In this site three forms of creating subjunctive are explained. I list them:

  1. hätte + participle

  2. hätte + modal verb infinitive + verb infinitiv

  3. wäre + participle

These seem to me as an imitation of the "present perfect" in the indicative. I wish to ask, is there a way to do simple past / past perfect subjunctive? What would be the usage conditions?

2 Answers 2


German tenses function different from English tenses. They are much simpler, and the scheme is orthogonal. One dimension is six pairs, and each pair marks a certain intent of speech:

  • Präsens / Perfekt — "take this as a fact"
  • Präteritum / Plusquamperfekt — "take this as a story I tell"
  • Futur I / Futur II — "take this as an assumption"
  • Konjunktiv I / Konjunktiv I Perfekt — "take this as hearsay"
  • Konjunktiv II / Konjunktiv II Perfekt — "take this as not real"
  • Konjunktiv I Futur I / Konjunktiv I Futur II — "take this as hearsay about an assumption"

(The Konjunktiv II Futur I and Konjunktiv II Futur II combinations (wuerde+Infinitiv) are used as the replacement forms for Konjunktiv II / Konjunktiv II Perfekt and mean just the same thing.)

The other dimension is the simple tense of each pair for non-past events, and the Perfekt tense of each pair for past events. (Futur II is a Perfekt tense.)

Be careful about a quirk Northern speakers introduced however. They use Präteritum instead of Perfekt for the auxiliaries, the modals and a few other common verbs. That habit has spread south in the last hundred years.

Also, some speakers use Plusquamperfekt to mark the past of the past. In southern dialects, you may hear Doppeltes Perfekt instead. But in general, the past of the past is marked only seldomly.


With respect to the verb form, the Konjunktiv II is a combination of preterite /simple past and Konjunktiv I:

Present: Ich habe, du hast, er/sie/es hat

Preterite: Ich hatte, du hattest, er/sie/es hatte

Konjunktiv I: Ich habe, du habest, er/sie/es habe

Konjunktiv II: Ich hätte, du hättest, er/sie/es hätte

Note the similarity between preterite and Konjunktiv II. They only differ in that Konjuntiv II has an umlaut. For most weak verbs, they don't differ at all.

Because the Konjunktiv II, with respect to the verb form, already is a preterite, it cannot be turned into a preterite.

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