A Dictionary; Contains, Containing, To Contain ?


Senior Member
Hello, folks.:) Hope you all ok

What is the correct tense

I want to build up a dictionary
1-that would contain

2-to contain
4-that contains different expressions?

As it is obvious, the dictionary has not yet been built and I want to choose the correct tense.

I tend to No.1?

Thanks very much
  • JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    The tense you ask about does not refer only to the building of the dictionary, it refers to a (fixed) property of the (future) dictionary itself. When you have completed the task, you will be able to describe the dictionary with the present tense "The dictionary contains diferent expressions." You would not say "It contained different expressions". With that in mind, I think you can use a future tense, as part of your plan - from today's perspective "the dictionary will contain"; from the point of view of any time after completion, "it contains".


    Senior Member
    Native language: English (BrE)
    While grammatical precision might argue for or against some of those options, I'd say that all four (and Greyfriar's fifth one) are idiomatic, though with different nuances.

    1. "a dictionary that would contain": expresses some uncertainty as to whether the dictionary will actually be produced; (I want to ... but I may or may not).
    2. "a dictionary to contain": emphasises the intended purpose of the dictionary.
    3. "a dictionary containing": is neutral; (the present participle is often used as a modifier in that way, regardless of whether the action is past, present, or future).
    4. "a dictionary that contains": is similar to 3, but using a clause. (See JulianStuart's reference to a "property", as seen from the viewpoint of when the dictionary is completed).
    5. "a dictionary that will contain": expresses confidence (or determination, or near-certainty) that the dictionary will be produced.

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