When giving direct quotations from an individual as actual quotes, does one use the Konjunktiv or the indicative form of verbs. For example, (in a situation where the judge has decided (and believes) that a case is inadmissible) would it be:

"Diese Rechtssache ist unzulässig" sagte der Richter


"Diese Rechtssache sei unzulässig" sagte der Richter

I know that if I was repeating information that the judge said, but not as a direct quote, one would use Konjunktiv ("Der Richter sagte, diese Rechtssache sei unzulässig."), but if it is actually a quote, should one use the indicative instead?

3 Answers 3


This not really a question of indicative vs. subjunctive.

If you use actual quotes, you write literally what has been said.

So if the judge said "Diese Rechtssache ist unzulässig", you would use exactly that.

If the judge said "Diese Rechtssache sei unzulässig" (unlikely, because subjunctive doesn't make sense here) you would use that.

I assume that this is the same in any language. Using quotes means quoting someone literally.


The combination of quotes and indirect speech leaves the reader puzzled. The best assumption is, that the judge used to conjunctive already in direct speech, but this is quite improbable.

If you want to paraphrase, or make more clear that you are deviating from an actual quote, you need to explicitly point out this e.g.:

Der Richter sagte sinngemäß, (Konjunktiv)


Soweit ich verstanden habe, sagte der Richter, (Konjunktiv).


As @RHa already said, when quoting somebody literally, you use quotes and write it down as they said:

»Diese Rechtssache ist unzulässig«, sagte der Richter.

If the judge were speaking about a hypothetical case, he would use Konjunktiv 2, and you could also quote that directly:

»Diese Rechtssache wäre unzulässig«, sagte der Richter.

In indirect speech, which you are referring to in your last paragraph, you use Konjunktiv 1—like you did in your second example, but without the quotes:

Diese Rechtssache sei unzulässig, sagte der Richter.

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