The subjunctive is one of 3 moods in German (indicative, imperative, subjunctive). Every verb in every sentence falls into one of these three categories. The most common (by far!) is the indicative mood.
In German, there is the subjunctive 1 and the subjunctive 2. The subjunctive 2 is used to express theoretical, hypothetical, and imaginary / impossible things. It can also be used to make questions, statements, suggestions, and advice more polite.
The indicative describes the real world.
The subjunctive 2 describes the imaginary world: wishes, dreams, hypotheticals, etc.
As a polite request:
As a wish / dream:
As a suggestion or advice:
It's also used for imaginary conditions, assumptions, unreal comparisons and unreal wishes.
As unreal conditions:
Things that won't likely happen in the real world
Unreal dreams and wishes:
The opposite of what's really true. Often used with "bloß," "doch," or "nur":
Comparisons that aren't true, like in English with "as if..." They usually include "als ob" or "als wenn."
Sollen doesn't get the "ö" in the subjunctive 2.
Follow these steps:
1. Put the verb in the perfect tense - "Ich habe das Spiel gesehen."
2. Change the helping verb to the subjunctive 2 - "Ich hätte das Spiel gesehen.“
The past participle stays the same.
There is no simple past form of the subjunctive 2.
Normally, only the modal verbs, "sein," "haben," and "werden" get their own subjunctive 2 form.
For all other verbs the conjugated version of "würden" (as helping verb) + infinitive of the main verb is used.
This second way to form the subjunctive 2 is the more common version and corresponds to the English "would" + verb. You could theoretically use this version with the modal verbs, "sein," and "haben," but it isn’t common and doesn’t sound natural at all.
Main Clause First:
If the main clause is in front of the subordinate clause, everything is like normal: the conjugated verb in the main clause is in position 2, and the conjugated verb in the subordinate clause goes to the end.
Subordinate Clause First:
If the subordinate clause is in front of the main clause we have two options. If we use the conjunction "wenn," everything is normal (The verb goes to the end in the subordinate clause, and the verb in the main clause comes right after the comma).
In spoken language, we use this second variation: without "wenn" the verb goes to the first position. If the main clause is front of the subordinate clause, we can not drop "wenn."
The 2nd version is usually used in situations like this:
Anna: „Mama, ich bin durch die Deutschprüfung gefallen.“
Annas Mama: „Hättest du mal mehr gelernt.“
Anna's mom is saying that Anna should have studied for the test. This version is used to say that someone should have done something different in the past (The main clause is dropped because it’s obvious).
Why? It’s shorter than...