How to learn Conditional Clauses in German Grammar
Conditional clauses are dependent clauses that are introduced by the subordinating conjunction wenn/if. They express that an action will take place only under specific conditions. Conditional sentences can describe situations that are realistic and situations that are not.
Learn the rules for constructing real and unreal conditional sentences with the GermanMind method and our online grammar lessons.
Real conditional sentences describe a reality-based situation. A condition that we think has been or could be fulfilled. We use the present tense in the main clause as well as the conditional clause.
Wenn ich im Lotto gewinne, mache ich eine Weltreise. If I win the lottery, I'll take a trip around the world.
Non-real present conditional
Unreal conditional sentences describe a condition not fulfilled in the present tense. In both sections of the sentence, we use the subjunctive II for situations in the present (or the would form).
Example: Wenn ich Geld hätte, würde ich eine Weltreise machen. If I had money, I would take a trip around the world.
Non-real past condition
Here we are describing a condition that was not met in the past. In both parts of the sentence, we use the subjunctive II for situations in the past.
Example: Wenn ich Geld gehabt hätte, hätte ich eine Weltreise gemacht. If I had had money, I would have taken a trip around the world.
Notes on the construction
The conditional is in the subordinate clause and begins with wenn. Wenn is a subjunction so the finite verb must be at the end of the sentence.
Wenn ich Geld habe, ... If I have had money, ...
Wenn ich Geld gehabt hätte, ... If I had money, ...
The action that is dependent on the condition is in the main clause. When a sentence begins with a condition (dependent clause), the subject of the main clause is placed after the finite verb.
Ich mache eine Weltreise, wenn ich im Lotto gewinne./Wenn ich im Lotto gewinne, mache ich eine Weltreise.
I will take a trip around the world if I win the lottery./If I win the lottery, I will take a trip around the world.