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Usually we use the Je...desto or Je...umso phrase in indicative mode. For example:

Je höher Sie kommen, desto mehr Punkte sammeln Sie.

But could we also use it as subjunctive or conditional mode in any context? For example:

Je stärker ich sei, desto erfolgreicher wäre ich.

  • Could you clarify what exactly your question is about? Your second example uses two different forms of subjunctive mood (Konjunktiv I and II). What's the real question here? Whether you can ever use Konjunktiv II in the desto clause? Or how the sentence must be phrased in a context of indirectness? Or ...? – johnl Dec 16 '19 at 14:59
  • dear @johnl, You're right, I see that in second example I had to use two different forms of subjunctive (Konjunktive I and II), but I didn't know exactly in which would I be able to translate it precisely in a context like: "The stronger I become, The more successful I would be.". Could you please explain it? – Armin Dec 16 '19 at 15:06
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Yes, of course, you can do this and say

Je stärker ich sei, desto erfolgreicher wäre ich.

The only problem is that sentences like this require very specific contexts to be used in, otherwise they sound weired - up to the level that people think they are wrong; which they technically aren't, given the right context.

Your sample sentence uses two different forms of subjunctive, the "sei" for indirect speech, and the "wäre" for irrealis.

A more easily allocatable sentence would be:

Ich mache neuerdings Krafttraining, denn mein Trainer hat mir gesagt, je stärker ich sei, desto erfolgreicher werde ich sein. (Or ... desto mehr Erfolg werde ich haben.)

This is pure indirect speech. Usually people do not use this form of indirect speech in oral communication. They would rather say:

Ich mache neuerdings Krafttraining, denn mein Trainer hat mir gesagt, je stärker ich bin, desto erfolgreicher werde ich. (Or ... desto mehr Erfolg werde ich haben.)

This is indicative. Note that werde hier is not subjunctive but future! That's a bit confusing, as the indicative and subjunctive forms are identical.

In formal, written communication the use of indirect speech is standard, though.

Now for integrating also the irreal or conditional form, we have to go to great lenghts with our fantasy to come up with a scenario where such a sentence could make sense in practice.

Ich mache neuerdings Krafttraining, denn mein Trainer hat mir gesagt, je stärker ich sei [indirect speech], desto erfolgreicher wäre [conditional] ich im Falle einer Nominierung für die Auswahlmannschaft.

This uses an additional conditional, and thus the wäre makes sense here.

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Yes, the mode can also be changed in je–desto and umso–je constructions.

Let me show the differences between the modes with the personal pronoun er instead of the formal Sie first:

Indicative: Je höher er kommt, desto mehr Punkte sammelt er.

Subjunctive I: Er sagte, je höher er komme, desto mehr Punkte sammle er.

Subjunctive II: Er behauptet, je höher er käme, desto mehr Punkte sammelte er / würde er sammeln.

If we substituted er with the formal Sie, then the subjuctive-I forms of the verbs kommen and sammeln would coincide with the indicative forms. To avoid that, the subjunctive-II forms are used:

Subjunctive I: Er sagte, je höher Sie kommen kämen, desto mehr Punkte sammeln sammelten Sie / würden Sie sammeln.

Notice that the modes in your last sentence

Je stärker ich sei, desto erfolgreicher wäre ich.

do not agree; ich sei is subjunctive I and ich wäre is subjunctive II. I would consider such sentences as stylisticly poor, if not incorrect.

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  • dear @Björn Friedrich, Thanks a lot for your comprehensive answer. So, according to these four examples you gave, we could conjugate my second example also could follow your rule? – Armin Dec 16 '19 at 15:18
  • @Armin, regarding your second sentence, see the last part of my answer. – Björn Friedrich Dec 16 '19 at 18:20
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Je stärker ich sei, desto mehr erfolgreich wäre ich.

Doesn't sound right. I believe it should be more something like

Je stärker ich bin, desto erfolgreicher wäre ich.

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  • @Iris Also sollen wir sagen "Je stärker uch werde, desto erfolgreicher wäre ich."? – Armin Dec 16 '19 at 14:36
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    I'd probably say "Je stärker ich werde, ..." but I can't tell why – Iris Dec 16 '19 at 14:38
  • @Armin, I translated my comment. My first (now deleted) comment was a "this is right/wrong" answer, but an comment, that I would say something different, but can't tell either what's the right way to day it. – Iris Dec 16 '19 at 14:39
  • dear @Iris, Thanks anyway. But could someone please say a precise answer and describe the reason? – Armin Dec 16 '19 at 14:45
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    @Armin, I wish I could, but I am "only" a native speaker – Iris Dec 16 '19 at 15:00

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