Why do you learn a language?

What can you do with it?

Recently, I had to learn French, because I moved to France. Of course, I wanted to make new friends here, get “ze faymous Frensh baguetteh” or tell a doctor where it hurts.

If you learn German, you probably have the same intentions – apart from the baguette maybe, because, let’s be honest, German Schwarzbrot beats baguette.

But there is one thing that I love even more about a language: You can dream and talk about the craziest things you could have done. Don’t believe me? Then, let’s have a look at this.

How to express desires in German

Ich wäre gern Anthony Kiedis’ Handtuch. (I’d love to be Anthony Kiedis‘ towel) – Expressing secret desires

Hach ja, what a man… But well, back to business.

You might have spotted that really interesting verb wäre. It reminds you a bit of the imperfect form of sein: war with just some fancy extra decoration.

Well, I proudly present the Konjunktiv II to you. It is mostly used to express for example desires:

Ich würde so gern Schokolade essen können, ohne zuzunehmen. (I would like to be able to eat chocolate without gaining any weight.)

As you, attentive as you are, might have noticed already: The Konjunktiv II comes in two different forms.

One that is directly made on the verb and the other one that uses the auxiliary werden in it’s Konjunktiv II form and the infinitive of the main verb.

That’s because the “original” Konjunktiv II sounds like a book speaking to you. But, also… Shhh, this really has to stay a secret… because Germans find the “original” Konjunktiv II way too hard to form.

The only exceptions are, surprise, surprise, sein (to be), haben (to have) and the modal verbs.

But it could have been so different… 

Wenn ich fliegen könnte, hätte ich schon lange mal wieder einen Abstecher nach Berlin gemacht – (If I could fly, I’d have done a short trip to Berlin a while ago) – Expressing ideas and things that could have happened

Close your eyes and imagine: What would you do if you had a cape that made you invisible? (Was würdest du tun, wenn du einen Umhang hättest, der dich unsichtbar macht?)

Ich würde heimlich meine Nachbarn ein bisschen ärgern. ( I would secretly tease my neighbours a bit.)

Was würdest du tun, wenn du alle Sprachen der Welt sprechen könntest? (What would you do if you could speak all the languages in the world?)

Ich würde in jedes Land der Welt reisen und mindestens drei Personen dort ein Kompliment machen. (I would travel to every country in the world and make at least three people there a compliment.)

Was wäre wenn, du vor drei Jahren den Job in München angenommen hättest? (What if you had accepted the job in Munich three years ago?)

Ich wäre jetzt nicht hier und könnte nicht philosophieren, wer der bessere Gitarrist ist: John Frusciante oder Slash. (I wouldn’t be here and couldn’t philosophise about who is the better guitarist: John Frusciante or Slash.)

All this dreaming and fooling around with your friends over some good beers at a Späti at 3am in the morning is possible thanks to the Konjunktiv II. 

Can I make a request in German?

Könnten Sie bitte noch einmal so romantisch in die Kamera schauen, Herr Butler? (Could you please look romantic at the camera again, please, Mr. Butler?) – Formal requests

…and last but not least: The Konjunktiv II is also used to express formality and polite requests. So, together with the formal Sie you show perfect manners.

Instead of saying:

Ich will ein riesen Schoko-Cookie-Double-Fudge-Eis, pronto! (I want a huge Chocolate-Cookie-Double-Fudge-Ice Cream, pronto!)

You can say:

Ich hätte gern ein riesen Schoko-Cookie-Double-Fudge-Eis, bitte. (I would like a huge Chocolate-Cookie-Double-Fudge-Ice Cream, please.)

Maybe, you’d even get some extra Chocolate-topping for asking so nicely. Omnomnom.

Now, it’s up to you to dream and tell us:

Was würdet ihr machen, wenn ihr Deutsch sprechen könntet? (What would you do, if you spoke German?)

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