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9.12 The conditional of "sein" and "haben"

The "conditional subjunctive" mood is used to express what might happen if something else occurred and is normally formed in English with "would" - e.g. "I would go if..." etc. The present-time conditional subjunctive is also used in German to make very polite requests. We have already seen in Chapter 8 how the conditional of some modal verbs is used in this way.

The present-time conditional subjunctive of the verbs "haben" and "sein" can be translated into English as "would have" and "would be":

ich hätte I would have
du hättest
Sie hätten
You would have
er/sie/es hätte He/she/it would have
wir hätten We would have
ihr hättet
Sie hätten
You would have
sie hätten They would have

We have already seen several usages of the conditional form of "haben". It also tends to have the sense of a polite request:

Was hätten Sie gern?
("What would you like?")
Ich hätte gerne ein Bier.
("I would like a beer.")
Hätten Sie es gern selbst?
("Would you be buying it for yourself?")
Ich hätte gern Frau Arndt gesprochen.
("I would like to speak to Ms. Arndt.")

Occasionally the distinction between the normal present tense and the conditional is a very small one. The following two sentences mean much the same thing - the first is more direct, the second slightly more tentative:

  • Hast du Lust, morgen früh einen Einkaufsbummel zu machen?
    (Are you interested in going on a shopping spree tomorrow morning?)
  • Hättest du Lust, morgen früh einen Einkaufsbummel zu machen?
    (Would you be interested in going on a shopping spree tomorrow morning?)

Conditional usage of "sein"

ich wäre I would be
du wär(e)st
Sie wären
You would be
er/sie/es wäre He/she/it would be
wir wären We would be
ihr wärt
Sie wären
You would be
sie wären They would be

In this chapter we have met some conditional usages of the verb "sein". Sentences containing such forms tend to be hypothetical in meaning:

Das wäre seht nett.
("That would be very nice.")
Wie wäre es mit einer CD?
("How about a CD?")
Wie wäre es mit übermorgen?
("How about the day after tomorrow?")

Weiter! Chapter 9.13: New irregular verbs

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