Is there any video lesson to show the difference between wäre and würde? Otherwise, could someone explain to me about this? I get confused a lot while using these words. I have noticed:

wäre= would, was (Sein Konjunktiv II)

würde= would ( Werden Konjunktiv II)

Most of the times while solving questions, I write wäre in place of würde and würde in place of wäre. Also, when I answer the given question as one of the model verb, the actual answer is wäre and when I write wäre , the actual answer is some model verb. :/

For example this type of questions:

1)Wenn ich nicht an dem Projekt arbeiten wäre, würde ich mitkommen. (My answer)

If I wasn't working on the project, I would come with you.

2)Wenn ich nicht an dem Projekt arbeiten müsste, würde ich mitkommen. ( Actual answer)

If I didn't have to work on the project, I would come with you.

One thing I notice with this example is:

we should have one model verb along with infinitive verb that's why we don't use any would form in the first clause?

Another example:

Wenn Maria nicht im Stau stehen würde, würde sie sich zu Hause entspannen. (Actual answer)

I wrote:

Wenn Maria nicht im Stau stehen wäre, würde sie sich zu Hause entspannen.

3 Answers 3


They are the forms of the subjunctive mood of two distinct verbs:

  • wäre: Konjunktiv II of the verb sein (to be)
    Example: „Er sagt, er wäre krank.“ (derived from krank sein)
  • würde: Konjunktiv II of the verb werden (to become)

Usually, würde does not stand alone but serves in Konjunktiv II as an ersatz form in connection with another verb. For instance, in the following sentence stünde is the Konjunktiv II form of the verb stehen:

Wenn Maria nicht im Stau stünde, würde sie sich zu Hause entspannen.

This form can be substituted by the ersatz form würde stehen as follows:

Wenn Maria nicht im Stau stehen würde, würde sie sich zu Hause entspannen.

(In a similar manner, the Konjunktiv II form entspannte is substituted in this sentence by the ersatz form würde entspannen.)

The form stehen wäre would be wrong, because the standard form stehen sein does not exist.

  • However, gestanden wäre would be fine while gestanden würde would not be.
    – Jan
    Oct 21, 2020 at 10:43
  • @Jan, but gestanden wäre is derived from the verb gestehen, not stehen: "Der Anwalt meinte, dass die Tat nun endlich gestanden wäre." And it would be also correct to say "Der Anwalt hoffte, dass er die Tat nun endlich gestehen würde." Oct 21, 2020 at 11:05
  • Ah no, ‘ich bin dort gestanden und habe auf dich gewartet’ is perfectly valid German.
    – Jan
    Oct 21, 2020 at 11:06
  • @Jan, ah in this sense. Yes, my grandparents (northern Germany) used to say that often. Oct 21, 2020 at 11:08
  • @BjörnFriedrich Weird, because "bin gestanden" or "bin gesessen" is something rather specific to southern Germany. I'm from the middle-west and "bin gestanden" sounds wrong to me, even after living 10 years in the south ;) duden.de/sprachwissen/sprachratgeber/… "South" seems to be southern of the Main: atlas-alltagssprache.de/hilfsverb
    – Sentry
    Dec 11, 2020 at 15:27

There are two things one has to aware of when translating such sentences from English to German.

First, German has no continuous form like English. So you cannot translate a clause like "If I weren't working" to "Wenn ich nicht arbeiten wäre". (Colloquial German can allow such forms but they are very restricted in usage and therefore should be avoided.) Instead you should take the present indicative ("Wenn ich nicht arbeite") and transform it to a conditional form, either by using subjunctive II ("Wenn ich nicht arbeitete") or, more common, by using würde + infinitive: "Wenn ich nicht arbeiten würde".

Second, German müssen exists in all conjugated forms whereas English must is basically restricted to the present tense. This means that in German one can use müssen in places where in English one has to use to have to.

So "If I didn't have to work on the project" translates to "Wenn ich nicht an dem Projekt arbeiten müsste" because "to have to" becomes "müssen" in German, and here it is common to use the subjunctive II "müsste" for the conditional form. But the more literal translation "Wenn ich nicht an dem Projekt zu arbeiten hätte" is also valid, although less common.

  • I don’t necessarily interpret arbeiten sein as a progressive; rather, I see it is going somewhere to work; basically, if I work from home I wouldn’t say ‘Ich bin arbeiten’ to my neighbour or significant other. I might say ‘Ich bin am arbeiten’ or ‘Ich arbeite’ though.
    – Jan
    Oct 21, 2020 at 10:46

Forget about using "sein" + infinitive or "wäre" + infinitive. You have perhaps heard that somewhere in some sloppy spoken form like in "Ich bin arbeiten.", but these are very special exceptions. In standard German and as a rule of thumb, "sein" and infinitive just don't go together.

If you see an infinitive like in

"Wenn Maria nicht im Stau stehen ______, ______ sie sich zu Hause entspannen."

then any forms of "sein", like e.g. "wäre", can never be the answer. You'll need to look out for a different helper verb. "Müsste", "könnte", "dürfte" etc. would work, or the Konjunktiv II flavor that uses "würde" + infinitive.

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