As far I know we normally form the conjunctive II with the preterite (past) form of the verb. Coming from the preterite, we replace a with ä, u with ü and o with ö and also add an extra e if possible. For example:

  1. gehen – gingen – sind gegangen.
    Präteritum: Ich ging
    Konjuktiv II: Ich ginge

  2. arbeiten – arbeiteten – haben gearbeitet
    Präteritum: Ich arbeitete
    Konjuktiv II : Ich arbeitete (as there is no a, o, u to replace and it has already got an e at the end)

According to this rule besuchen and machen should be conjugated as following:

  1. besuchen – besuchten – haben besucht
    Präteritum: Ich besuchte
    Konjuktiv II: Ich besüchte – which seems to be wrong; the correct conjugation is besuchte.

  2. machen – machten – haben gemacht
    Präteritum: Ich machte
    Konjuktiv II: Ich mächte – wrong, correct conjugation is machte.

Could anyone please explain why are we not replacing u with ü in besuchen and a with ä in machen?

  • 2
    @Carsten Schulz: The allophones of -ch- are not an issue. Consider brechen, brach, bräche, gebrochen; or kriechen, kroch, kröche, gekrochen.
    – chirlu
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 15:48
  • @Thanks. I was looking for examples in my head, but did not find any.
    – Carsten S
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 15:51

1 Answer 1


The rule you cited only applies to strong verbs (also called irregular verbs):

lesen: las, läse
biegen: bog, böge
schaffen: schuf, schüfe
laufen: lief, liefe

It is not applicable to weak verbs (regular verbs), which form the past tenses with -t-. For them, the Konjunktiv II is normally identical to the Präteritum:

machen: machte, machte
besuchen: besuchte, besuchte

(Note that the rule does not cover all cases of strong verbs, either; e.g., sterben has forms starb and stürbe.)

  • 1
    Although one might argue that stürbe is nothing else than an ‘even stronger’ umlaut ;)
    – Jan
    Commented May 29, 2015 at 16:48

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