German Konjunktiv II Double Infinitive

Overview

When it comes to auxiliary (haben and sein) and modal verbs, we should use the first form. That means that in these cases we do not use “würde”. When you have to build the past tense of the Konjunktiv II with modals, you should use the following structure:

Hätten + infinitive + infinitive of the modal verb (hätten + double infinitive)

Confusing German Words that Even Baffle Native Speakers

If you are looking for more information on this topic, you can access our learning material here: Video, Lesson, Exercise and more…

To understand when we need to use a double infinitive, we need to recap how to form the different “levels” of the Konjunktiv II, the German general subjunctive. 

1. The Konjunktiv II in the Present Tense

The German “Konjunktiv II”, or the general subjunctive is used to express hypothetical, unreal or imaginary situations, wishes and desires. In English, we can translate the Konjunktiv II with “would” to express “would be”, “would have” and “would do”. 

Examples:
Wenn ich mehr Geld hätte, wäre ich glücklicher. 
If I had more money, I would be happier. 

Wenn ich du wäre, würde ich das nicht tun.
If I were you, I would not do that. 

2. The Konjunktiv II with Modal Verbs

When we add modal verbs to the general subjunctive, the translation into English incudes “could” and “should”, “would have to”, “would be allowed to”, and “would be supposed to”. 

Examples:
Ich könnte am Samstag arbeiten, wenn du mich brauchst. 
I could/would be able to work on Saturday, if you need me. 

Du solltest nicht so viel arbeiten. 
You shouldn’t work so much. 

Ich müsste ihm Bescheid geben. 
I would have to tell him/give him notice. 

3. The Konjunktiv II in the Past Tense

In the same way that we can divide the Konjunktiv II into “with” and “without” modal verbs in the present tense, we can do so in the past tense as well. 
The Konjunktiv II in the past tense without modal verbs would be “would have been”, would have had”, and would have done”. 

Examples:
Ich hätte dich angerufen. 
I would have called you. 

Ich wäre vorbeigekommen. 
I would have stopped by. 

Ich hätte keine Zeit gehabt. 
I would not have had time. 

4. “Hätten” and double infinitives

When using the Konjunktiv II in the past tense with modal verbs, we need to use “hätten” (conjugated based on the subject), the modal verb in the infinitive at the end of the sentence, proceeded by the second verb also in the infinitive. This is used to express “would have had to”, “would have been supposed to/should have”, “would have been able to/could have” and “would have been allowed to”. 

Examples:
Du hättest mich anrufen können. 
You could have called me. 

Wir hätten früher losfahren müssen. 
We would have had to leave sooner. 

Er hätte etwas sagen sollen. 
He should have said something. 

Highlighted Author:

Smiling young african american businessman writing in diary and using laptop in creative office

Private Classes

Meet one or more times weekly with your dedicated German instructor online or in person at a pace and schedule that fits your busy life.

Group of cheerful young women studying together

Group Courses

Our group German courses meet twice a week for 1-hour classes. Learn German with other motivated students. Best option for German CEFR certification.
 
Inspirational International Women's Day Quotes for 2023

Self-Study

Do you like to study on your own when it’s convenient for you? Access free courses or buy helpful charts, vocabulary lists, and courses.

Additional Topics

Fencer in Action
German Accusative and Dative Prepositions
Soccer player in action on the soccer stadium
German Review of all Tenses
Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Germany
German Idioms
Show More

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.