I wouldnt say one was better than the orher.

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Fbohn21, Dec 7, 2018 at 11:09 AM.

  1. Fbohn21 Senior Member

    Deutsch
    Hello.


    I was once texting with a native speaker. I wrote 2 example sentences and she said:

    I wouldn’t say one was better than the other.


    Why did she use „was“ in this case?
     
  2. boozer Senior Member

    Bulgaria
    Bulgarian
    Just so it agrees with 'would'.
     
  3. Fbohn21 Senior Member

    Deutsch
    So I could say:

    I wouldn’t say one is better than the other?
     
  4. dojibear

    dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    English - Northeast US
    There is direct speech: I said "She is pretty."
    and indirect speech: I said (that) she was pretty.

    There is real action: I will say this.
    and hypothetical action: I would say this.

    Your example combines hypothetical action and indirect speech. Both of them affect the grammar. The native speaker could have said any of these things as her reply:

    - One is not better than the other.
    - I will say "one is not better than the other".
    - I will not say "one is better than the other".
    - I would say "one is not better than the other".
    - I wouldn't say "one is better than the other".

    - I won't say (that) one is better than the other. (future tense)
    - I wouldn't say (that) one was better than the other. (subjunctive)

    The last one is what the native speaker said.
     
  5. SimonTsai Senior Member

    Taiwanese Mandarin
    This is something really new to me.

    Am I right to think
    • that the first is too strong to be used in most situations, and
    • that 'would' is said to be more polite, often, than 'will' because the subjunctive is used?
     
  6. coiffe

    coiffe Senior Member

    Cambodia
    English (USA)
    Just to be precise here, "would say" is not subjunctive. "Would" is a modal auxiliary used with the verb "say."

    As for your original question, your native speaker could say "is" or "was," and they're both correct and both roughly equivalent. "Would" does not specifically require present or past tense. They are used in a variety of situations. Here are a couple of other examples to illustrate that:

    I would say we will have good weather today.
    I would guess she is about sixteen years old.
    I would estimate there are a billion people in China.
    I would say the Ethiopian won the race.

    Edit: To be fair to dojibear, the subjunctive often deals with unreal situations and in archaic English and in other modern languages "would" (expressing possibility, opinion, etc.) may be directly involved in the expression (in translation; I'm thinking of German in particular here). But linguists nowadays refer to the subjunctive in English with examples like "I suggest that you be careful" and "It is important that she stay by your side." (Wikipedia) or "I wish he were here right now (my own example). But "would say," as mentioned above, is a modal + verb, not the subjunctive mood you find in subordinate clauses.
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018 at 1:29 PM
  7. dojibear

    dojibear Senior Member

    Fresno CA
    English - Northeast US
    We often use the bold "would" phrases to mean "I think" or "My opinion is". I do think it is softer, since it points out "this is my opinion", not "this is a fact". We also use other phrases for that:

    I think the Ethiopian won the race.
    It seems to me that the Ethiopian won the race.
    To me, she looks about sixteen years old.
    I suppose you are right.
     
  8. SimonTsai Senior Member

    Taiwanese Mandarin
    This is what I have learnt. Thank you sincerely for your explanation and clarification.
     
  9. coiffe

    coiffe Senior Member

    Cambodia
    English (USA)
    One of the key visible differences in a true subjunctive is that there is no "s" added to the third person singular verb; else with the copula the "be" form is used, instead of "is."
     

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