I want to translate this into German. I would have told it to you if I had known it..

I would write ... Ich hätte es ihnen gesagt, wenn ich es gewusst hatte"

'hatte' means 'had' in English so I thought that the sentence should have continued with 'hatte'

But the correct answer was written with 'hätte' ".... wenn ich es gewusst hätte"

But I don't want to say "....if I would have known it."

I hope you understand.

2 Answers 2


The problem may come from the English side, because "had" has two different meanings. German makes a clearer distinction, using hatte and hätte.

The normal meaning of "had" is the past tense. I had known this, therefore I told you.

Ich hatte es gekannt. Darum sagte ich es ihnen.

This construct uses "hatte" without the umlaut.

In English, we can also say, If I had known this, I would have told you. Here, the "if" puts "had" in the conditional tense (making it parallel with "would have"), not past tense. This "had" is expressed by "hätte."

That is, "Wenn ich es gewusst hätte, hätte ich es ihnen gesagt.

  • 1
    'because "had" has two different meanings' - maybe it is helpful to also wrap one's mind around the opposite perspective: German learners of English will typically intuitively translate something like "I would have told it to you if I would have known it." They have to specifically memorize the rule that in English, if and would must not appear in the same part of the sentence. Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 16:47

The word "hätte" is conditional, which means something would have happened in a certain/different scenario. The word hatte represents a truth that really happened.

Here's an example:

Hätte ich einen Feuerlöscher gehabt, wäre das Haus nicht niedergebrannt. If I had had a fire extinguisher, the house wouldn't have burned down to the ground.

Ich hatte einen Feuerloescher, weswegen das Haus nicht niedergebrannt ist. I had a fire extinguisher, so the house didn't burn down.

Also the word hätte is the conditional tense of the word haben, which means it can be used in any time period. The word hatte can only be used if something has already happened.

For example:

Hätte ich mehr Geld, würde ich ein Auto kaufen. If I had more money, I would buy a car.

(Notice this conditional sentence is set in the presence)

The difference between wurde and würde is easiest to explain by translating them. I guess the other answer stated that it is difficult because the words look so similar that you could assume that they are alternations of the same word like "hatte" and "hätte". BUT THEY ARE NOT.

Würde means would (NOT should!!!) and wurde means became or in some case was. Nothing else.


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