How to conjugate ‘möchte’ in German

by Jakob Straub
May 15, 2021
woman thinking How to conjugate ‘möchte’ in German

You can express a wish in German using the modal verb ‘möchte’ in a polite and formal way. Among the language’s modals, ‘möchte’ is special because it only occurs in the present tense. We’ll explain why this is the case and how you conjugate it as well as ‘mögen’ from which it is derived.

Conjugating the German modal verb ‘möchte’

‘Möchte’ in German is actually the subjunctive of ‘mögen’ (to like) and therefore a polite way of expressing a desire or wish: “Ich möchte etwas essen” is equal to “I’d like to eat something” in English. You can only use ‘möchte’ in the present tense:

  • 1st person singular: “Ich möchte” = I’d like
  • 2nd person singular: “Du möchtest” = You’d like
  • 3rd person singular: “Er/sie/es möchte” = He/she/it would like
  • 1st person plural: “Wir möchten” = We’d like
  • 2nd person plural: “Ihr möchtet” = You’d like
  • 3rd person plural: “Sie möchten” = They’d like

As you’ll see from the conjugation tables below, ‘möchte’ is the past subjunctive form of ‘mögen’ (to like), an irregular verb with the forms “mag”, “mochte” and “gemocht”. It uses ‘haben’ as an auxiliary verb, as in “ihr habt gemocht” (you have liked). ‘Mögen’ and ‘möchte’ use active flection as a modal verb. We’ll go into greater detail below.

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Conjugating ‘mögen’

Indicative

PERSONPRESENTPASTPERFECT
1st sing.ich magich mochteich habe gemocht
2nd sing.du magstdu mochtestdu hast gemocht
3rd sing.er/sie/es mager/sie/es mochteer/sie/es hat gemocht
1st pl.wir mögenwir mochtenwir haben gemocht
2nd. pl.ihr mögtihr mochtetihr habt gemocht
3rd. plsie mögensie mochtensie haben gemocht
PERSONPAST PERFECTFUTUREFUTURE PERFECT
1st sing.ich hatte gemochtich werde mögenich werde gemocht haben
2nd sing.du hattest gemochtdu wirst mögendu wirst gemocht haben
3rd sing.er/sie/es hatte gemochter/sie/es wird mögener/sie/es wird gemocht haben
1st pl.wir hatten gemochtwir werden mögenwir werden gemocht haben
2nd. pl.ihr hattet gemochtihr werdet mögenihr werdet gemocht haben
3rd. plsie hatten gemochtsie werden mögensie werden gemocht haben

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Subjunctive

PERSONPRESENT SUBJ.PAST SUBJ.PERFECT SUBJ.
1st sing.ich mögeich möchteich habe gemocht
2nd sing.du mögestdu möchtestdu habest gemocht
3rd sing.er/sie/es mögeer/sie/es möchteer/sie/es habe gemocht
1st pl.wir mögenwir möchtenwir haben gemocht
2nd. pl.ihr mögetihr möchtetihr habet gemocht
3rd. plsie mögensie möchtensie haben gemocht
PERSONPAST PERFECT SUBJ.FUTURE SUBJ.FUTURE PERFECT SUBJ.
1st sing.ich hätte gemochtich würde mögenich würde gemocht haben
2nd sing.du hättest gemochtdu würdest mögendu würdest gemocht haben
3rd sing.er/sie/es hätte gemochter/sie/es würde mögener/sie/es würde gemocht haben
1st pl.wir hätten gemochtwir würden mögenwir würden gemocht haben
2nd. pl.ihr hättet gemochtihr würdet mögenihr würdet gemocht haben
3rd. plsie hätten gemochtsie würden mögensie würden gemocht haben

Infinitive, participle and imperative

“Mögen” is the infinitive in the present tense whereas “gemocht haben” is the perfect infinitive. The infinitives with ‘to’ are “zu mögen” and “gemocht zu haben”. The verb’s participles are “mögend” and “gemocht”.

‘Mögen’ or ‘möchte’ have no imperative per se. However, you can use both in the present tense either as a question or a statement to tell someone politely to do something:

  • 2nd person singular:

“Magst/möchtest du das bitte tun?” = Would you please do that?

“Du magst/möchtest das bitte tun.” =  You should do that, please.

  • 3rd person singular:

“Mag/möchte er/sie/es das bitte tun?” = Would he/she/it please do that?

“Er/sie/es mag/möchte das bitte tun.” =  He/she/it should do that, please.

  • 2nd person plural:

“Mögt/möchtet ihr das bitte tun?” = Would you please do that?

“Ihr mögt/möchtet das bitte tun.” =  You should do that, please.

  • 3rd person plural:

“Mögen/möchten sie das bitte tun?” = Would they please do that?

“Sie mögen/möchten das bitte tun.” = They should do that, please.

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Usage of ‘möchte’ as a modal verb

You can use ‘möchte’ with a second verb in a sentence to express the wish or desire to do something or ask a polite question:

  • “Ich möchte ihn bitte sprechen.” = I’d like to talk to him, please.
  • “Wir möchten mit den Kindern spielen.” = We’d like to play with the children.
  • “Möchtet ihr ein Stück Kuchen?” = Would you like a piece of cake?

You can only use ‘möchte’ in the present tense. If you want to talk about a wish in the past, you have to use ‘wollen:

  • “Sie wollten in den Urlaub fahren.” = They wanted to go on holidays.

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When to use ‘möchte’ and ‘mögen’

Keep in mind that ‘möchte’ is a subjunctive form of ‘mögen’. The main difference between the two is that you can use ‘mögen’ as a full verb also, while ‘möchte’ only has modal use. For expressing a wish, ‘möchte’ is the weakest form to express a wish:

  • STRONG: “Ich will etwas trinken!” = I want to drink something!
  • WEAKER: “Ich mag etwas trinken!” = I (would) like to drink something (now)!
  • WEAKEST: “Ich möchte etwas trinken!” = I’d like to drink something!

In spoken German, you’ll hear ‘möchte’ being used almost like a full verb. That is because in many situations, you can drop the second verb in modal usage without losing the meaning, according to context. However, this is colloquial:

  • “Ich möchte ein Bier (trinken)!” = I’d like (to drink) a beer!
  • “Sie möchten Hamburger (essen).” = They’d like (to eat) hamburgers.
  • “Er möchte ins Kino (gehen).” = He’d like to go to the cinema.
  • “Ich möchte dich!” = I want you!
  • “Sie möchte das (haben/tun).” = She’d like (to have/do) that.”
  • “Wir möchten, dass ihr uns besucht.” = We’d like for you to visit us (we’d like that you visit us).

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When you use ‘mögen’ as a full verb, its common use is to state that you like something or someone in general:

  • “Ich mag dich” = I like you.
  • “Sie mögen Pizza (essen).” = They like/enjoy (eating) pizza.
  • Du magst Punk Musik.” = You like punk music.

You can also form concessionary clauses with mögen, though this can appear stilted and you can convey the same meaning with conditional clauses:

  • “Mag es auch regnen, ich gehe trotzdem aus.” = May it rain, I’ll still go out. (Even if it rains, I’ll still go out).
  • “Du magst alt sein, bist aber gesund.” = You may be old, but you’re healthy.
  • “Sie sind lecker, mögen sie auch unansehnlich sein.” = They are tasty, though they may be unsightly.”
  • “Möge der Bessere gewinnen!” = May the better one win!

Lastly, you can use ‘mögen’ for indirect speech to report a polite request:

  • “Sie hat gesagt, ich möge auf sie warten.” = She said I should wait for her.
  • “Du hast mich gebeten, ich möge dir etwas mitbringen.” = You asked me to bring you something.
  • “Ich hatte gesagt, dass du aufräumen mögest.” = I had told you that you should tidy up.

Want to learn more about German modals? Here’s how to use and conjugate modal verbs in German!

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