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Modal 'would'

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Modal 'would'

Postby Enigma » Mon Feb 15, 2010 5:05 pm

So that we don't have to go through the whole topic, I'll firstly write down what I do know:


    Would is used as the past tense of will--to talk about the future in the past.

    Would is used to talk about repetetive/habitual, past actions.

    Would is used in the second and third conditionals.



1) How is it functioning below (I've asked this elsewhere and received no consistent answer)?


Having found me to be an alcoholic, she did not like me and so spurned my offer. But I would attempt to warm up to her.



2) And what tense is 'would' here, as I was told this wasn't simple past (is this person being technical and saying it is not simple past, but rather a modal tense)?



3) And this below was a comment made regarding the tense/time frame of would. Is there any truth to this statement? :?
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Postby saparris » Mon Feb 15, 2010 11:43 pm

How is it functioning below?
Having found me to be an alcoholic, she did not like me and so spurned my offer. But I would attempt to warm up to her.


I believe that would in this case functions as a conditional, since warming up to her seems possible only if she allows it, which she probably won't.
And what tense is 'would' here, as I was told this wasn't simple past (is this person being technical and saying it is not simple past, but rather a modal tense)?

I'm gonna say present unreal conditional. Final answer, I think.

And this below was a comment made regarding the tense/time frame of would. Is there any truth to this statement?


There is nothing below this comment.
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Re: Modal 'would'

Postby Slava » Tue Feb 16, 2010 12:00 am

Enigma wrote:1) How is it functioning below (I've asked this elsewhere and received no consistent answer)?

Having found me to be an alcoholic, she did not like me and so spurned my offer. But I would attempt to warm up to her.
This sounds like an excerpt from a longer story in the past. The "would attempt" makes sense in the idea of it being a repeated action over time in the past.

As a bit of nit-picking, the second sentence here really doesn't make sense. You've already hit on her, so are most likely already "warm" to her. Don't you really wish to get her to warm up to you?
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Postby Enigma » Tue Feb 16, 2010 5:00 am

There is nothing below this comment.


:oops:

With "would", it is necessary to have an already established past time-frame. The past time-frame is often established by a previous occurrence of "used to" or by time adverbial expressions (e.g. years ago, when I was a child).

I don't really understand it (good if I heard your interpretation); That which I do understand sounds only slightly true too. Your thoughts?
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Postby Enigma » Tue Feb 16, 2010 5:02 am

As a bit of nit-picking, the second sentence here really doesn't make sense. You've already hit on her, so are most likely already "warm" to her. Don't you really wish to get her to warm up to you?


I agree. I didn't write the sentence, so I can't make up excuses for the writer.
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Postby Enigma » Tue Feb 16, 2010 5:04 am

I believe that would in this case functions as a conditional, since warming up to her seems possible only if she allows it, which she probably won't


Yet another different interpretation of the sentence. Perhaps there is no agreement because the sentence is too clipped to know for sure...
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Postby saparris » Tue Feb 16, 2010 10:20 am

With "would", it is necessary to have an already established past time-frame. The past time-frame is often established by a previous occurrence of "used to" or by time adverbial expressions (e.g. years ago, when I was a child).


This statement is true in cases where would is not used in the conditional. With future in the past and repeated actions, there must be a temporal reference point.

When I was young, I would....
I told you [at some point] that I would...

But this is not the case with conditionals.

Yet another different interpretation of the sentence. Perhaps there is no agreement because the sentence is too clipped to know for sure...


If I read the sentence as a conditional (I would if I could), and Slava reads it as future in the past (later on, I would attempt...), then, yes, it is too clipped.
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Postby Enigma » Tue Feb 16, 2010 4:42 pm

With future in the past and repeated actions, there must be a temporal reference point.

When I was young, I would....
I told you [at some point] that I would...


Thanks.

Why does it need a reference point? What else could 'would' refer (but the past)? Would is a past tense modal used in the future in the past or past repeated actions, so is it not clear it refers to the past without a reference point?

When I was young, I would count chickens.
I would count chickens.


Both refer to the past.
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Postby saparris » Tue Feb 16, 2010 5:50 pm

Why does it need a reference point? What else could 'would' refer (but the past)? Would is a past tense modal used in the future in the past or past repeated actions, so is it not clear it refers to the past without a reference point?

When I was young, I would count chickens.
I would count chickens.

Both refer to the past.


Not necessarily. The second sentence could mean I would count chickens, but I can't count, I would count chickens, but I am busy counting my money, etc. In other words, without a temporal reference, the sentence could be future in the past or conditional--with very different meanings.

In the context of a conversation, the reference might not necessary, but out context, it is.
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Postby Enigma » Tue Feb 16, 2010 6:04 pm

Not necessarily. The second sentence could mean I would count chickens, but I can't count, I would count chickens, but I am busy counting my money, etc. In other words, without a temporal reference, the sentence could be future in the past or conditional--with very different meanings.

In the context of a conversation, the reference might not necessary, but out context, it is.


How are these conditionals? (I do see the ambiguity)
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Postby saparris » Tue Feb 16, 2010 9:10 pm

How are these conditionals? (I do see the ambiguity)


Sorry. I was concentrating your question about reference points and not thinking about tense. Clearly, would is simply a modal auxiliary.
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Postby Enigma » Wed Feb 17, 2010 12:08 am

I would count chickens, but I can't count, I would count chickens, but I am busy counting my money,


These sentences of yours I suppose do show a temporal reference point needs to be used, if the would is not part of a conditional sentence. I think this is what you were meaning (I hope).
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Postby saparris » Wed Feb 17, 2010 9:34 am

I would count chickens, but I can't count, I would count chickens, but I am busy counting my money....


I suppose you could say that there is a "hidden conditional" in these sentences (e.g., I would count chickens [if I could], but I can't count.).

Then, again, maybe that's going a bit too far in the analysis.
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Postby Audiendus » Wed Feb 17, 2010 7:11 pm

Hi there - I have a new username (I was ACB in the old forum).

I can think of the following uses of would:

1. Future in the past (I knew what would happen).
2. Past, indicating habit (When I was young, I would often watch football on Saturdays).
3. Past, indicating determination (I tried to dissuade her from marrying him, but she would do it).
4. Conditional (If I were to see him, I would speak to him).
5. Implied conditional (I would do the same in your position [= if I were in your position]. I would never say that [= even if the occasion arose]. That would be nice [= if it happened]. I would count chickens [= if I could], but I can't count.)
6. (Archaic) Present tense, meaning "want(s) to" (The man who would be king.)
7. (Informal) Present (?) tense, used to 'soften' the main verb (Would you be saparris, by any chance? I wouldn't know about that. Ah, that would be the one!)
8. In the phrase "Would that..." [= "I wish that..."]

There may be other uses, but that's all I can think of at the moment.
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Postby saparris » Wed Feb 17, 2010 8:19 pm

We are happy that you're here! I am especially so, since I am having a hard time keeping Enigma (aka Eddie88) straight.

Happy Ash Wednesday.
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