I was rather surprised to learn that the German Konjunktiv, in its present and past forms has the same identical usage to the one in my language (Italian).

But in mine people often substitute this mood with the Indicative one, especially in hypothetical constructs. This happens in common speech every day; it does not (shouldn't at least!) happen in a formal/intellectual text.

How often is this mood used in German?

  • which is your language? – c.p. Jul 30 '13 at 16:21
  • 1
    @c.p.: Italian, as far as I remember. – chirlu Jul 30 '13 at 16:22
  • Yep, Italian. Unless I'm getting something wrong, the usage of present and past conjunctive are exactly the same. – martina Jul 30 '13 at 16:39
  • Maybe @splattne can answer it. – c.p. Jul 30 '13 at 18:45

The usage and its colloquial substitutions are indeed closely comparable, but it seems to me that performing this substitution in German is considered a lot more informal than in Italian.

"Wenn ich einmal reich wär, müßte ich nicht arbeiten" (If I were a rich man, I wouldn't have to work) is unlikely to be substituted by an indicative in normal language. In fact "Wenn ich einmal reich bin" would change the meaning: since we Germans have no dedicated plural forms and eschew using the synthetic forms that we do have, this sounds like a future-tense substitute, i.e. as if I had a firm intention and a full expectation of actully being rich at some well-defined point in the future.

The only situation where I recall ever hearing the substitution except literally on the streets is during sports reporting. "Oh nein! Wenn er da nicht ausrutscht..." (Oh no, if he hadn't slipped [...he might have scored]) can occasionally be heard, but only when the reporter is too excited to correct himself.

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