Could You explain, why is the bolded sentence not changed into indirect form? source

Er sagt, er hat eben einen neuen Wagen gekauft. Der hätte über 80 000 Euro gekostet und hätte eine Klimaanlage

  • What is unclear from the explanation in the mentioned source?
    – IQV
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 7:08
  • @IQV Does that mean we could use indicative verb form alternative to Konjunktiv I form?
    – ughi tudhi
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 7:22
  • I am sorry to say this, but the concepts of Konjunktiv I and II are totally confused in this book. Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 7:25
  • Please quote your source in plain text, or using a picture. Just linking an internet source is not a good idea because internet links very quickly get outdated. Questions and answers here are meant to form a repository of knowledge that should last. Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 7:42
  • @ChristianGeiselmann Henceforward I will definitely take care of it.
    – ughi tudhi
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 7:52

3 Answers 3


Christian Geiselmann states in his answer:

The use of Konjunktiv for indirect speech is not a law cut in stone. It is rather a matter of style than of grammar.

I'd like to give some additional information concerning this.
In the original sentence there are three forms that are grammatically correct but have a different meaning: "hat", "habe" and "hätte".

Er sagt, er hat eben einen neuen Wagen gekauft.

That means he says that he bought a new car and I know (or at least believe it strongly enough to accept it) it is true.

Er sagt, er habe eben einen neuen Wagen gekauft.

Rather neutral - I have no additional information apart from his word.

Er sagt, er hätte eben einen neuen Wagen gekauft.

He says he had bought a new car, but I know it is not true (or at least have strong doubts).

But even native speakers don't really use this system consistently.

  • 2
    Perfectly explained. Perhaps one could add: The last example ("Er sagt, er hätte eben einen neuen Wagen gekauft") will often be used by people unaware of the finer nuances of German language (that includes 80 per cent of the autochtonous population) in the sence of "Er sagt, er habe einen neuen Wagen gekauft." I even find, quite annoyingly, more and more journalists not being able to differentiate these two constructs. One excuse is that indeed in oral language, both sentences are widely used as synonyms. This has blurred the understanding of the difference in more nuanced written language. Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 9:06
  • "Hätte" erfordert m.M. nach ein "wenn". Er hätte einen neuen Wagen gekauft, wenn er reich gewesen wäre. Er hätte, er hat aber nicht. Während "er habe" nur unterstreicht, dass es Hörensagen ist, indirekte Rede. Kürzlich hatte ich einen Text von K. Kraus verlinkt, der es, meine ich, ähnlich sieht, und den Missstand schon vor ca. 100 Jahren beklagte. Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 12:04
  • @ChristianGeiselmann: Hier gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/essays-9818/17 ist er - nach "prächtig" suchen, ab da ungefähr. Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 12:14
  • @userunknown Ja, amüsante Stelle bei Kraus. Wenn sie auch leichter verständlich geworden wäre, hätte Kraus nicht zur Demonstration eines häufigen Fehlers den seltenen Fall einer nicht fehlerhaften Konjunktivverwendung, die er dann erst hypothetisch ins Falsche wendete, verwendet. Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 19:17

If I understand the question correctly:

The use of Konjunktiv for indirect speech is not a law cut in stone. It is rather a matter of style than of grammar. It actually depends on the register of speech .

In high register formal texts (parliamentary speech , scientific book, newspaper article, legal documents) you would use indirect speech in Konjunktiv. However, in everyday oral communication with your little sibling you would probably not use Konjunktiv, and adequately so. You would say "Greta sagt, Paul hat sie geschlagen." But the same indicative-only sentence of yours would get drowned in red ink by your school teacher. That's because he or she gets paid to train you in the use of the more complicated formal language. The teacher might say: "This is not correct." Of course, that's an over-generalization from the narrow perspective of a teacher. Actually he or she should say: "This is not correct in the narrow framework of what I have to teach you here. It may be appropriate in other areas of life. Now first learn the correct use of Konjunktiv, and then enjoy your liberty to use it or not."

Therefore, here is your choice to select from led by higher wisdom of social appropriateness:

Paul hat gesagt, seine Eltern fliegen im Sommer nach Australien.

Perfect sentence in casual oral communication.

Paul hat gesagt, dass seine Eltern im Sommer nach Australien fliegen.

Same. Just different construction.

Paul hat gesagt, seine Eltern flögen im Sommer nach Australien.

Correct use of Konjunktiv for indirect speech. Still the sentence sounds a bit odd. That's because "hat gesagt" as used here is typical for oral communication, and the full-formal Konjunktiv flögen doesn't go well with it.

Paul sagte, seine Eltern flögen im Sommer nach Australien.

Fully correct in highest registers of speech (except perhaps for the topic, which would be a bit ridiculous in a parliamentary speech). Could be found in a novel, or in a police protocol. Also in a newspaper article: ("Müller sagte, die Parteibasis lege besonderen Wert auf Umweltschutz.") If you however utter this in oral communication, people might think that you are a bit over the top. They might say:

Wir verstünden ihn gut, redete er nur nicht so geschwollen.

(Which is the other use-case of Konjunktiv: to express irreality and conditionality)

  • Thank you very much
    – ughi tudhi
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 8:07
  • Whereas "Wir würden ihn besser verstehen, wenn er nicht so geschwollen reden würde" sounds rather normal to me, even in casual communication. Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 12:33
  • FWIW, is parliamentary speech really the highest register? If you watch Phoenix every now and then, you might get a different expression. Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 13:46
  • Aren't you mixing up Konjunktiv I and II here?
    – KWeiss
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 14:35
  • @KWeiss I use them both, and correctly. However, I purposefully did not mention this, just in order to not make things more complicated. This is not a full instruction of how to form correct sentences in indirect speech (which indeed would need to explain the different morphology of K I and K II). This is only an explanation about the freedom of choice a speaker of German has to apply or not apply Konjunktiv in indirect speech. Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 16:21

The use of the Konjunktiv for reported speech was something I was taught in school. It did not come naturally. And this is understandable in so far as in sentences like

Er sagt, er hat eben einen neuen Wagen gekauft.

the introductory er sagt unequivocally signals that what follows is a quote, making any marking of reported speech on the embedded sentence pleonastic. This is the reason why spoken German would not use Konjunktiv here.

Now what your book rightly points out is that the Konjunktiv can be used to indicate whether sentences following that first sentence should be interpreted as a continuation of reported speech or as resumption of non-reported speech.

Er sagt, er hat eben einen neuen Wagen gekauft.
(non-reported) Der hat über 80000 Euro gekostet.
(reported) Der hätte über 80000 Euro gekostet.

  • 1
    Correct reported would be: "Der habe über 80000 Euro gekostet." Admittedly, in sloppy oral communication, people often say "Der hätte über 80000 Euro gekostet". But I cringe each time I hear this, at least when people speak that way I would have expected to know better. Actually, I think it is better to use full Indicative (in oral communication) than the wrong Konjunktiv. Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 9:23
  • I, a reasonably educated native speaker, freely admit to being sloppy (in this case).
    – David Vogt
    Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 9:31

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