I am trying to understand whether the sentence

Ich würde lügen wenn ich sage, dass ich gut wäre.

is correct.

When using Konjunktiv 2 both sides of the sentence should be in Konjunktiv 2, right? So the sentence should be

Ich würde lügen wenn ich sagte, dass ich gut wäre.

I saw it not a few times and I'm just wondering why is it used this way with sage.


3 Answers 3


It helps here to analyse what the sentence consist of:

You have a cause or condition (You saying that you're good), and a result (You are lying).

Whether to use the Konjuntiv (II) here depends on the plausibility of your statement:

If you are actually saying that you're good, you use the Indikativ for both cause and effect:

Ich lüge, wenn ich sage, dass ich gut sei.

If you are a honest person and would never / have never claimed to be good, you use the Konjunktiv II:

Ich würde lügen, wenn ich sagte, dass ich gut sei.

In spoken language, the Konjunktiv II often gets replaced by the construction with würde, so the following is also correct:

Ich würde lügen, wenn ich sagen würde, dass ich gut sei.

Side note: lügte would also be correct instead of würde lügen in my first example for Konjunktiv, but it sounds weird.

You may hae noticed the Konjunktiv I in "... dass ich gut sei". This is because it is Indirekte Rede which always requires Konjunktiv (I, but gets replaced by K. II sometimes to distinguish from Indikativ, which might then again be replaced by a würde construction)


For the first part of the sentence, you are correct that formally speaking both parts should be in Konjunktiv 2, but in the case of sagen, the Konjunktiv 2 form, i.e. conditional of "sagen" is not "sagte", but rather "würde sagen" (in this concrete sentence inverted to "sagen würde").

The second part of the sentence should use Konjunktiv 1 though, because there's paraphrasing involved. So, a completely correct version of your sentence would be

Ich würde lügen, wenn ich sagen würde, dass ich gut sei

However, especially in spoken language, Konjunktiv 2 often supplants Konjunktiv 1, and in turn the subjunctive often supplants Konjunktiv, so

Ich würde lügen, wenn ich sage, dass ich gut wäre

or even

Ich würde lügen, wenn ich sage, dass ich gut bin

could both be sentences uttered by a native speaker, even though currently the "sagen würde" form is probably a bit more common still.

  • 1
    1) "Konjunktiv 2 often supplants Konjunktiv 1" - that sounds weird. Konj.2 forms are used for Konj.1 forms where the Konj. 1 forms are the same as regular forms, e.g. "haben" 1 Person Plural, but Konj. 1 is not used in spoken language. So this passage does not make any sense to me. 2) In written language, it is perfectly okay to write "sagte" if it's clear from the context that this is Konjunktiv 2 and not Präteritum.
    – Dan
    Sep 15, 2019 at 5:35
  • 1
    "Konj.2 forms are used for Konj.1 forms where the Konj. 1 forms are the same as regular forms" Maybe we have different notions of what "supplants" means, but for me that would be exactly it. Konj.1 can be pretty unwieldy, so people will opt for Konj. 2, even though Konj.1 can still be (and sometimes is) used in spoken language too. As for the "sagte", of course it's perfectly okay, because nowadays conventions are a bit more flexible, but if we're looking for the absolutely pedantically correct form, "sagen würde" is the way to go in my opinion. Sep 15, 2019 at 10:55
  • Please give me the definition of Konj.1 that you are using. Because I am still not following.
    – Dan
    Sep 15, 2019 at 12:16
  • 1
    I mean, Konj.1 is more or less defined as a set of conjugations, to be used for paraphrasing. I'm not sure what you mean by "definition". How would you define other forms of verbs? Sep 15, 2019 at 20:37
  • 1
    Yeah I suspected that. It is specifically used for: 1) indirect speech of a THIRD PERSON in written texts 2) old-fashioned sayings like es lebe der König 3) Kochrezepte wie "man füge 3 Würfel Zucker hinzu". Some of its forms "coincide" with Präsens Indikativ, and Konjunktiv 2 forms are always used in such a case instead to express the grammatical concept of Konjunktiv 1. So there is, in fact, no such Konj.1 form such as "haben" or "sage" in 1st person singular, those are always Präsens Indikativ! There's not a single Konjunktiv 1 form in the question, nor its use case - more importantly.
    – Dan
    Sep 15, 2019 at 20:50

Ich würde lügen, wenn ich sag[t]e, dass ich gut sei.

There two ways to look at this, from where I stand. On the one hand, the dependent clause does not need conjunctive

Wenn ich jetzt gehe ...

On the other hand, de.wiki/sagen shows konjuntiv 1 as ... well, it doesn't show it at all. However, wikipedia notes

  • that the indicative can be used eventually

  • a clumsy explanation that amounts to '''konj 1''' sagee.

In principle you'd want konj 2, irrealis, "sagte", modal "sagen würde", for the conditional clause, and we often see it, "wenn das ginge, ...", but in reality you want optative, expressing possibility. That is, the real conditional clause is "Ich würde lügen", similar to expressions like "Hat der Täter, ... so wird ...", which are diguised as independent clauses in indicative mood. This leaves me a bit puzzled.

Quite trivially, I'd say, if I really go on to spell out the implication, I may as well use the indicative to introduce it.

  • 1
    Why are you referring to Konjunktiv 1? There is no such thing in the question. Please correct wrong capitalization in lügen. "This leaves me a bit puzzled." - are you admitting that you can not quite answer the question?
    – Dan
    Sep 17, 2019 at 6:51
  • @Dan No, it means to me that school grammar is not enough to adequatly answer the question and that I have to speak from native speaker intuition instead, which is admittedly suboptimal, but the next best thing short of whipping up any sort of generative, constructionist you haven't seen it grammar. There is konjunktiv 1 in "sei" in my variant of the example phrase. While the dependent clause "sage" is not in the conventionally prescribed ideals of Konjunktiv 1, its form is indistinguishable (assuming "sagee" is equivalent), which may be a reason for indicative usage and against the school ...
    – vectory
    Sep 17, 2019 at 11:17
  • I would ask you to refrain from getting personal. In the context of DaF, the grammar we are using is not "school grammar" but something entirely different and meant to serve a different purpose. It also happens that the wiki article by no means contradicts what I have said. No, I dont assume I can answer the question perfectly, you would have seen my answer otherwise. As for Optativ, it exists as a semantical but not a independent grammatical concept in German and is expressed by means of Konjunktiv 1. I may be wrong,but I dont think your 1st example is Optative and we cannot use K.1 like that
    – Dan
    Sep 19, 2019 at 7:47
  • Ich würde lügen, wenn ich sagte, dass ich gut sei. - Yes, that's the best version of this sentence.
    – mic
    Oct 17, 2019 at 16:22

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