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I was taught in my German course that we use "Konjunktiv I" as a form of reported speech, to say something that someone already said. However, I usually use the verb sagen plus dass.

Der Politiker hat gesagt, dass er super ist.

Der Politiker hat gesagt, er sei super.

What is the difference?

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Your question is not clear to me. Could you give an example? If you mean something like "Ich sage, dass das nicht funktioniert." then you are saying it. You're not reporting it. –  John Smithers May 15 '12 at 20:28
    
I added an example to the question... the I version can indeed be misleading :) –  Emanuel May 15 '12 at 21:08
    
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@Emanuel, I'm not sure, that Badger is referring to your example, because for reported speech it should be "..., dass er super sei." –  John Smithers May 15 '12 at 21:30
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Ich bin lange über "Konjunktiv I" gestolpert, da ich im dt./en.-Gemisch das als I (engl. "ich") gelesen und nicht begriffen habe. Auch wenn sonst die römische Ziffer üblich ist, halte ich daher hier eine arabische für besser. –  user unknown May 15 '12 at 21:41
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4 Answers

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There are two things on which you have to pay attention. (I know that the examples weren't added by you, but there is a minor lack in correctness.)

  1. In spoken language Germans tend to use the "Perfekt" to express things that happened in the past and are finished.

    Der Politiker hat eine Rede gehalten.

    Now, it obviously that you will also use "Perfekt" for expressing what someone said.

    A: Der Politiker hat eine Rede gehalten.

    B: Oh, was hat er denn gesagt?

    A: Er hat gesagt, dass er super ist/sei.

    While it is absolutely OK, that B used the "Perfekt" (You rarely will hear: "Oh, was sagte der denn?") the indirect speech, though, should have been given in preterit.

    A: Er sagte, dass er super ist/sei.

  2. Now regarding the actual question, about using "dass".

    For subjunctive both are possible the form with "dass" and without it. But you have to pay attention on the verb form:

    Er sagte, dass er super ist/sei.

    Er sagte, er sei super.

    The point is, using the "dass"-form (subordinate clause) it is possible to use the indicative form. That is not allowed when using the "pure subjunctive"-form

For more examples and a more detailed explanation have a look on canoo.net. Regarding the first point I mentioned (use of "Perfekt"), note, that none of the examples use the "Perfekt".

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I kept the Perfekt in the second sentence to have the only difference being the Konjunktiv. It feels weird to me too. –  Emanuel May 16 '12 at 12:19
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Basically, the "dass" can be considered a substitute for the "Konjunktiv" form.

Without the "dass," you would need to use the Konjunktiv to show that you are not saying something directly, but rather conveying what SOMEONE ELSE had to say.

Der Politiker sagte er sei super.

In "legal" English, that is known as "hearsay."

But "dass" conveys this indirectness, and therefore you can use either the indicative or Konjuntiv form with it.

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This is not a direct answer to your question but I think it's also good to know.

I posted in my comment, that I'm not quite happy with the second sentence. It should be:

Der Politiker sagte, er sei super.

I found this wiki-entry. In all examples for Konjunktiv 1 the first part of the sentence is in this form: "Er berichtet", "Er berichtete".

I would say, to answer your question, that in the examples you have given, the last part of the sentences is not interchangeable.

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I think that is mainly because Konjunktiv 1 is news speech. In news speech they also use the Präteritum. In spoken language the Perfekt is more prevalent while the Konjuntiv 1 is not... seing both in combination is something you don't see very often and that's why it feel weird. –  Emanuel May 16 '12 at 12:18
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Welcome to GL&U! I hope you're enjoying your experience here.

Basically the meanings are the same. What is different is the level of formality.

Although the Konjunktiv I is indeed used for indirect speech (indirekte Rede), you will mostly come across it in things like news reports. It is a bit formal for normal conversational usage.

So, between the two in everyday speech, people tend to use the present tense construction either with or without the daß ("Der Politiker hat gesagt, daß er super ist" or "Der Politiker hat gesagt, er ist super").

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