Take the 2-minute tour ×
German Language Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for speakers of German wanting to discuss the finer points of the language and translation. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have often encountered the forms möchte, möchtest.... Does the verb möchten exist? Is it some special form of mögen or an independent verb?

share|improve this question

3 Answers 3

up vote 22 down vote accepted

Technically, möchte is the subjunctive II (Konjunktiv II) of mögen.

However, mögen is special, as it changes in a different way than other verbs do when put into the subjuncitve mood: While with most verbs, the subjunctive II mainly conveys the irrealis (i.e., that whatever is described, is not real), mögen changes its meaning from to like (and some others) to to want¹. Some examples to illustrate this:

Er sagt, dass er meistens Pizza esse. [no subjunctive II]
He says that he usually eats pizza. [No implications are made about the correctness of his statement.]

Er sagt, dass er meistens Pizza äße. [as above with subjunctive II]
He says that he usually eats pizza. [It is stated that his statement was not correct: He does not actually eat Pizza usually.]

Er sagt, er möge Pizza. [no subjunctive II]
He says that he likes pizza. [No implications are made about the correctness of his statement.]

Er sagt, er möchte Pizza. [as above with subjunctive II]
He says that he wants pizza. [No implications are made about the correctness of his statement.]

This is comparable to the difference between the English like and would like.

Such a shift of meaning in the subjunctive II mood happens to some other modal verbs in German (namely sollen, dürfen, and müssen²), but the subjunctive II of these verbs can still be used for the irrealis of those verbs. In contrast, you cannot use möchte and similar anymore for the irrealis of mögen. Instead you have to use a würde construction (which is used for the irrealis of regular/weak verbs and in some other cases):

Er sagt, er würde Pizza mögen. [würde-Form of mögen]
He says that he likes pizza. [It is stated that his statement was not true: He does not actually like Pizza.]


One could therefore say that möchte and similar forms detached themselves from mögen and are to some extents forms of an independent, defective verb, which does not have an infinitve, subjunctive II or perfect form. Analogously, mögen has turned defective and lost its subjunctive II, which has no big consequences, as we can use a construct with würde instead.


¹ To add to the confusion, mögen can still mean to want in some dialects.
² And brauchen to some extent.

share|improve this answer
2  
"mögen changes its meaning from to like (and some others) to to want" - it should be noted that in some German dialects, I think Bavarian and/or Austrian German, mögen is indeed used as "to want". For example, the sentences "Magst du spielen gehen?" and "Magst du ein Stück Kuchen haben?" do not ask for the general preference or desire about playing and a piece of cake, respectively, in those dialects, they mean whether the person concretely wants to go playing and to have a piece of cake now. –  O. R. Mapper Aug 14 at 7:15

There's no verb "möchten", the forms you see are the Konjuntiv II forms of mögen. In fact it's so common that it's often introduced, confusingly, as a modal verb independent from mögen, but that's not correct.

It must be said, however, that the Konjunktinv II is used far more often as a true modal verb than the Indicative. Whereas "ich möchte etw. tun" clearly denotes "I'd like to do sth.", the same usage with the indicative is less common and has a slightly different meaning, eg "Ich mag etw. tun" is more similar to the english "I might do sth.".

"Mögen" however retains its meaning of "to like" in the indicative when used with a direct object: "Ich mag dein neues Auto".

share|improve this answer
4  
The difference in frequency is so extreme that it's more reasonable to say it's a form already more than half-way on the road to establishing a paradigm as a verb on its own. It just hasn't managed to establish itself as a standalone infinitive yet. In the face of language change, it's often inadequate to classify things in a black/white manner - it has some characteristics of an independent verb, but not yet all. –  Kilian Foth Aug 13 at 11:23
    
It's really similar to English when you think about it. "Ich möchte" literally translates to "I would like". –  cypressious Aug 13 at 17:51

Möchte is indeed a special form of mögen, the Konjunktiv II.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.