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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.


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Would (#2)

 

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) speech.

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).


Examples:

Request with Will   "Softer" Request with Would

Will you help me,
Mr. Thompson?

Will you please type
these papers, Alice?

Will all of you please
give me your attention?

 

Would you help me,
Mr. Thompson?

Would you please type
these papers, Alice?

Would all of you please
give me your attention?


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Next: more on modal verbs

 

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