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I am reading a book in German (translated) and I have come across a few sentences which I think I understand, but haven't seen the form before. I haven't really ever learnt German in a classroom but just through speaking and living in Germany. I therefore am guessing a bit when I think this is “Konjunktiv 1” as I have never learnt it myself, and I wasn’t actually able to find any explanations of Konjunktiv 1 which fit with the sentences, other than how the verb looks.

As an answer I would like the example sentences translated, an explanation of, if the form is a type of Old German or not and if possible some terminology I could look up so I can educate myself further about it.

The example sentences and how I would say it in German (if I understood correctly):

Shea warf sich ebenfalls zu Boden, bedeutete seinem Bruder, in Deckung zu kriechen, und betete darum, dass das Wesen sie nicht gesehen haben möge.

Shea warf sich ebenfalls zu Boden, bedeutete seinem Bruder, in Deckung zu kriechen, betete darum, dass das Wesen die nicht gesehen hat.

or

Shea warf sich ebenfalls zu Boden, bedeutete darum, dass das Wesen die nicht sah

After answers and comments, I believe this sentence is in fact nothing out of the ordinary. Shea’s prayer in the sentence introduces indirect speech and möge is used because it is a wish.

What still remains unclear is why in the second example I had, why Konjunktiv 1 is used to seemingly perform the function that Konjunktiv 2 is intended for. See the two sentences below. Why is it appropriate here that Konjunktiv 1 is used instead of Konjuktiv 2? is it simply to make the writing seem more sophisticated or is there an actual intention behind it?

Second sentence:

Er hetzte durch das nasse Gras und schaute sich immer wieder um, aus Furcht, das Wesen könne plötzlich aus dem Hain auftauchen und ihn entdecken.

Er hetzte durch das nasse Gras und schaute sich immer wieder um, aus Furcht, das Wesen könnte plötzlich aus dem Hain auftauchen und ihn entdecken.

So these are two examples of sentences in the translated book I am reading called Die Shannara-Chroniken and the forms confuse me. So if you could help me understand why the meaning and why they are written this way I would be very grateful.

  • The paranthetical "bedeutet darum" seems unnatural to me; It's an expression I am not familiar with. "möge" is grammatically Konjunktiv I indeed, but that does not explain much. Try dwds.de/wb/mögen and I'm sure canoo has a fitting article as well – vectory Oct 27 '19 at 16:39
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    May I ask what a book from the 1970s has to do with "old german" or even "Old High German" (as suggested by your tags)? – johnl Oct 27 '19 at 19:06
  • @johnl Indeed you may. The book is a translation of a fantasy book and as is done in english fantasy books, some of the language, words and formalisms that are used are, not in day to day use. Being as uneducated as I am in the German language, I was not sure if these sentences, were simply instances of old german (or as I would call it middle age german). And in an attempt to categorise the question at the right audience members, I applied the tags. I understood old german or old high german, to refer to the language used in the book and not directly the time the book was written in. – Aesir Oct 27 '19 at 19:33
  • Please do not edit a question in such a way that it invalidates existing answers. – Carsten S Oct 29 '19 at 10:08
  • @CarstenS I haven't but I wanted to make the question more accurate and answerable based on comments already given. – Aesir Oct 29 '19 at 13:30
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  1. I assume it should read betete darum or at least means this; in any case what follows is her wish (optative mood) which might come true, but does not need to. Therefore conjunctive is fine here. (The object of seeing is of course Shea herself or the group to which she belongs, so your translation with die is missing the point, i. e. the substantive; sie fits for both cases, otherwise the noun to the article die has to be supplied).

  2. It is not a wish here, but also simply the possibility. Conjunctive is the only possibility here too.

Both constructs are in no way dated.

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    Gut geraten! „[...] ebenfalls zu Boden, bedeutete seinem Bruder, in Deckung zu kriechen, und betete darum, dass das Wesen sie nicht gesehen haben möge.“ (via Google Books) – Carsten S Oct 27 '19 at 19:33
  • Yes you are correct. I added an extra u in and then repeated the mistake by copy and pasting. Thank you for catching that. As you might guess from @Carsten S, bedeutete appears directly above the word betete in the line above and I copied it down incorrectly in writing the question. – Aesir Oct 27 '19 at 19:34
  • @guidot I thought what you describe with conjunctive is more for what "Konjunktiv 2" is used for and not "Konjunktiv 1"? K1 being seemingly exclusively used for indirekte rede und K2 to express "Desire, dreams, fantasies or imaginary situations." - germanveryeasy.com/konjunktiv-ii. Here it seems that K1 is being used to do what K2 does? – Aesir Oct 27 '19 at 19:50
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    It is not unimportant here that "dass das Wesen sie nicht gesehen haben möge" is not a plain Konjunktiv I but uses the auxiliary mögen. Plain Konjunktiv I would be "dass das Wesen sie nicht gesehen habe" which would sound dated IMHO. – RHa Oct 27 '19 at 19:54
  • @guidot W.r.t your remark about "die" missing the point, I am not sure this is the case and I would be grateful if you could clarify that for me. Shea is the person who is praying that the being doesn't see them. Shea and Shea's brother, is this also not what the my version expresses (as this was what I intended) or am I missing something rather fundamental? – Aesir Oct 27 '19 at 19:56
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Both sentences are a somewhat rare form of indirect speech and this is at least one of the reasons why the Konjunktiv 1 is probably¹ used. To make this somewhat apparent, here are the respective direct-speech equivalents:

  • If Shea is praying to the creature:

    Shea […] betete: »Wesen, habe uns nicht gesehen.«

    … or to some god:

    Shea […] betete: »Lass das Wesen uns nicht gesehen haben.«

    Both cases do not directly translate to indirect speech, because they use an imperative. Instead a construction with mögen² is used and you end up with:

    Shea […] betete darum, dass das Wesen sie nicht gesehen haben möge.

  • Er […] schaute sich immer wieder um, aus Furcht: “Das Wesen kann plötzlich aus dem Hain auftauchen und mich entdecken.”

    This one is a bit unnatural, since the indirect speech depends on a subject, and not a verb like in the almost equivalent:

    Er […] schaute sich immer wieder um, da er fürchtete: »Das Wesen kann plötzlich aus dem Hain auftauchen und mich entdecken.«

Now, both sentences are a bit convoluted by an excessive use of filler verbiage (möge, könne, darum). In contemporary German (where the Konjunktiv I is rarely used for indirect speech), I would rather write something like:

  • Shea […] betete, dass das Wesen sie nicht gesehen hatte.

  • Er […] schaute sich immer wieder um, aus Furcht davor, dass das Wesen plötzlich aus dem Hain auftaucht und ihn entdeckt.


¹ Because we can only guess the translator’s intent.
² Because it is a request; sollen would be used for commands.

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So after input from many sources and consulting with two german teachers I found an answer to my question. In short Konjunktiv I cannot be used as a replacement for KII and that is not what is happening in the examples that I posted.

Referring to this (Swiss) website https://schreibszene.ch/blog/wir-retten-den-konjunktiv-teil-1 it can be seen that the general rule of thumb for using KI is to express wishes and possibilities in comparison to KII which is used to voice doubts or impossibilities

Normalerweise drücken Sie Wünsche oder Möglichkeiten durch den Konjunktiv I aus. Den Konjunktiv II, den Irrealis, nehmen Sie, wenn Sie an etwas Zweifel haben oder die Sache unrealistisch, unerfüllbar oder unmöglich ist.

This rule of thumb covers perfectly the first example I provided where the character is expressing a wish or desire. It does not directly cover the second example however

Er hetzte durch das nasse Gras und schaute sich immer wieder um, aus Furcht, das Wesen könne plötzlich aus dem Hain auftauchen und ihn entdecken.

This is covered further in the article which states it the above rule of thumb works very well when the term possibilities is used broadly enough to include assumptions, demands and fears, while these also are possible eventualities

Die Faustregel «Konjunktiv I für Wünsche und Möglichkeiten» passt sehr gut, wenn man den Begriff «Möglichkeiten» breit genug auslegt. Denn auch Vermutungen, Forderungen oder Befürchtungen sind noch nicht real, sondern vorerst nur Möglichkeiten.

Konjunktiv I in diesen Fällen: Vermutung: Udo glaubte, der Film gefalle ihr. Forderung: Ute wollte, dass er immer ehrlich sei. Befürchtung: Ute ahnte, er gehe fremd. Wunsch: Ihre Liebe möge ewig währen

This extension covers the example I presented in the second sentence

Er hetzte durch das nasse Gras und schaute sich immer wieder um, aus Furcht, das Wesen könne plötzlich aus dem Hain auftauchen und ihn entdecken.

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