I am wondering about how often Konjunktiv I is used with unexpressed hopes, wishes and thoughts. The context for this would be an essay or fiction in which the author uses Konjunktiv I with reported speech. The grammar books and online pages I have consulted do not give any real detail on what precisely counts as indirect speech in this context. So:

Er wünschte, dass er er fleißiger sei/wäre

He wishes that he was more hard working

Er dachte, dass Zack nichts gesagt habe/hat

He thought that Zack hadn't said anything

Er hofft, dass er gewinnen werde/wird

He hopes that he will win

I know there is not going to be a fixed rule, but could somebody please give some insight on which choice is likely to be made, and whether all those options are even available, thank you.

1 Answer 1


Konjunktiv Ⅰ is pretty rare outside of news reports and legal or scientific writing. In everyday speech, none of your examples would use it, even when it would arguably be the correct choice. But even that is only possibly the case in the second one, and I'd say even there not.

  • Er wünschte, dass er fleißiger wäre. This is a hypothetical, so Konjunktiv Ⅱ is appropriate. However, the sentence construction is awkward; you'd rather say er wünschte sich, fleißiger zu sein.

    I don't see any way Konjunktiv Ⅰ would be used here. It could be used if you want to indirectly report this wish, but then the Konjunktiv is on wünschen, not on sein. Namely, er wünsche sich, fleißiger zu sein.

  • Er dachte, dass Zack nichts gesagt habe. In this case, Konjunktiv Ⅰ may be the technically correct form depending on what exactly you want to express. Specifically, the above means that somebody told the protagonist that Zack hadn't said anything, but he doesn't know if this is actually true.

    This kind of form is appropriate if you want to neutrally report an assessment. Perhaps in a police report or something like that. Might possibly also be used in a book, but it does feel a bit artificially formal. Also it has the same stylistic problem as the other examples: dass tends to be inelegant. Better write it in a style like er dachte, Zack habe nichts gesagt. More likely you would hear the Konjunktiv Ⅱ version, though it does strictly speaking not express this neutrality: er dachte, Zack hätte nichts gesagt.

    But again, I don't think any of this is really what you wanted to express. The translation of your English version is instead er dachte, dass Zack nichts gesagt hatte. This is not Konjunktiv but Plusquamperfekt.

  • Er hofft, dass er gewinnen wird. – This is if you directly represent his hope, nothing indirect here. In practice you would simply use the Präsens of gewinnen in a future role here: er hofft, dass er gewinnt or er hofft zu gewinnen. Perhaps even more likely an Objekt form: er hofft auf den Sieg.

    Again, you can use the Konjunktiv Ⅰ to report this indirectly, but it must be on hoffen then: er hoffe, zu gewinnen. In this case, the long dass form would indeed also use Konjunktiv Ⅰ on the werden: er hoffe, dass er gewinnen werde.

  • Can you please clarify the difference between 'habe/hätte' and 'hat' in the third (Zack) example. With the Konjunktiv version, is that then only used if his thoughts are literally exactly what somebody told him? Whereas the Indikativ version would be perhaps if he had seen evidence that 'he' hadn't said anything? And does this mean then that you wouldn't use Konjunktiv I when stating what somebody's opinion is? Oct 15, 2022 at 23:42
  • Indicative is if he thinks back to an actual event that the thinker knows did in fact happen, and the reader consequently assumes as fact as well (or perhaps already knows for true independently). Konjunktiv Ⅰ is if if the thinker is informed that the event has happened, and has no particular reason to doubt it but can't vouch for it either. Konjunktiv Ⅱ is in principle supposed used if the veractity is in doubt, but in common usage it very often simply takes the role of Konjunktiv Ⅰ. Oct 16, 2022 at 11:56
  • Which would then be chosen if somebody thinks something based on evidence - having neither been told about it or been there firsthand. So 'He thought that Zack was guilty based on the evidence' Or opinions, like 'he thought that the death penalty was wrong' Thank you for your responses Oct 16, 2022 at 22:55
  • All of this is going to be a bit artificial. If it's based on evidence, why does he even think it? If you want to just tell that he recalls this, say »er erinnerte sich dass Zack schuldig war« (Indikativ). If you want to explain that he considers the evidence sufficient to prove his guilt, then this part would go in Konjunktiv, in principle Konjunktiv Ⅰ but in practice more likely Konjunktiv Ⅱ: »er dachte dass die Beweise Zack für schuldig erwiesen hätten«. Similar for reporting an opinion, Konjunktiv Ⅰ better but Ⅱ more common »er meinte dass Todesstrafe falsch sei/wäre”. Oct 17, 2022 at 9:04
  • And again, consider also a construction that circumvents the question entirely: »er erinnerte sich an Zacks Schuld«, »Er sah die Beweise der Schuld als klar an«, »Er hielt die Todesstrafe für falsch«. Oct 17, 2022 at 9:07

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