19.5 Conditional clauses - an introduction

Conditional clauses establish relations between two (or more) actions that can only be realised if a condition is fulfilled. The condition is defined in the phrase starting with if. There are three different types of conditional clauses.

The first type describes a condition in the past that was not fulfilled and therefore the action depending on this condition did not happen. This is called the Irrealis of the past.


If you had told me I would have done it. Wenn du es mir vorher gesagt hättest, dann hätte ich es gemacht.

There is nothing that can change the fact that I didn't do it (BUT if you had told me, I would have!)

The second type presents something that is not very likely in the present, but still not actually impossible (not as impossible as the first one).
This type is called Irrealis of the present.


If you knew you would tell me. Wenn du es wüsstest, würdest du es mir sagen.

The third one presents the condition as something quite probable to be realized and therefore it is quite likely that the depending action is going to be realised as well. This type is called Realis of the present.


If you know you will tell me. Wenn du es weißt, sagst du es mir.

contact privacy statement imprint