I'm reading Harry Potter and there's a sentence there that buffled me.

"Schließlich taten sie für gewöhnlich so, als hätte sie keine Schwester"

Shouldn't it be "Schließlich taten sie für gewöhnlich so, als sie keine Schwester hätte" ?

I thought als sends verbs to the end (a subordinating conjuction) not only when talking about past events, but also when using it like "as if".

Thank you for your time :)

  • Something is wrong on that sentence: "Schließlich taten sie für gewöhnlich so, als hätte sie keine Schwester" Either it is "hätten", because taten is plural or it is "tat" for singluar and "sie" refers to a female.
    – Javatasse
    Jul 26, 2018 at 19:51
  • 3
    I didn't quote the previous sentence, but I believe the first sie refers to the Mr and Mrs Dudley while the second sie refers only to Mrs Dudley.
    – zokomoko
    Jul 26, 2018 at 19:57
  • Yes, that makes sense. So there is nothing wrong with the sentence.
    – Javatasse
    Jul 26, 2018 at 21:26

1 Answer 1


German native speaker here.

"As if" translates to "als ob", and indeed, you could use that to create the sentence "als ob sie keine Schwester hätte". The same could be achieved with "wie wenn".

With just "als" though, that always requires a main clause with the conjunctive verb form.

See this site for some examples: https://mein-deutschbuch.de/irreale-vergleichssaetze.html

  • "Als" is indeed a bit tricky, because it can mean "as if" or "when", with a different word order.
    – RHa
    Jul 26, 2018 at 20:55
  • @RHa AFAIK als would be as, not as if, while als ob or als wenn would be as if
    – Arsak
    Jul 27, 2018 at 5:56
  • @Marzipanherz But in sentences like "Schließlich taten sie für gewöhnlich so, als hätte sie keine Schwester" the ob can be omitted if the verb follows.
    – RHa
    Jul 27, 2018 at 6:46
  • @RHa True. Now I get the point you wanted to make.
    – Arsak
    Jul 27, 2018 at 6:50
  • If als alone in this case is the start of an main clause, then shouldn't the verb theoretically be in the second position Schließlich taten sie für gewöhnlich so, als sie hätte keine Schwester. ? Dec 8, 2021 at 6:36

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