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1.Could you please look at this Konjunktiv II and help me make sense of it ? i am confused about comparing tenses and when to use which one.

2.Second question is about " würde+infinitiv Perfekt" construction. According to the table here conjugation subjunctive II,

it refers to the future, although it is a substitute form for the subjunctive II pluperfect. It is used instead of the subjunctive II pluperfect, rarely, especially colloquially.

Is the construction just a substitute for the subjunctive II past perfect and only the name of the construction adds some confusion ( Konjunktiv Präteritum is used to express the present and future) or can it still be used to express the future?

it is a translation of a question which i need help understanding the question itself, i find it very confusing, please help me.

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  • Sorry, but the explanations of the Konjunktiv at the site you linked are the most complicated ones that I have ever seen. More importantly, the explanations, if taken literally, are simply wrong. Jun 29, 2022 at 10:28
  • @BjörnFriedrich Thank you
    – iamshimye
    Jun 29, 2022 at 11:30
  • It seems your question is missing a link for “the table here conjugation subjunctive II”.
    – mach
    Jun 30, 2022 at 15:09
  • @mach, the link is given in the first sentence. Jul 1, 2022 at 16:32
  • @BjörnFriedrich: Maybe it is the same link. It seems to me, though, that the question is comparing that first link to some other analysis. Also, there is a gap in the question where I think such a comparative link ought to be.
    – mach
    Jul 2, 2022 at 7:37

1 Answer 1

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I think these things happen when a bad analysis is explained in a bad way.

I doubt whether the würde + past participle + haben/sein («er würde geschlafen haben»/«sie würde gegangen sein») is anything other than a würde periphrasis of the hätte/wäre + past participle construction. I believe the hätte/wäre + past participle construction should normally be preferred («er hätte geschlafen»/«sie wäre gegangen»). The reason is that the würde periphrasis is not normally used with the auxiliary verbs haben and sein. Instead, the regular conjunctive preterite (or "II") is normally used for these verbs, that is, the forms hätte and wäre.

Calling würde + past participle + haben/sein a «Futur II Konjunktiv II» seems like a particularly bad analysis to me. Instead, I would call it a periphrastic form of the perfect of the conjunctive preterite:

  • The conjunctive preterite means forms like hätte/wäre/schliefe etc. (contrasting with the conjunctive present habe/sei/schlafe). It mainly expresses the irrealis mood.
  • The perfect means auxiliary (haben or sein) + past participle. It expresses that an action has completed or finished. For the perfect of the conjunctive preterite, the auxiliary takes the conjunctive preterite form, that is, hätte or wäre + past participle.
  • The periphrasis of the conjunctive preterite means replacing a conjunctive preterite form by würde + infinitive.

To sum it up, there are two forms of the conjunctive preterite, the non-perfect form (without auxiliary) and the perfect form (with auxiliary). In both forms, the finite verb can be replaced by a periphrastic construction with würde:

Non-periphrastic form Periphrasis with würde
Non-perfect er schliefe/sie ginge er würde schlafen/sie würde gehen
Perfect er hätte geschlafen/sie wäre gegangen er würde geschlafen haben/sie würde gegangen sein

None of these forms imply any grammatical tense. They can all be used when speaking about past, present, or future events (though of course, the perfect aspect means completion at any of those time planes).

I can only speculate why anybody would speak of «Futur» when it comes to the würde periphrasis of the conjunctive preterite. I guess it is because the verb commonly used in the periphrasis, würde, is a form of the verb werden, which is used in the construction werde + infinitive, traditionally known as «Futur». The use of the label «Futur» for that form is, I believe, a remnant from the time when every grammar of every language was described in the categories of the Latin grammar. The German werde + infinitive construction is, however, not a future tense. When speaking about future events, its use is not required. Its use does not mean that an event takes place in the future. The meaning of werde + infinitive is better understood as a modal construction expressing that at the moment of speaking, the factuality of the event cannot (yet) be ascertained.

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    That's a completely normal form: "Wärest Du zum Supermarkt gegangen, würdest Du auch das Chaos dort gesehen haben." But that arguably is not futur at all, but Konjunktiv irrealis der Vergangenheit. Arguably it is better phrased as "... hättest Du auch das Chaos dort gesehen." In my book these two forms are used interchangably, though, the first being the more colloquial version. Jul 1, 2022 at 9:01
  • @planetmaker: Don’t you mean «würdest du zum Supermarkt gegangen sein»? 😉 You are right though, the form is regular, toning down the answer accordingly.
    – mach
    Jul 2, 2022 at 7:33
  • thinking more about this distinction: I think there can be a tiny difference in meaning (though the distinction may vanish at times): the form "gingest Du..." is more expression of disbelief of this action happening on the speaker than "würdest Du gehen" which is expresses a possibility which might or might not happen (and accordingly in the past tense approximately expressing a belief of "was never an option" vs. "was an option". Aug 1, 2022 at 12:19

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