Forming and using the subjunctive I

We use the subjunctive I mainly for indirect speech and to express neutrality and distance from a statement, for example in media reports. We can form a sentence in the subjunctive I with or without dass (that).

Er sagt: „Anna leitet das Hotel.“ → Er sagt, dass Anna das Hotel leite. leiten, Konj. I Präsens

He says, “Anna runs the hotel” → He says that Anna runs the hotel.

Anna fragt: „Sagt er die Wahrheit?“ → Anna fragt, ob er die Wahrheit sage. sagen, Konj. I Präsens

Anna asks, “Is he telling the truth?” → Anna asks if he is telling the truth.

Der Minister behauptet: „Ich erinnere mich nicht.“ → Der Minister behauptet, er erinnere sich nicht. erinnern, Konj. I Präsens

The minister claimed: “I don't remember” → The minister claims he doesn't remember.

We can also use the subjunctive I to speculate about something, and it is also found in certain German idioms.

Ich dachte, er schlafe schon.schlafen, Konj. I Präsens

I thought he was already sleeping.

Wie dem auch sei, ich glaube dir. sein, Konj. I Präsens

Be that as it may, I believe you.

In most cases, the subjunctive I is formed as shown below. The ich (I) and er/sie/he (he/she/it) forms are always the same.

PräsensKonjunktiv IErsatzform Konjunktiv II
ichgehegeh-e ginge/würde gehen
dugehstgeh-estgingest/würdest gehen
er, sie, esgehtgeh-e
wirgehengeh-engingen/würden gehen
ihrgehtgeh-etginget/würdet gehen
siegehengeh-engingen/würden gehen

Important: in indirect speech, the subjunctive I is actually only used for the er/sie/es (he/she/it) form. In all other cases we use the subjunctive II, because the subjunctive I form and the present tense look the same or similar and could be confused.

Sie sagt: „Ich gehe bald nach Hause.“ → Sie sagt, sie gehe bald nach Hause. gehen, Konj. I Präsens

She says, “I'm going home soon” → She says she is going home soon.

Die Gäste verkünden: „Wir gehen heute in die Stadt.“ → Die Gäste verkünden, dass sie heute in die Stadt gingen/gehen würden. gehen, Konj. II Präteritum

The guests announce: “We're going into town today” → The guests announce that they are going into town today (literally “would be going”).

Note: we can also use the subjunctive I in the perfect and future tenses.

Er sagt, er werde bald gehen. gehen, Konj. I Futur 1

He says he will leave soon.

Magda sagte, dass die Gäste gegangen seien. gehen, Konj. I Perfekt 

Magda said that the guests had left.

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