How to Use the Conditional Tense in German

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The conditional tense in German is established through the subjunctive II (past). But that is not the only way. As important as it is to learn the subjunctive II for such purposes, there are sometimes other ways to form a conditional statement, depending on your intent. The following is a listing of a few examples.

Introducing a Condition With the Preposition Bei

Bei schönem Wetter, gehen wir schwimmen.
(When the weather is nice, we’ll go swimming.)
Remember that the preposition bei is always followed by the dative. If you would use the subjunctive, the sentence would read as follows:

Wenn es schönes Wetter sein sollte, dann gehen wir schwimmen.

Using Wenn

Use wenn plus the present tense if the condition is possible.

Wenn du müde bist, leg dich hin.
(If you are tired, lie down.)

Wenn du Hunger hast, nimm dir ein Stück Kuchen.
(If you are hungry, you can have a piece of cake.)

Use wenn plus the subjunctive II if the sentence indicates a hypothesis not realized.

Wenn ich jung wäre, würde ich mir diese Schuhe kaufen.
If I were young, then I would buy these shoes.

Wenn wir reich wären, würden wir auf eine Weltreise gehen.
(If we were rich, we would go on a world trip.)

Use wenn plus the subjunctive II if the sentence indicates a hypothesis that was not realized in the past.

Wenn er studiert hätte, würde er gute Noten bekommen haben.
(If he had studied, he would have gotten good marks.)

Wenn er seine Medizin genommen hätte, würde er jetzt gesund sein.
(If he had taken his medicine, he would be healthy now.)

Using Falls/im Falle

When something is possible.

Falls du zum Museum hingehst, vergiss nicht dein Mitgliedsausweis.
(In case you go to the museum, don’t forget your membership card.)

Im Falle, dass wir spät sind, will ich mir eine Ausrede denken.
(In case that we are late, I want to think of an excuse.)

Using Es Sei Denn, Dass (Unless)/Vorausgesetzt, Dass

Geh nicht im Keller, es sei denn, dass du vorher gefragst hast.
(Don’t go in the basement, unless you’ve asked beforehand.)

Guck nicht im Schrank, es sei denn du willst wissen was du für deinen Geburtstag bekommen wirst.
(Don’t look in the closet, unless you want to find out what you will be getting for your birthday.)

Ich komme mit, vorausgesetzt, dass deine Eltern einverstanden sind.
(I'm coming, only unless your parents agree.)

Adverbs Sonst (Else) or Andernfalls (Otherwise)

These adverbs make reference to the past that would have influenced the past, that the situation occurred.

Ich bin froh, dass du mitgekommen bist, sonst hätte ich mich sehr gelangweilt haben.
(I am happy that you came along, or else I would have been so bored.)

Gute Sache, dass er die Suppe nicht gegessen hat, andernfalls würde er auch krank gewesen sein.
(Good thing, he didn’t eat the soup, otherwise he’d be sick too.)

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Your Citation
Bauer, Ingrid. "How to Use the Conditional Tense in German." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Bauer, Ingrid. (2020, August 28). How to Use the Conditional Tense in German. Retrieved from Bauer, Ingrid. "How to Use the Conditional Tense in German." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 5, 2023).