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I'm told they are the same. Are they? In Germany, is one form more preferred in spoken/written German? I'm asking specifically about Germany, not other German speaking populations.

As a German student, if they are the same, does that mean I can skip learning the Subjunctive II form of verbs altogether, and just use "würde" + infinitive instead??

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    Please don't use "Subjunctive" for the German Konjunktiv. That's not the same thing.
    – tofro
    Feb 9 at 11:51
  • @tofro please stop spreading misinformation. It is both common and appropriate to use the term subjunctive here. See for instance dartmouth.edu/~deutsch/Grammatik/Subjunctive/KonjunktivII.html. (Both terms are Latin anyway.)
    – David Vogt
    Feb 9 at 12:00
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    @DavidVogt Well, the simplest "not-the-same-thing" argument is that you can use one in reported speech and cannot do that in the other language. Another one is usage for orders and requests, where they are also not the same thing.
    – tofro
    Feb 9 at 12:14
  • What's the same thing as what? Subjunctive is an English term, but not a term specific to a mood or form of the English language. For instance, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subjunctive_mood talks about lots of languages. As I said, many German grammars written in English use the term.
    – David Vogt
    Feb 9 at 12:26
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    @DavidVogt Which doesn't make it exactly right. Yes, English subjunctive and German Konjunktiv are very similar. Agree. They're still not the same. It's like the claim that tigers and lions would be the same to Africans and Asians, because that's somehow something they tend to know.
    – tofro
    Feb 9 at 12:34

2 Answers 2

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From a pure viewpoint of notion, they are exactly the same.

From a viewpoint of register, Konjunktiv occupies the higher position.

From a viewpoint of day-to-day use, most native speakers tend to use the "Ersatzform" for Konjunktiv II using "würde".

From a viewpoint of grammatical correctness, using the "Ersatzform" is, however, often considered colloquial (but very, very common)

And to answer your question whether you should still learn Konjunktiv II, I can only point out the fact that language is not only sending, but rather also receiving (i.e. you need to understand what people say or write), and they might not always follow your preference of the "Ersatzform". Especially in Konjunktiv sentences it is tricky to follow whether something happened at all, is supposed to happen, may happen, reported to have happened, or allegedly happened,... when you don't know the exact form. So, I'm afraid you will need to learn all of the conjugations.

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Ich käme is first person singular Konjunktiv II while ich würde kommen is first person singular Konjunktiv II Futur I.

They mean exactly the same thing in German.

So you could indeed never use the Konjunktiv II form of anything but werden —würden— yourself. The problem with that is that native speakers use those Konjunktiv II forms of other verbs so you at least have to be able to identify and decode them. For example, you have to know that ich käme is a form of kommen rather than a form of kämmen.

You could ask yourself why on earth native speakers use those forms. Because they are shortcuts. They are more snappy.

In practice, you have to know the Konjunktiv II forms of all the auxiliaries, the modals, and some very common verbs as e.g. geben, sehen, fallen, or kommen and their prefixed friends.

As that's what native speakers use all the time. You will hardly ever encounter a Konjunktiv II form of backen for example. Even native speakers would have to look that one up. (I looked it up. It's ich büke.)

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  • I also find it fun to look up the forms of “kennen”, which looks so harmless!
    – Carsten S
    Feb 9 at 12:42
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    Bevorzugte man den Konjunktiv II gegenüber dem Konjunktiv II Futur I und spräche in der Art, sähen einen die Menschen komisch an und verstünden es nicht auf Anhieb. Feb 17 at 18:30
  • Reimte man dann noch zur Gänze, Literaten täten Tänze. Doch wäre man ein Bösewicht, denn junge Leut' verstünd' es nicht.
    – Janka
    Feb 17 at 18:55

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