In English, I might say something like "You must be sad" to someone whose friend had died, which means something more like "I assume you are sad", rather than "You have to be sad".

Does the same work in German? Could I say "Du musst traurig sein"?


Yes, it works. You can weaken the sentence a little, if you use Konjuktiv II. Here are some more examples:

Der Motor ist noch heiß, sie muss gerade angekommen sein. (100% certainty)

Du hast im Lotto gewonnen, du musst jetzt sehr glücklich sein. (100% certainty)

Es ist schon zwei Uhr, er müsste gleich kommen. (90% certainty)

  • Doesn't Konjunktive II express that something is unlikely?
    – user251257
    Aug 31 '16 at 18:42
  • 1
    @user251257 no, you cannot generalize it that way. It expresses, that something is less likely. Typically, it expresses a possibility, whereas the standard form expresses facts.
    – Liglo App
    Aug 31 '16 at 18:44
  • 1
    @user251257: Konjunktive expresses "uncertainty," not "unlikely." Even "90% certain" has enough uncertainty (10%) for Konjunktive
    – Tom Au
    Sep 1 '16 at 3:43
  • @TomAu: The subjunctive II (Konjunktiv II) does neither generally express uncertainty nor unlikelikelihood – it expresses irreality or impossibility. Only with some modal verbs (müssen, dürfen, sollen), it shifts their meaning towards expressing likelihood.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Sep 8 '16 at 3:48

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