I wouldn't <have> come to class late.

Peter Thompson

Senior Member
Malaysian
Hi. I would like to ask something about the use of would to talk about something that's typical of us.
In the present I say "I wouldn't come to class late" to mean that it's not typical of me to come to class late or it's not in my nature to come to class late.
But if we want to talk about something that was typical of me in the past, is it possible to use 'would have' ?
For example : "I wouldn't have come to class late" to mean that It was not typical of me to come to class late.
Does it work ?

Many Thanks!
 
  • cidertree

    Senior Member
    Béarla na hÉireann (Hiberno-English)
    In the present I say "I wouldn't come to class late" to mean that it's not wasn't typical of me to come to class late or it's not wasn't in my nature to come to class late.

    "I wouldn't have come to class late"
    This can mean the same as "I wouldn't come to class late", or it could mean that it was impossible for me to have come late to class - I never did.
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Hi. I would like to ask something about the use of would to talk about something that's typical of us.
    In the present I say "I wouldn't come to class late" to mean that it's not typical of me to come to class late or it's not in my nature to come to class late.
    But if we want to talk about something that was typical of me in the past, is it possible to use 'would have' ?
    For example : "I wouldn't have come to class late" to mean that It was not typical of me to come to class late.
    Does it work ?

    Many Thanks!
    Modal verbs are tenseless:

    I wouldn't come to class late (today = I'm still in school)
    When I was in school, I wouldn't come to class late


    But some put modal would in the "past" using the construction have + past participle:
    When I was in school, I wouldn't have come to class late
     

    Peter Thompson

    Senior Member
    Malaysian
    This can mean the same as "I wouldn't come to class late", or it could mean that it was impossible for me to have come late to class - I never did.
    So, the answer to my question is "yes" ?
    I could say "I wouldn't have come to class late" to mean that it was not typical of me to come to class late" ?
    Modal verbs are tenseless:

    I wouldn't come to class late (today = I'm still in school)
    When I was in school, I wouldn't come to class late


    But some put modal would in the "past" using the construction have + past participle:
    When I was in school, I wouldn't have come to class late
    So , is it possible to say "I wouldn't have come to class late" to mean that it was not typical of me to come to class late" ?
     

    pachanga7

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Would/wouldn’t are related to “will” and the will, that is, someone’s choosing or inclination to do something.

    We do use “would” to express habitual actions in the past, but this situation feels different because lateness carries a value-judgment, and “would” can express willingness. So it’s ambiguous.

    To say it was not my habit to come to class late, I would say “I wouldn’t normally come to class late” or “I wasn’t usually late to class.”
     

    Peter Thompson

    Senior Member
    Malaysian
    Would/wouldn’t are related to “will” and the will, that is, someone’s choosing or inclination to do something.

    We do use “would” to express habitual actions in the past, but this situation feels different because lateness carries a value-judgment, and “would” can express willingness. So it’s ambiguous.

    To say it was not my habit to come to class late, I would say “I wouldn’t normally come to class late” or “I wasn’t usually late to class.”
    I would say, it's more of a typical behavior than a habit.
    If I say "I don't lie to you" , it means that it's not my habit to lie to you, and if I say "I wouldn't lie to you" , it's not typical of me to lie to you. Those things are different, I think

    Therefore I'm asking if I can say "I wouldn't have come to class late" to mean that It was not typical of me to come to class late.
     

    pachanga7

    Senior Member
    English - US
    Not to me.

    “I wouldn’t lie to you” expresses a moral stance.

    “I wouldn’t come to class late” also expresses a moral stance as a personal statement, and can also be used to admonish the listener, as a type of warning by example (meaning, Don’t come to class late—I wouldn’t do it if I were you).

    In the past tense it gets ambiguous.

    “I wouldn’t have lied to you” sets up an undefined condition that invites more questions. It might mean “I wouldn’t have lied to you because I’m not that kind of person” but it could also mean “I wouldn’t have lied to you if you were easier to talk to (but I did lie to you).” for example.

    The example with “wouldn’t have arrived late” is also ambiguous so without more context, it’s hard to approve of a given meaning such as what was your habitual behavior. It sounds like you are defending yourself from something and I don’t really understand the statement by itself.

    Hope that helps.
     

    Peter Thompson

    Senior Member
    Malaysian
    It might mean “I wouldn’t have lied to you because I’m not that kind of person” but it could also mean “I wouldn’t have lied to you if you were easier to talk to (but I did lie to you).” for example.
    In your example "I wouldn't have lied to you because I'm not that kind of person" does it mean that I never lied to you in any circumstances?
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    ... "I wouldn't have come to class late" to mean that It was not typical of me to come to class late.
    Does it work ?...
    But is this would for talking about a moral stance of someone in this case ? Or is it a different would ?
    It might be claimed as a moral stance. It is, of course, an inadequate argument.

    I once took a case to court where a club-owner, accused of racial discrimination, told the judge: "My doorman wouldn't have refused admission on the grounds of race".

    "Yes," replied the judge, "but did he?" The club-owner lost his case.

    The point is that this usage of would refers to a probable habit. It is no proof of a real action.
     

    Peter Thompson

    Senior Member
    Malaysian
    It might be claimed as a moral stance. It is, of course, an inadequate argument.

    I once took a case to court where a club-owner, accused of racial discrimination, told the judge: "My doorman wouldn't have refused admission on the grounds of race".

    "Yes," replied the judge, "but did he?" The club-owner lost his case.

    The point is that this usage of would refers to a probable habit. It is no proof of a real action.
    I see. The case that you provide here is a different use of would.
    That would is not talking about what someone did. It is a probable would.
    Thank you!
     

    pachanga7

    Senior Member
    English - US
    It's a telling story that Keith Bradford relates. "Would" leaves a lot up to interpretation and context. In making denials, it's less strong than saying you didn't do something.

    In your example "I wouldn't have lied to you because I'm not that kind of person" does it mean that I never lied to you in any circumstances?
    But is this would for talking about a moral stance of someone in this case ? Or is it a different would ?
    The idea of a moral stance here doesn't derive solely from "would". It also derives from the context of the activity mentioned (lying) and the denial.

    We could use the same basic construction with a different activity and possibly intuit different motivations for the speaker:

    "When I was a child I wouldn't brush my teeth." (meaning: I routinely refused to brush my teeth as a child, I was a stubborn child. To refer to a habit I would say it differently: "When I was a child, I never/rarely brushed my teeth." Or, "I wasn't in the habit of brushing my teeth as a child.")

    Another example:

    "Even when I was working on the tenth floor of an office building I wouldn't take the elevator, I always took the stairs." (Meaning perhaps: I'm dedicated to getting exercise wherever I can, and so I always choose to take the stairs. But, it was also my habit to take the stairs when I worked on the tenth floor).

    So what is habitual and what we choose (or are willing) to do, or not do, sometimes overlap. With lying or arriving late I hear it more as a moral choice. But context matters, so I wouldn't state this as an absolute. Just that, as a native speaker, if I wanted to talk about my habit of arriving on time to class, I would probably find another way of saying it to avoid ambiguity or uncertainty:

    When I was in school I always got to class on time.
    I was very punctual as a student.

    However:

    "I wouldn't arrive late to class..." This construction by itself introduces ambiguity, something unexplained and therefore confusing without more context.

    You could say:

    Even when it was raining and I hadn't had a good nights' sleep, I wouldn't arrive late to class. :tick:

    Now we can understand the "wouldn't". Here it clearly refers to a habit, and it makes sense because we are told what the condition is that "would" refers to:

    "(Even if it was raining and I was short on sleep), I wouldn't arrive late to class."

    Otherwise, I would stick to a positive construction like the ones I gave above.
     

    Peter Thompson

    Senior Member
    Malaysian
    It's a telling story that Keith Bradford relates. "Would" leaves a lot up to interpretation and context. In making denials, it's less strong than saying you didn't do something.



    The idea of a moral stance here doesn't derive solely from "would". It also derives from the context of the activity mentioned (lying) and the denial.

    We could use the same basic construction with a different activity and possibly intuit different motivations for the speaker:

    "When I was a child I wouldn't brush my teeth." (meaning: I routinely refused to brush my teeth as a child, I was a stubborn child. To refer to a habit I would say it differently: "When I was a child, I never/rarely brushed my teeth." Or, "I wasn't in the habit of brushing my teeth as a child.")

    Another example:

    "Even when I was working on the tenth floor of an office building I wouldn't take the elevator, I always took the stairs." (Meaning perhaps: I'm dedicated to getting exercise wherever I can, and so I always choose to take the stairs. But, it was also my habit to take the stairs when I worked on the tenth floor).

    So what is habitual and what we choose (or are willing) to do, or not do, sometimes overlap. With lying or arriving late I hear it more as a moral choice. But context matters, so I wouldn't state this as an absolute. Just that, as a native speaker, if I wanted to talk about my habit of arriving on time to class, I would probably find another way of saying it to avoid ambiguity or uncertainty:

    When I was in school I always got to class on time.
    I was very punctual as a student.

    However:

    "I wouldn't arrive late to class..." This construction by itself introduces ambiguity, something unexplained and therefore confusing without more context.

    You could say:

    Even when it was raining and I hadn't had a good nights' sleep, I wouldn't arrive late to class. :tick:

    Now we can understand the "wouldn't". Here it clearly refers to a habit, and it makes sense because we are told what the condition is that "would" refers to:

    "(Even if it was raining and I was short on sleep), I wouldn't arrive late to class."

    Otherwise, I would stick to a positive construction like the ones I gave above.
    I see.
    So the moral stance actually comes from whether or not we're willing to do something ? Or something else ? If so, I think for the present we use "will" to mean that we're not willing to do something and we use "would" to mean that in the past we were willing to do something. I am kind of sure moral stance comes from the use of would for talking about a typical behavior but I could be wrong.

    In your example "I wouldn't have lied to you, I'm not that kind of person" , are you talking about the speaker's moral stance ? If so, the sentence should mean "I never lied to you" because it was not the speaker's moral stance , which means that lying was not something the speaker did. But you say that it only refers to a specific situation. I'm confused

    As in your example : "I wouldn't have lied to you, I'm not that kind person" , you say that it's the moral stance of the speaker and you say that it refers to a specific situation. Can I use the same construction "I wouldn't have lied to you, I'm not that kind person" to mean that I never lied to you in any situations. Can I do that ?

    And in your example "Even if it was raining and I was short on sleep I wouldn't arrive late to class". What kind of conditional is this ? I think we use the past perfect in the if clause to talk about the past , as in "If It had been raining". I'm confused here.

    Many Thanks!
     
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