Conditional

Outsider

Senior Member
Portuguese (Portugal)
How is the conditional constructed in German? Here are a few examples of what I mean by conditional:

1. If I won the lottery, I would buy a house.
2. What car would Jesus drive?
3. Would you like something to eat?


Is the German tense constructed like the English one (particularly in cases like the first sentence)? That is, modal verb + infinitive of main verb?

Danke schoen.
 
  • Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Outsider said:
    How is the conditional constructed in German? Here are a few examples of what I mean by conditional:

    What about your own attempt first? ;)

    1. If I won the lottery, I would buy a house.
    2. What car would Jesus drive?
    3. Would you like something to eat?

    In general, there are many ways to form conditional clauses in German. I'll take the one that is the closest to the English sentences:

    1. Wenn ich im Lotto/in der Lotterie gewinnen würde, würde ich mir ein Haus kaufen.
    2. Was für ein Auto würde Jesus fahren?
    3. Möchtest du etwas zu essen (haben)?/Wünschst du etwas zu essen?

    The conditional is formed like this in German:

    example sentence: If you helped me, I would be very content/glad.

    1. wenn/falls + subject + object + subjunctive (or "würde" conjugated + infinitive), (dann) + "würde" conjugated + subjunctive + infinitive
    --> Wenn du mir hülfest/helfen würdest, (dann) würde ich sehr zufrieden sein.

    2. subjunctive + subject + object, (dann) ...
    --> Hülfest du mir, (dann) ...

    3. "würde" conjugated + subject + object + infinitive, (dann) ...
    --> Würdest du mir helfen, (dann) ...

    There are so many exception to these rules and too many natives make mistakes (which aren't mistakes now anymore), so that it would get too far, if I wanted to explain it in detail. If you want to know it though, I'll be willing to help you. :)

    Is the German tense constructed like the English one (particularly in cases like the first sentence)? That is, modal verb + infinitive of main verb?

    Actually, yes. The modal verb is the subjunctive of our future particle (werden>würde = will>would). You can form the conditional by using würde + infinitive or by using the subjunctive. There are verbs, however, that look like their past tense form in the subjunctive: machen (past subjunctive = Konjunktiv II; simple past = Präteritum). That's why we prefer the "würde + infinitive" construction in both parts of the conditional clause.

    Danke schoen.

    Gern geschehen. :)
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    Whodunit said:
    1. Wenn ich im Lotto/in der Lotterie gewinnen würde, würde ich mir ein Haus kaufen.
    2. Was für ein Auto würde Jesus fahren?
    3. Möchtest du etwas zu essen (haben)?/Wünschst du etwas zu essen?
    The problem with number 3 is that you have to know that "möchten", which appears to be a verb, is actually the subjunctive form of "mogen". So we have to explain that:

    Ich möchte = I would like
    Möchtest du… = would you like… ?

    In other words, in some situations the concept of "would" is contained in the verb form, totally different from modern English. Other times "würden" (or würd + ending) is used just as "would" is used in English.

    As you said, it can get quite complicated, so I'll stop right there. ;)

    Gaer
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    gaer said:
    The problem with number 3 is that you have to know that "möchten", which appears to be a verb, is actually the subjunctive form of "mögen". So we have to explain that:

    You are right, I should have explained it. But you can see that "möchten" (would like) is just the subjunctive form to "mögen" (to like), whereas you use the conditional is used in English.

    As you said, it can get quite complicated, so I'll stop right there. ;)

    Yes, but if Outsider is interested enough, we will explain it. :)
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    FloVi said:
    Wieso nicht einfach

    "Würdest Du gern etwas essen?"

    ?

    But that doesn't mean "would like to eat", literally. In the English sentence, "to like" is used in the conditional, whereas you have used "essen" in the conditional.

    would you like = möchtest du
    would you eat = würdest du essen

    The word "gern" can't be translated literally, as you know.


    Heidita said:
    Genau.

    Wünschst Du etwas zu essen ist nicht Konditional.

    Habe ich behauptet, dass der deutsche Satz im Konditional steht? Es ist einfach nur eine Übersetzung, die auch alltäglich verwendet wird für den englischen Satz. Es heißt doch nicht, dass jeder englische Konditionalsatz im Deutschen auch im Konditional stehen muss.
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    Thank you for all the replies so far. What I wanted to see was how simliar the German conditonal was to the English conditional. It was suggested in another thread that the English conditional was a calque of French, but I doubted it. If a similar structure exists in other Germanic languages, then it seems less likely that English borrowed the construction from French.

    At the same time, I think this makes sense of something else for me. I had often wondered why it is that English speakers sometimes confuse the terms "conditional" and "subjunctive". But, judging from what happens in German, its seems that Germanic languages have no specific conjugation for the conditional; they use the subjunctive!
     

    FloVi

    Senior Member
    Deutsch / Deutschland
    Whodunit said:
    would you like = möchtest du
    would you eat = würdest du essen

    The word "gern" can't be translated literally, as you know.

    Das "gern" habe ich in diesem Fall auch nicht für das "like" eingesetzt.

    "Würdest Du etwas essen." ist im Deutschen eigentlich eine als Frage getarnte Aufforderung. Das "gern" ist hier notwendig, um daraus tatsächlich eine Frage nach den Wünschen des Gefragten zu machen.

    Sicher ist "Möchtest Du etwas essen?" die gängige und richtige Übersetzung, doch die Fragestellung lautete nach dem Conditional und so gesehen halte ich "Würdest Du gern etwas essen?" für die "richtigere" Übersetzung.
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Outsider said:
    Thank you for all the replies so far. What I wanted to see was how simliar the German conditonal was to the English conditional. It was suggested in another thread that the English conditional was a calque of French, but I doubted it. If a similar structure exists in other Germanic languages, then it seems less likely that English borrowed the construction from French.

    At the same time, I think this makes sense of something else for me. I had often wondered why it is that English speakers sometimes confuse the terms "conditional" and "subjunctive". But, judging from what happens in German, its seems that Germanic languages have no specific conjugation for the conditional; they use the subjunctive!

    I think that English and French (I think Portuguese, too) have a rule how to form conditional clauses correctly; in German, there isn't actually one:

    EN: If you helped me, I would be very glad. >>>EDIT: If you would help me, I would be very glad. (see below)
    FR: Si tu m'aidais, je serais très content.
    DE:
    Wenn du mir helfen würdest, würde ich sehr zufrieden sein.
    Wenn du mir helfen würdest, wäre ich sehr zufrieden.
    Wenn du mir hülfest, würde ich sehr zufrieden sein.
    Wenn du mir hülfest, wäre ich sehr zufrieden.
    Würdest du mir helfen, würde ich ...
    ...
    Würdest du mir helfen, dann würde ich ...

    Having said that, I think that it is correct that the English conditional is closer to the French one than to the German. Most Germans don't even know Konditional and Konjunktiv (subjunctive). They could not differentiate between them, they just use it by feel. :)
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    But the "would" + infinitive constructions of English can sometimes be used as subjunctives, too, which doesn't happen in French. For example, your sample sentence could be repharsed to:

    If you would help me, I would be very glad.
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    Outsider said:
    But the "would" + infinitive constructions of English can sometimes be used as subjunctives, too, which doesn't happen in French. For example, your sample sentence could be repharsed to:

    If you would help me, I would be very glad.

    Isn't that incorrect in English? Would you use it in essays? The reason why I ask this is that in German, it would be allowed.
     

    heidita

    Banned
    Germany (German, English, Spanish)
    FloVi said:
    Das "gern" habe ich in diesem Fall auch nicht für das "like" eingesetzt.

    "Würdest Du etwas essen." ist im Deutschen eigentlich eine als Frage getarnte Aufforderung. Das "gern" ist hier notwendig, um daraus tatsächlich eine Frage nach den Wünschen des Gefragten zu machen.

    Sicher ist "Möchtest Du etwas essen?" die gängige und richtige Übersetzung, doch die Fragestellung lautete nach dem Conditional und so gesehen halte ich "Würdest Du gern etwas essen?" für die "richtigere" Übersetzung.

    Das habe ich auch so gesehen. Hier ging es nicht um eine Übersetzung, streng gesehen, sondern um eine Frage nach dem Konditional.
     

    heidita

    Banned
    Germany (German, English, Spanish)
    Outsider said:
    But the "would" + infinitive constructions of English can sometimes be used as subjunctives, too, which doesn't happen in French. For example, your sample sentence could be repharsed to:

    If you would help me, I would be very glad.

    I do not agree, Outsider.

    This is second conditional:

    If you helped me, I would be very glad.

    There are very few exceptions to this very strict rule, unusually strict for English grammar, as it has always dozens of exceptions.

    if + would :cross:

    some exceptions:

    I wonder if you could give the children a bath.
    If you could/would just wait here...I will be with you in a minute.

    On the other hand, can this be a mistake?
    Results 1 - 10 of about 23,900 for "if you would help me".

    So, I can only say, (if you would use) if you used this structure in a test in say the First Certificate, you would certainly get a fail.
     

    Whodunit

    Senior Member
    Deutschland ~ Deutsch/Sächsisch
    heidita said:
    I do not agree, Outsider.

    This is second conditional:

    If you helped me, I would be very glad.

    There are very few exceptions to this very strict rule, unusually strict for English grammar, as it has always dozens of exceptions.

    if + would :cross:

    some exceptions:

    I wonder if you could give the children a bath.
    If you could/would just wait here...I will be with you in a minute.

    On the other hand, can this be a mistake?
    Results 1 - 10 of about 23,900 for "if you would help me".

    So, I can only say, (if you would use) if you used this structure in a test in say the First Certificate, you would certainly get a fail.

    Here I have to agree with you, Heidita. The word order "if you would" is wrong according to English grammar rules. There are always exceptions, of course, but the first one you mentioned has nothing to do with a conditional clause.

    "I wonder if" means "I wonder whether". You may be misled by the Spanish or French "si", but in German, the difference is clear: "I wonder if" means "Ich bin gespannt ob ...", and there is no "wenn" or "falls" in it.

    The google results are correct. I must admit that I didn't know it before either and I will edit my previous posts that contain some confusions. Read this:

    However, there is one exception to this general rule. If we are talking about willingness to do something, then it is possible to use would, as an alternative to the past simple, in the if clause:
    • 'If you would only tell me what the problem was, I would help you to find a solution.'
    • 'If you would help me with the painting, we would finish decorating this room today.'
     
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