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He would say things that (would) annoy(ed) everyone

Discussion in 'English Only' started by LV4-26, Apr 13, 2008.

  1. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Hello forum,

    When you use "would" for repeated or habitual action in the past, do you use it
    1. only in the main clause and independent clauses.
    2. in the subordinates as well
    ?

    Instinctively, I'd say it's the former, but I'd like to have it confirmed.

    Example
    He was a thoroughly unpleasant individual...
    A. He would say things that annoyed everyone.
    B. He would say things that would annoy everyone.

    I would say A, not B.
    Would I be right?

    Any input appreciated.
     
  2. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    You can say both, LV4, but they mean different things:

    A. He would say things that annoyed everyone. - he said the things and everyone was annoyed.

    B. He would say things that would annoy everyone. - as the first but less idiomatic than B; or he said things and everyone would be annoyed by them - i.e. no one could fail to be annoyed (it would be better to say anyone would be annoyed by them - the fact that it's everyone pushes the meaning towards A, which is the more idiomatic way of saying it).
     
  3. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Thanks, Thomas.
    Does that mean it is not possible to generalize, as in my previous post, and say
    - use would in the main clause
    - do not use would in the suibordinate clause(s).

    Here's another example
    A. We would walk down to the beach when the sun rose
    B. We would walk down to the beach when the sun would rise.

    Here again, my feeling is that B. doesn't sound right. Too many woulds, as it were.

    - am I right?
    - are those two cases different?
    - is it just impossible to define a general "rule", as I attempted to above?
     
  4. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    In both cases (A) sounds 100% better to me than (B), J-M: the first would 'covers' the second one, in my opinion. No idea if there's a rule about it, though:confused:
     
  5. Grop

    Grop Senior Member

    Provence
    français
    Hello,

    What about "He would say things that annoys everyone" ? Is it impossible? Otherwise, does it mean something different?

    (Thank you MM, you answered my question (and I see that "things that annoys" is silly ;)). I think I see how "We wouldn't invite him to go drinking with us because he would say things that annoy everyone." is different from my question).
     
  6. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    They are different tenses, Grop, (given that you mean "annoy", not "annoys" which does not agree with "things"—things annoy).

    "He would" in this case refers to habitual actions in the past, so annoy is in the past also, because this is the effect they had when he did them. However, if you modify annoy with "still", that changes things, and applies what he said then to people in the present as well as the past: "He would say things that still annoy everyone". Even without still, I don't think it's wrong, but, yes, I would say it means something different.

    Having said that, I think there is a possibility that "everyone" implies all the people around him (then), so that "He would say things that still annoy people" (people meaning some people) would be better. Any opinions on that?
     
  7. Cathy Rose Senior Member

    Northeast USA
    United States English
    So, then, MM, what about this construction?
    "We wouldn't invite him to go drinking with us because he would say things that annoy everyone." Is that acceptable?
    Please be patient with me: After 35 years of teaching, I am trying to learn the technicalities of tenses.
     
  8. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    I wouldn't say it is wrong, but I wonder if "things that annoy everyone" here means the same as "things that would (will) annoy people", by which I mean it is about things that might be said (although based on a pattern of things that have been said) and not concrete utterances—in fact the point of the statement is that the things were being prevented from being said.

    This is in contrast to "He would say things that annoyed everyone" which speaks of his habit—it's about the things that he has said and they have annoyed everyone and it's all happened in the past.

    I'm now off to answer something easy :D
     
  9. gasman Senior Member

    Canada, English
    I really can't see how the two positions can mean the same thing; in fact you say yourself that the two phrases have different meanings.
     
  10. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I still think this could mean either:

    1. We wouldn't invite him because he said things which annoyed people.

    or

    2. We wouldn't invite him because the things he used to say were of the sort that might well annoy people.

    So the would could be either an imperfect or a conditional, in my view.
     
  11. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    In any case, as I understand it, it wouldn't be the same "would" as in the main clause?
    In main clause ==> habitual action in the past
    in relative clause ==> conditional of some description (= "things that were apt to annoy everyone".)

    Thanks, ewie, that's what I thought.

    So far, and without any evidence to the contrary, I think the following is true:
    Would defining habitual action in the past is to be used only in the main clause. There may be another would in the subordinate, but then it's a different kind of would.
     
  12. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    You've just had evidence to the contrary from me. Perhaps I wasn't clear enough.
     
  13. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    I'm not sure. Read my very last sentence again.

    Anyway, let's see if it is the case.

    Here is what I understood of what you and others have said so far.
    In my original sentence, the first "would" is there to set the stage, if you will. It indicates that I'm going to describe an habitual action in the past.
    There's no need for a second would, as per ewie's answer, my own intuition and the fact that the A. version is considered correct.
    In the B version of my sentence, the second would plays a different role and slightly shifts the meaning.

    In my second example (post #3), the second would in version B. is clearly redundant as it is impossible to assign it any value other than (uselessly) reaffirming the "frequentative" aspect.
     
  14. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I didn't disagree with you, LV4, about that example B. But I didn't go for your generalizing principle (the 'is to be used only' point). I find it quite hard to know why I couldn't say that example B. I thought for a time would like that might not be acceptable in a when-clause, but then I decided I could easily say:

    When she'd come home, she'd find that the children and I had got dinner ready for her.

    Here are two of many examples of this form to be found on the web. I think it's particularly used of people who have died. The would imperfect form has a sort of nostalgic halo, to many people.

    She would greet everyone she loved with merriment, especially Amy when she would come home from university.

    "When she would come home at night from delivering a baby or saving a dying man from pneumonia, she would stand in the bathtub and undress to shake the vermin from her clothing," her sister Alma later recalled.

    I couldn't say the first of these, but the second seems to me acceptable, and idiomatic. I think it's more likely to be used when the when-clause comes first.
     
  15. LV4-26

    LV4-26 Senior Member

    Thanks a lot, Thomas.
    Your examples are a clear demonstration that my theory was wrong.

    More easily than....
    When she came home, she'd find that the children and I had got the dinner ready for her.
    ...or just as easily?
     
  16. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    If she had died, yes. I may not be a very nostalgic person, but those that are would favour the version with the two woulds, I think. It's easier with the elided 'd, too, which makes the repetition less obvious.
     
  17. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    Cathy, this is a good example of when there might be a problem.

    "We wouldn't invite him to go drinking with us because he would say things that annoy everyone."

    In this case, it seems to me that changing your sentence will change the meaning completely. By the way, after grappling with the complexities of tenses in the English language for decades, I'm afraid I'm in the same place that you are. Much of the time I fall back on feel. Rules just don't seem to cover all the problems. :)
    Here I would also choose A, I think, but I'm not entirely sure. I might also use B. I don't feel a difference here. :)

    Gaer
     
  18. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    These all sound very odd to me, TT (nostalgia or no). There's just too much would in them (you can't see the trees for the woulds ~ groan).
    Or as Gary would say: they just don't feel right.

     
  19. Cathy Rose Senior Member

    Northeast USA
    United States English
    That was a groaner, indeed, Ewie. But don't you think Thomas is correct? He has given us the language of the eulogy. I have a friend whose husband died years ago, and she still uses more woulds than a furniture maker. As soon as Thomas made that post, I realized that that's where I hear it the most.

    And I'm not taking Thomas' side because of your dreadful pun, so you needn't pout. :rolleyes:
     
  20. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    This septic isle!
    NW Englandish English
    I shall just come out of my huff for long enough to say that I don't remember ever hearing anyone talk like this ... or maybe I've blanked it out because it sounded so odd to me. The sentences just go clunketty-CLUNK ...
     
  21. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    US-English
    How do we remain serious after such a pun? LOL

    I think it's important to rembember what TT said here:

    "Here are two of many examples of this form to be found on the web. I think it's particularly used of people who have died. The would imperfect form has a sort of nostalgic halo, to many people."

    I do think that this structure tends to be used in eulogies. ;)

    Gaer
     

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