There are a lot of different ways to refer to the German Konjunktiv in English:

  • subjunctive I and subjunctive II
  • present subjunctive and past subjunctive
  • Konjunktiv I and Konjunktiv II
  • konjunktiv I and konjunktiv II
  • conjunctive I and conjunctive II
  • present conjunctive and past conjunctive

… as well as in German:

  • Konjunktiv I and Konjunktiv II
  • Konjunktiv Präsens and Konjunktiv Präteritum/Imperfekt
  • Konjunktiv der Gegenwart and Konjunktiv der Vergangenheit

What is the best way to refer to these forms to avoid confusion (in particular for language learners) considering the following aspects:

  • What is used in the literature, in particular in learning material?

  • What is didactically good? E.g., is it confusing, when referring to the Konjunktiv II with the words past, Präteritum or Vergangenheit, though it does not describe the past?

  • How does it affect readability to use German words in English sentences?

  • Should German subjects in English sentences be capitalised?

Note that I do not necessarily want to establish a standard here (though I do not mind if I do), but am primarily interested in arguments for and against some terminologies.

  • Also mind the tag...
    – Vogel612
    Oct 10, 2014 at 15:51
  • @Vogel612: If I am not mistaken, that could be easily renamed, if it turned out that it was badly named.
    – Wrzlprmft Mod
    Oct 10, 2014 at 15:58
  • Which was my point... just to not forget it.
    – Vogel612
    Oct 10, 2014 at 16:08

2 Answers 2


The correct English translation of German Konjunktiv is: subjunctive mood.

This term is widely known to the English speaking world, and therefore using it should not cause any confusion. Note that we also have our tags adapted to this: .

Sites devoted to the German language also use subjunctive I/II when written in English, or translated to English:

However many sites offer both variants subjunctiv mood and Konjunktiv:

So it may not be wrong to use both variants in our answers. We can also assume that whoever asks a question may have heard of the German "Konjunktiv" before.

My impression is that using present/past subjunctive (or similarly in German for Konjunktiv) is often avoided in favour of I/II to better reflect its time-independent usage. We should probably stick to that for the same reason.

The third alternative conjunctive is something else in English (--> verbindend). Therefore we should not use it.

A post may be more consistent if we had not switched languages other than where it was absolutely needed (this would speak in favour of using subjunctive) but I would not vote for making this a rule. I also feel that we may not want to edit all posts saying Konjunktiv to subjunctive mood.

In case we prefer to use Konjunktiv in our English posts we should capitalize it to reflect it's origin from the German noun. We may also put it in italics similar to other words in a language differing to the post's.


I think one should regard two different use cases: linguistics or questions from learners.

As far as I know, when learning a language, you use the learner's terms. We never used "Plusquamperfekt" in English class, we always used Past Perfect. Past Perfect is not exactly the same as Plusquamperfekt.

When having a discussion about linguistics, say, how optative is used in German as contrary to English, it might be reasonable to switch to English terms when speaking about subjunctive mood in general. But it is reasonable to speak of "the Konjunktiv" when referring to the specific German form.

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