Easy Learning German

The conditional - Easy Learning Grammar German

What is the conditional?
The conditional is a verb form used to talk about things that would happen or that would be true under certain conditions, for example, I would help you if I could. It is also used to say what you would like or need, for example, Could you give me the bill?

1 Using the conditional

  • You can often recognize a conditional in English by the word would or its shortened form ‘d.
I would be sad if you left.If you asked him, he’d help you.
  • In German, the conditional is also used to express would.
Ich würde dir schon helfen, ich habe aber keine Zeit.I would help you, but I don’t have the time.
Was würden Sie an meiner Stelle tun?What would you do in my position?

2 Forming the conditional

  • The conditional has TWO parts to it and is formed in the same way for all verbs, be they weak, strong or mixed:
  • the würde form or subjunctive of the verb werden (meaning to become)
  • the infinitive of the main verb, which normally goes at the end of the clause.
PronounSubjunctive of werdenInfinitive of Main VerbMeanings
ichwürdeholenI would fetch
duwürdestholenyou would fetch
würdeholenhe/she/it would fetch
wirwürdenholenwe would fetch
ihrwürdetholenyou (plural) would fetch

würdenholenthey would fetch

you (polite) would fetch
Das würde ich nie machen.I would never do that.
Würdest du mir etwas Geld leihen?Would you lend me some money?
Würden Sie jemals mit dem Rauchen aufhören?Would you ever stop smoking?
  • Note that you have to be careful not to mix up the present tense of werden, used to form the future tense, and the subjunctive of werden, used to form the conditional. They look similar.
ich werdeich würde
du wirstdu würdest
er/sie/es wirder/sie/es würde
wir werdenwir würden
ihr werdetihr würdet
sie/Sie werdensie/Sie würden
Key points
  • The conditional tense is formed from the subjunctive or würde part of werden and the infinitive of the main verb.
  • The conditional tense is often used with the subjunctive.

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