German Als, Als Ob, and Als Wenn

Overview

When als (als obals wenn) is used to mean as if or as though, the verb in its clause should be in the subjunctive.  Subjunctive II (general subjunctive) occurs more frequently than Subjunctive I (special subjunctive).  The Indicative is never used in als-clauses where als is directly followed by the verb. When als follows a comparative form, it is equivalent to the English comparative than. The comparative will precede als, but it might not be the word directly before it.

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The three constructions “als ob,” “als wenn,” and “als” (as if/as though) function as subordinating conjunctions that are most often used with the general subjunctive (der Konjunktiv II). Typically, this means that the conjugated verb in the clause in which these conjunctions appear should be located at the end; however, in the case of “als,” the verb will come immediately after the conjunction. The most commonly used conjunction is “als ob,” though all three are seen commonly in the subjunctive.

Examples: 
Daniel hat uns befohlen, als ob er unser Chef wäre.
Daniel has ordered us around, as if he was our boss. 

Julia spricht von der Zukunft, als wenn sie schon wüsste, was passieren wird.
Julia talks about the future, as if she already knew what will happen. 

Vera gibt Geld aus, als wäre sie reich.
Vera spends money, as if she was rich. 

“Als ob/wenn” and “als” clauses are typically used to form unreal comparisons “irreale Vergleiche”. Clauses that use “als ob/als wenn” and “als” typically answer the question “Wie?” (How?)

Examples:
Wie sieht er heute aus? 
Er sieht aus, als ob er die ganze Nacht nicht geschlafen hätte. 
How does he look today?
He looks, as if he hasn’t slept all night. 

We could also answer the above question with “als”, but then we need to remember that the verb no longer moves to the end of the sentence:

Er sieht so aus, als hätte er die ganze Nacht nicht geschlafen.

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Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

The CEFR is an international standard used to describe language ability. Here are specific details of the CEFR for this topic.

General Explanation:

Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. Can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. Can produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

Specific Capabilities at this Level

Writing:
I can write simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest. I can write personal letters describing experiences and impressions.
Spoken Production:
I can connect phrases in a simple way in order to describe experiences and events, my dreams, hopes and ambitions. I can briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans. I can narrate a story or relate the plot of a book or film and describe my reactions.
Spoken Interaction:
I can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken. I can enter unprepared into conversation on topics that are familiar, of personal interest or pertinent to everyday life (e.g. family, hobbies, work, travel and current events).
Reading:
I can understand texts that consist mainly of high frequency everyday or job-related language. I can understand the description of events, feelings and wishes in personal letters.
Listening:
I can understand the main points of clear standard speech on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc. I can understand the main point of many radio or TV programs on current affairs or topics of personal or professional interest when the delivery is relatively slow and clear.