What is the conditional tense?

The conditional tense is used to say what might happen under certain conditions.

It is called the conditional tense because it is dependent on a certain condition, eg you can only fulfil one thing on the condition that another thing happens.

How to form the conditional tense

The conditional tense is formed with the stem würde-, which comes from the verb werden. This is then used together with the main verb in the infinitive, which is placed at the end of the sentence or main clause.

The good news is that it looks a lot like the future tense.

FutureA fact that will definitely happenich werde ein Auto kaufenI will buy a car
ConditionalA fact that might happenich würde ein Auto kaufenI would buy a car

Like all German verbs, the ending of würde- changes depending on the subject of the verb. Here are the forms needed for the conditional tense:

  • ich würde – I would
  • du würdest – you would
  • er würde – he would
  • sie würde – she would
  • wir würden – we would
  • ihr würdet – you (pl.) would
  • Sie würden – you (f.) would
  • sie würden – they would
Look for patterns to make learning verb endings easier. For example, in the singular form, all the endings are -e except for the du form, and in the plural all the endings are -en except for the ihr form.