Do I understand it correctly that the Past form of the Konjunktiv 1 exists only in Perfekt and there is no such thing as Konjunktiv 1 Vergangenheit im Präteritum?

In other words, there is only this form of Konjunktiv I in the Past:

Konjunktiv I Vergangenheit = Konjunktiv I von sein/haben + Partizip II

  • I think that technically, Konjunktiv II is "Konjunktiv Präteritum", just as Konjunktiv I is Konjunktiv Präsens. The German Konjunktive are just so little related to their corresponding tenses that naming them that way is pretty misleading. Jul 22, 2020 at 17:27
  • @phipsgabler, I just want to ensure, when in exam I have a sentence in Präteritum which must be transformed to Indirekte Rede, which is based on K1, which form of K1 should I use: Konjunktiv I von sein/haben + Partizip II or something else?
    – Mike
    Jul 22, 2020 at 18:30
  • Oh, yes, exactly that. David has expressed my point much better. Jul 22, 2020 at 19:16

1 Answer 1


Simple forms

There are four finite forms that can be classified along two categories tense and mood, the tense features being present and past, the mood features being indicative and subjunctive.

Using 3rd person singular, the forms for strong and weak verbs look like this:

| (strong)    | present | past   |
| indicative  | trägt   | trug   |
| subjunctive | trage   | trüge  |

|  (weak)     | present | past   |
| indicative  | macht   | machte |
| subjunctive | mache   | machte |

Past as a morphological feature is not the same as past tense. Most importantly, the past subjunctive (hätte, wäre, trüge …) does not refer to the past and the contrast between the two subjunctive forms is not of a temporal nature.

Therefore, a different terminology is often used. The subjunctive forms are usually referred to as Konjunktiv I (present subjunctive) and Konjunktiv II (past subjunctive). The indicative forms are called Präsens (present indicative) and Präteritum (past indicative).

It can be seen at this point that the phrase Konjunktiv 1 Vergangenheit im Präteritum contains a contradiction: Konjunktiv 1 and Präteritum are incompatible. Konjunktiv 1 and Vergangenheit, however, are not; see below.

The periphrastic past (perfect)

The periphrastically formed past tense is called the perfect. It is formed with an auxiliary verb haben or sein and a past participle. Since the auxiliary can take any of the four finite forms listed above, the perfect is actually a family of forms, depending on the form the auxiliary takes:

  1. present indicative: er hat gearbeitet
  2. past indicative: er hatte gearbeitet
  3. present subjunctive (Konjunktiv I): er habe gearbeitet
  4. past subjunctive (Konjunktiv II): er hätte gearbeitet

The Institut for Deutsche Sprache calls these tenses: 1. Indikativ Präsensperfekt, 2. Indikativ Präteritumperfekt, 3. Konjunktiv Präsensperfekt and 4. Konjunktiv Präteritumperfekt.

Konjunktiv Präsensperfekt combines Konjunktiv 1 (habe) and past tense.

Contexts where a perfect substitutes for a past indicative

The two past tenses – the past indicative (Präteritum) and the periphrastic perfect in all forms – both refer to the past. But the perfect, being a family of tenses, can express distinctions that the simple past cannot. Therefore, in certain cases, a shift from simple past to perfect occurs.

For instance, when a combination of past tense and Konjunktiv II is required, Konjunktiv Präteritumperfekt is used:

Er arbeitete nicht viel.

→ Er sieht nicht so aus, als hätte er viel gearbeitet.

When a combination of past tense and Konjunktiv I is required, Konjunktiv Präsensperfekt is used:

Er arbeitete nicht viel.

→ Ihm wurde vorgeworfen, er habe nicht viel gearbeitet.

  • Thanks for detailed explanation. Regarding «present subjunctive, excludes past», I have a sentence: Nach Auskunft der Werkstatt habe das Auto noch nicht repariert werden können., which is obviously past (habe + repariert werden können) but still in K1, while Nach Auskunft der Werkstatt könne das Auto noch nicht repariert werden. is in Present, isn't?
    – Mike
    Jul 22, 2020 at 18:40
  • 1
    @MikeB. The terminology is difficult here because past has two meanings: a morphological one (hatte, war and hätte, wäre are morphologically past) and a temporal one (hat gearbeitet and arbeitete both refer to the past). Habe … können refers to the past, but habe and könne are present subjunctive (Konjunktiv 1) and do not refer to the past. I don't know how to circumvent this terminological problem.
    – David Vogt
    Jul 22, 2020 at 18:42
  • "Two categories tense and mood, the tense features..., the mode features...". So, it is the mood or the mode features? Just want to be sure there is no typo here.
    – Mike
    Jul 24, 2020 at 10:56
  • 1
    @MikeB. Two words for the same thing. I should stick to one though.
    – David Vogt
    Jul 24, 2020 at 11:06
  • Thanks a lot, that's really interesting info, regardless if I'll have a K1 question or not on the test!
    – Mike
    Jul 24, 2020 at 11:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.