The Modal Verb “sollen”

"Sollen" is a modal verb which means "should."

On this page I'll explain how "sollen" is used, how to conjugate it, and things to watch out for, as well as provide some examples to help you really understand this important verb that you'll use very often when speaking German.

Conjugating "sollen"

In the subjunctive 2, the "o" in "sollen" doesn't change to an "ö" ⇒ the simple past form and the subjunctive 2 form are identical.

Using "sollen"

As a task or duty:

  • „Ich soll das Geschirr abwaschen.“
    (I should wash the dishes. It is my chore.)
  • „Die Kinder sollen Hausaufgaben machen.“
    (The teacher gave the children a homework assignment.)

As a recommendation or advice:

  • „Du solltest dein Zimmer besser aufräumen!“
    (I recommend that you clean the room. Otherwise, your parents will be upset.)
  • „Sie sollten den Vertrag unterschreiben!“
    (I recommend that you sign the contract.)

As an assumption (with the subjunctive 2):

High probability you are right.

  • „Der Schal sollte Maria gehören.
    (As an answer to „Wem gehört dieser Schal?“ ⇒ I am quite sure.)
  • „Thomas sollte um 18 Uhr nach Hause kommen.“
    (As an answer to: „Wann kommt Thomas nach Hause?“ ⇒ I am quite sure)

As an indirect command

⇒ The command was already given / task already assigned, and this is a reminder.

  • „Du sollst den Müll rausbringen.“
    (In this case it is a "reminder" to finally do something. The command was previously issued and usually came from another person.)

In comparison to a direct command: „Bring den Müll raus!“

Additional Modal Verbs

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