"She would have kept the cat."
Translation:Sie hätte die Katze behalten.
If Duolingo suggested Kater to you, then you probably used the male article (der Katze) instead of the correct female one (die Katze). That confuses the software because it has no way of knowing if it should treat it as a mistake in the article (and correct to die Katze) or in the noun (and correct to der Kater). Apparently it tends to go for the latter.
You can also say: “Sie würde die Katze behalten haben”. And indeed with a lot of verbs, using würde to form the irrealis. But with a few very common verbs – especially sein, haben and modal verbs like sollen or können – it’s more common to directly use the Konjunktiv II of that verb. The reason is that these verbs often occur with other verbs rather than alone. Like in this case: “Sie hat behalten.” Using würde here would mean adding another auxiliary to a construction which already consists of two verbs. That is percieved as both clumsy and complicated, so we avoid it if possible.
thank you! why then, does the word wurde exist at all if you can use hatte (mit umlaut) as "would"?
also, does the sentence mean "would have" as in "she would have kept the cat... if it were cute enough" OR "did she keep the cat? yes she would have done. " or either like in english where the second one is more certain?
hätte is the Konjunktiv II form of hat. So it means “would have” (either as a full verb or as an auxiliary as in “hätte behalten” ‘would have kept’). Similarly, wäre is “would be”
würde is originally the Konjunktiv II of werden, i.e. it used to mean “would become”. But werden is also used to form the future and the “future irrealis” würde became just a plain irrealis – in which case it is just plain “would” (this is exactly parallel to English “would“, which is also originally the past/irrealis form of “will“).
Very true - my tendancy to use würde over hätte in such situations has been known as one of the traits to mark me out by the person listening as a non-native speaker.
Although I could be wrong on this, my impression has always been that the further north one goes into traditional "low german" territory, the more unusual not using hätte becomes.
Hm I don’t share that impression. I’m from Schleswig-Holstein, and while I may occasionally use würde haben, hätte flows off my tongue much easier. Also in my dialect of Low German, I feel that the tendency to use Konjunktiv II rather than an auxiliary is even slightly stronger than in Standard German (well, simple past and Konjunktiv II have merged there like in English, but the point is I’m more likely to use that than an equivalent of würde, especially in reported speech).
But it’s possible that the situation may be different in other dialects of Low German. I don’t claim to be familiar with all of them, far from it actually (especially when it comes to the eastern parts of the country).
Yes, den is the accusative form of der, i.e. masculine accusative. Masculine is the only gender where the accusative looks different from the nominative.
If you wanted to use the feminine word Katze, the accusative would look exactly the same as the nominative, i.e. die Katze.