The opening sentence of Aschenputtel reads,

Einem reichen Manne, dem wurde seine Frau krank, und als sie fühlte, daß ihr Ende herankam, rief sie ihr einziges Töchterlein zu sich ans Bett und sprach: ...

There was a rich man whose wife became sick, and when she felt that her end was near, she called her only daughter to her to her bed and said...

I have a question about the phrase "daß ihr Ende herankam". This looks to me like indirect discourse, so I would expect to see the past subjunctive. Instead, the verb is conjugated as a simple past tense. Why is this? Am I wrong to expect the subjunctive? Is it not indirect discourse?


2 Answers 2


Not all indirect discourse uses the subjunctive. It is usually used to emphasize that you are not making a proposition, but that someone else made a proposition, and you yourself do not take a stance on whether that proposition is true or not. Therefore, it is used mainly when reporting what others said or thought:

Sie sagte, sie sei von Ausserirdischen entführt worden. (Ich mache mir diese Aussage nicht zueigen.)

The wife, however, senses that she herself is passing away, and it makes no sense to simultaneously support and not support a statement. Therefore the subjunctive is inappropriate.

In general, you would rarely use the subjunctive for subclauses about your own thoughts or feelings:

Ich weiss, dass ich Recht habe!

You would only use it when you report to one party what you said to another party and your public stance towards these two is not necessarily the same:

Ich sagte dem Kommissar, dass ich nicht wisse, wann Sabine heimgekommen sei.

This asserts what you said to the police but not necessarily whether that was true. Contrast this with

Ich sagte doch, dass ich keine Zeit habe!

This asserts both the circumstance (I don't have time) and the previous utterance (I already said so).


Sie fühlte, dass ihr Ende herankam.

You can translate this into English using the same construction:

She felt, that her end came closer.

This just is simple subjunctive.

This is indirect speech:

Sie sagte, ihr Ende käme heran.
She said, her end would come closer.

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