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I would be happy / I will be happy / I am happy

Discussion in 'English Only' started by reginaregina, Mar 30, 2008.

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  1. reginaregina Senior Member

    Chinese
    when I write an email reply, I want to say"If you have questions, I-------be happy to answer them." Should I say "I would be happy". There maybe a subjunctive mode in "would", so will it sounds insincere if I say "I would"? Thank you.
     
  2. Reilyn

    Reilyn Junior Member

    English and Chinese, United States
    I would say:

    If you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them.

    But "I would be happy to answer them" works also.
     
  3. GaetanM New Member

    French
    Hello

    Is "'i will be pleased to answer them" more professional?

    Thanks For your help.

    Gaetan
     
  4. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    I don't know about "professional", but it sounds more natural.

    Using "would" suggests to me a confusion between the intended sentence and "If you had any questions I would be happy to answer them."
     
  5. djmc Senior Member

    France
    English - United Kingdom
    "If you have any questions I would be happy to answer them." This sounds slightly more formal but perfectly natural. The sentence "If you had any questions I would be happy to answer them." should surely be "If you had any questions I would have been happy to answer them." since it is a statement about the past.
     
  6. moscowexile New Member

    English - England
    To be formal and absolutely "correct", one should write in British English:

    If you have any questions, I shall be happy to answer them.

    If one were to write:If you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them

    then that would mean that the speaker is willing or intends or promises to be happy, on condition that any questions are presented to him by his correspondent. Consider the following

    I should be pleased if you would reply to my enquiry at your earliest convenience.


    The reasoning behind the use of should in the 1st person is that if one writes: "I would be pleased...", then the would indicates that the speaker in the 1st person is hypothetically willing to be pleased; that the speaker hypothetically intends or tentatively promises to be pleased.

    However, when there is no volition (willingness or intention) on the speaker's part to be pleased, then the speaker is merely indicating that if the other party were hypothetically willing to do something, then that would oblige the speaker to be pleased, which obligation in the first person is expressed by the modal auxiliary verb shall in its subjunctive mood, namely should.

    If the speaker does not wish to express a hypothesis or, as the case may be, does not wish to use a formal, polite register by using the subjunctive mood of the verbs will or shall, namely would or should respectively, then the formula is:

    I shall be pleased if you will...

    However, in spoken English, the modal auxiliary verbs would and should in the subjunctive mood are both shortened to " 'd ", hence:

    I'd be pleased if you'd...

    Likewise, in declarative statements will and shall are almost invariably shortened in spoken English to " 'll ".

    This shortening of the modal verb forms leads to the erroneous belief that " 'll " always means "will" and that " 'd " always means "would".

    This error is further compounded by the constant refrain that nobody says "shall": that is not true.

    In the United States, few people say "shall" now, but it is still used in American legal English to express an obligation or a rule, but not an absolute duty (must), passed on by the speaker to another party, e.g:

    A meeting shall take place every month.

    However, in both American and non-American English, should has the far more common function of expressing advisability, e.g:

    A meeting should take place every month.

    It is this more common function of should that makes many people think that "should" always means advisability: it does not. When a speaker says:

    I should be pleased if you would reply to my enquiry at your earliest convenience...

    he is politely and formally saying that it would be incumbent upon him to be pleased if something were done, namely an obligation would be imposed upon him by another party's action.

    I should also like to add that up to at least the early 1950s Americans were taught to use shall/will and should/would in the way that I have described above. However, as a result of both the more informal nature of spoken English and its ever increasing use worldwide as a lingua franca, I should think that the majority of people that speak English as either a mother tongue or a second language, say "would" instead of "should" or, which is the more likely case, "'d" in the first person, and only use "shall" when asking questions in the first person.

    Some may argue that the system described above is an example of prescriptive grammar. However, I regularly see and hear "shall" and "should", used in the way described above, in British English and also not too infrequently in American English. Only last week (June 16th 2010) I received a letter from a British consulate, that stated:

    We shall inform you if there are any delays in processing your passport application.


    The consulate was not promising me anything: the consulate was simply stating its obligation to me if any delays took place.

    I should therefore argue that those who categorically state that the above use of "shall" and "should" is somehow wrong or "old fashioned" are the real prescriptivists.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2010
  7. moscowexile New Member

    English - England
    I should also like to add that when I wrote of "British" English above, I should really have written "the English of the English": the Scots and Irish especially have always been wont to use will/would in all persons, which is possibly the reason, together with the fact that the majority of US citizens are the descendants of immigrants whose mother tongue was not English, why most Americans no longer use shall/should as described above.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2010
  8. MilkyBarKid Senior Member

    British English
    regina: when I write an email reply, I want to say"If you have questions, I-------be happy to answer them." Should I say "I would be happy". There maybe a subjunctive mode in "would", so will it sounds insincere if I say "I would"? Thank you.

    I appreciate your dilemma. It's like when, instead of
    "Will you close the window, please."
    we say
    "Would you close the window, please."

    In these sentences, we use 'would' to soften a sense of the forthrightness of the speaker.
    With 'will you...', it is expressing a request, and this request is solely for my benefit, without any suggestion of 'do you mind?' Do it!
    We try to soften the sense of being peremptory (=insisting on immediate attention or obedience, especially in a brusquely imperious manner) by the use of 'would'.

    This actually works differently when we are 'imagining a request that might be made by another person' - "If you like, I will..." indicates your complete willingness to oblige the other person. This is the use when you reply, " I-------be happy to answer them."

    To use 'would' leaves the reader with the sense of, "I would be happy to answer them, but, I dunno, come tomorrow, I might not have time, or..."

    Stick to being confident: "I will..."
    (If problems of time or other commitments interfere, then you can go into apology mode.:)
     
  9. jpyvr Senior Member

    Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil
    English - Canadian
    Speaking from a personal point of view, as a native Canadian speaker of English, I would say "If you have any questions, I'd be happy to answer them." Obviously the contraction "I'd" stands for "I would", but in spoken English "I'd" is much more common, and sounds less formal.
     
  10. bluegiraffe

    bluegiraffe Senior Member

    Nottingham, England
    English - England
    If you want to be even more formal, you can use "Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions". This doesn't explicitly say you'll be happy to answer them, but does imply it and is a formal way of saying this.

    In response to MoscowExile, you stated that "shall" is not so often used these days. I would say that "I should be happy to answer them" is also quite an archaic structure and doesn't sound natural to my ear.
     
  11. moscowexile New Member

    English - England
    So all the staff at present working at the British consulate, Moscow, have been trained to use archaic English?


    I have regular correspondence with those people and their written communication with me uses the modal auxiliary verbs shall and will as described by me above. They are not writing demotic English, innit.
     
  12. jpyvr Senior Member

    Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil
    English - Canadian
    Perhaps not archaic, but I would say that they have been trained, perhaps unconsciously, to use "bureaucratic" English, which tends to be overly-formal and perhaps archaic-sounding.

    On the other hand, this might be another of those AE vs BE things, so I can only vouch for what sounds natural to the North American ear. To the European ear perhaps "I should be happy...." doesn't grate as it does for me.
     
  13. bluegiraffe

    bluegiraffe Senior Member

    Nottingham, England
    English - England
    Despite the fact that I'm (apparently) uneducated and capable only of uttering words like "innit", I would say this is not an AE v BE thing. It grates on me just as much and sounds pompous to me.

    Although it may be acceptable to bureaucrats, I think it sounds contrived. Incidently, I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that I work for a large, multi-national, very successful company and have a position of respect. My job means that I have to correspond and liaise with the CEO, various directors, customers and suppliers for all walks of life. None has ever seemed to find me a Neanderthal, nor a chav. I also have a degree, teaching qualification and a variety of other qualifications. I spend most of my free time reading. Does that abate any stereotypes anyone might have of me based on nothing?
     
  14. MilkyBarKid Senior Member

    British English
    So all the staff at present working at the British consulate, Moscow, have been trained to use archaic English?

    Well, it is certainly not "demotic"(=denoting or relating to the kind of language used by ordinary people; popular or colloquial).
    It is ...the British Consulate. They would speak and write in the most correct of the Queen's English, as her representatives.
    "I should be happy to answer them" is not 'archaic', but the correct response for someone speaking, NOT as a person, but as a representative, and so in a very formal official capacity.
    are not writing demotic English, innit.

    With the amount of blogging, plz, wat u think? There is street talk... and there is the Queen's English. We choose how we express ourselves in accordance with the social situation, and formality of it.

    are not writing demotic English, innit.

    In demotic English, this would be:
    And it ain't demotic English. It's archaic, init?
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2010
  15. relic5.2 Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    The higher the pedestal, the less wind it takes to knock one off.

    "I should be happy to " is horribly stilted and would only be said by an officious person or indeed the queen. Most everyone else avoids the should/would and shall/will by using 'd and 'll. In spoken English, "I'd/I'll be happy to answer them" is what would be said without betraying any social standing.
     
  16. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
  17. bluegiraffe

    bluegiraffe Senior Member

    Nottingham, England
    English - England
    Pleasant, unlike this one?
     
  18. moscowexile New Member

    English - England
    re: the use of shall/should, will/would.

    "Pompous" and "stilted" are two pejoratives used in describing the use, described by me above, of these modal verbs in modern English. But surely these epithets only express the writer's point of view concerning their use and not the grammatical accuracy of such usage?

    I once saw written in a United States grammar website the following statement: "Anyone who says 'shall' is an a**hole!" Although the contributor who expressed such a forceful opinion had every right to do so, I should say that his powers of reasoning left much to be desired. (I feel under a certain obligation to say.)

    I feel that many on both sides of the Atlantic treat the use of these modals as a marker of social class and education; those that either do not understand or do not wish to understand the difference in meanings between will/would and shall/should when used in the 1st person and the remaining two persons, express their resentment of such "correct" usage by saying that it is archaic, pompous, and "British".

    United States citizens in particular seem to get especially irritated by the formal, "British" use of "shall" and "should". I often wonder whether that is so because such usage gives them a convenient hook on which they can hang their anti-British prejudices; whether shall/should is some linguistic marker that clearly delineates North American demotic English from that of the official language used by their erstwhile British colonial bureaucrats. Be that as it may, I should like to add that until quite recent times educated Americans used "shall" and "will" in the same way as did most educated Englishmen: check out the speeches of Franklin Roosevelt if you disbelieve me, and of Woodrow Wilson. It is even said that President Eisenhower once dismissed a private secretary because she could not use "shall" and "will" in the way that he had been taught to use them. And General Douglas MacArthur famously stated to the US Congress after his evacuation from the Philippines after the Japanese had invaded that archipelago: "I shall return". He was not promising to return; he was not stating his intention or willingness to occupy the islands once again: he was, by using the modal verb "shall", stating his objective obligation to return, in the sense that his return was a foregone conclusion, considering the huge military potential of the USA.

    Of course, on both sides of the Atlantic people prefer to use the contracted forms "'ll" and "'d" in demotic English, and that is totally acceptable, right and "correct". However, since the cessation some 30 years ago of the teaching of formal English grammar in British schools, most British speakers of English and certainly the vast majority of North American English speakers believe that the contractions " 'll " and " 'd " represent "will" and "would" respectively.

    I still maintain, however, that there is still a sizeable number of English speakers of English that does know how to differentiate the nuances of these two modals in question: they are not all "pompous" bureaucrats either. Take, for example, the words that John Humphreys said on the BBC Today programme concerning the horrific slaying of innocents by gunman Derrek Bird in Cumbria, North West England, only a few weeks ago:

    "We shall probably never know what turned an apparently normal man into a crazed killer."

    If Mr. Humphreys had said: "We will probably never know...", that would have meant that we are not willing / have no intention to ever know.

    On the other hand, "We shall never know.." means that it is, speaking objectively, from a first person point of view, of a foregone conclusion that this will not be. Because of our future inability to ever know what happened, we are, in a sense, obligated not to know.

    Was Mr. Humphreys' choice of modal verb "pompous" or "archaic"?

    I think not.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2010
  19. Egoexpress

    Egoexpress Senior Member

    Hungary, Hungarian
    Or if you want to be extremely formal you can say:

    Should you have any problems\Should you need any further assistence, don't hesitate to contact me.
     
  20. relic5.2 Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    It's not that shall sounds pompous and stilted in all cases, but the phrase "I should be happy" is much more awkward than "I'd be happy" and would draw glances from nearly everyone.
     
  21. moscowexile New Member

    English - England
    Or:

    Should this product fail to reach you in a satisfactory condition, please return it with the the name and address of the retailer where it was purchased to...

    Pompous?

    Archaic?

    Rather commonplace on biscuit packets, I should think.

    The modal verb should means here in context: "If this product is in any way obligated to reach you in an unsatisfactory condition..."

    The fundamental meaning of shall is obligation <--non-English-->

    No intention on the speaker's part: objective future.

    But when I say: "What will I do?" that means: "What do I intend to do?"

    Subjective volition now for a future action after now, <--non-English-->

    When I say: "One day I'll die", if I were to express the modal fully, I should say: "One day I shall die" because I am obliged to die - I have no choice over the matter.

    But if I were to say: "I will die tomorrow", that means I intend to die tomorrow.

    For example, if I were a samurai general who had just lost a battle, I should say:

    I have failed my liege lord: I must die. (must = absolute necessity/moral duty)

    I will disembowel myself tomorrow morning. (will = intention at the moment of speaking)

    I will die at nine o'clock prompt and my aide-de-camps shall assist me. (will = intention, shall = obliging my aides to assist me, giving them an order)
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2010
  22. relic5.2 Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    If you refuse to read my posts, I'll not read yours.
     
  23. moscowexile New Member

    English - England
    And that " 'll " in "...I'll not read.." above is "will" because the speaker is refusing to read, is not willing to read his correspondent's post.

    If I should die, think only this of me;
    That there's some corner of a foreign field
    That is forever England
    .

    So wrote Rupert Brooke, and he was not willing to die, neither hypothetically nor in reality. He used should to indicate his hypothetical obligation to die, which obligation would be the pre-condition for the rendering of a corner of a foreign field forever England.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2010
  24. lux_ Senior Member


    Do you use this often this kind of phrasing?
    Is it in place of "almost everyone else?"

    Sorry to break in, and sorry for the asking something not strictly related to the topic.
     
  25. bluegiraffe

    bluegiraffe Senior Member

    Nottingham, England
    English - England
    Lux, you'll have to open a new thread about that.

    Moscowexile, I'm now actually referring to you as pompous for putting people into the categories of educated/not educated.

    Language changes. Use of language changes. Your "shall" example from President Woodrow Wilson must be more than 60 years old. Things change. This does not mean that those who do not use the word "shall" are uneducated simpletons as you seem to imply.
     
  26. panjandrum

    panjandrum PongoMod

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Different usages have been well enough explained here and elsewhere.
    This thread has wandered rather, and has become polemical.
    WordReference does not offer a platform for polemics.
    The thread has therefore been closed.
     
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