Understanding and Using Modal Verbs (#29), by Dennis Oliver
Modal Verbs #29: Individual Modal Verbs
The English modal verbs are often challenging for learners of English. This happens for many
reasons, including both grammar and meaning.
In this Hint, we'll look at
more about would.
The modal auxiliary would (negative would
not, which is
often contracted to wouldn't)
has several uses. One of them
is in making a kind
of "artificial past" for will
in indirect (reported)
Another use for would is in making polite requests. Requests with
would are "softer" than requests
with will in the same way that
requests with could are "softer" than requests
with can. When would
(and could) are used in this way, the time does not change: it's still present or future. The
only change is in the "softness": requests
with would (and could)
are more polite, deferential, and indirect than
requests with will (and can).