

Conjugation of "Konjunktiv I"

Konjunktiv I exists in the following verb tenses:


Conjugation of regular verbs

As an example, let's check out the verb malen (to paint):

IndikativKonjunktiv I
ichmal -emal -e
dumal -stmal -est
er/sie/esmal -tmal -e
wirmal -enmal -en
ihrmal -tmal -et
siemal -enmal -en

You can see that the persons ich, wir and sie are the same as the Indikativ. Depending on the verb stem (for example, if the stem ends with -t, such as arbeiten), it is possible that the forms du and ihr also are the same as the indicative. For this reason, the only form that is always different is the 3rd person singular.

Conjugation of irregular verbs

Let's look at the verb lesen (to read):

IndikativKonjunktiv I
dulies -tles -est
er/sie/eslies -tles -e

As a reminder, strong verbs were the ones that changed their stem in the 2nd and 3rd person singular forms in the present indicative. That stem change disappears in the subjunctive.

Conjugation of auxiliary verbs "sein" and "haben"

  • The conjugation of the Konjunktiv I of the verb sein has many peculiarities in its stem: Sei is the 1st and 3rd person singular form (with the "-e" ending)
  • The conjugation of haben for Konjuktiv I is regular.

duseist / seiesthab-est


The Perfekt of "Konjunktiv I" is constructed like this:

Verb sein or haben in the present of subjunctive I + Participle II.

IndikativKonjunktiv I
ichhabe gemalthabe gemalt
duhast gemalthabest gemalt
er/sie/eshat gemalthabe gemalt
wirhaben gemalthaben gemalt
ihrhabt gemalthabet gemalt
siehaben gemalthaben gemalt

Futur I

The conjugation of Futur I in "Konjunktiv I" is:

The verb werden in the subjunctive I present + the infinitive.

IndikativKonjunktiv I
ichwerde malenwerde malen
duwirst malenwerdest malen
er/sie/eswird malenwerde malen
wirwerden malenwerden malen
ihrwerdet malenwerdet malen
siewerden malenwerden malen

Futur II

The conjugation of Futur II in Konjunktiv I is:
Verb werden in subjunctive I present = Partizip II + the verb sein or haben in the infinitive.

Futur II of Konjunktiv I exists but is not used.

IndikativKonjunktiv I
ichwerde gemalt habenwerde gemalt haben
duwirst gemalt habenwerdest gemalt haben
er/sie/eswird gemalt habenwerde gemalt haben
wirwerden gemalt habenwerden gemalt haben
ihrwerdet gemalt habenwerdet gemalt haben
siewerden gemalt habenwerden gemalt haben