modal verb "would" with future meaning

sunyaer

Senior Member
Chinese
I found a grammar discussion on English.stackexchange.com web site at

http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/74502/it-would-be-better-if-you-drink-drank-all-the-water

Here is an excerpt from the thread:

"conditional clause → if + present simple
main clause → modal verb with future meaning (should/would/might/could/can/could/may/might)
Reference: English Grammar Today, Cambridge."


My question is: in what contexts we use "would" to convey a future meaning? Are the following examples indicating the future with "would"?

1. "I would be surprised if he does that."

2. "Would you mind if I open the window?"



 
  • Parent to adult child: "If you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition." Your examples 1. and 2. do not quite fit, though they are good English.

    I found a grammar discussion on English.stackexchange.com web site at

    http://english.stackexchange.com/questions/74502/it-would-be-better-if-you-drink-drank-all-the-water

    Here is an excerpt from the thread:

    "conditional clause → if + present simple
    main clause → modal verb with future meaning (should/would/might/could/can/could/may/might)
    Reference: English Grammar Today, Cambridge."


    My question is: in what contexts we use "would" to convey a future meaning? Are the following examples indicating the future with "would"?

    1. "I would be surprised if he does that."

    2. "Would you mind if I open the window?"



     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Parent to adult child: "If you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition." Your examples 1. and 2. do not quite fit, though they are good English.

    Should it be "If you enroll in university, I will pay the tuition"? What is the difference between using "would" and "will" here?
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    No real difference. Perhaps 'would' is a *tiny* bit less of a committment.

    It's quite confusing that sometimes "if indicative + main clause subjunctive" is correct, and other times incorrect. Is the "would" not a marker of subjunctive in "if you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition"?
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Would you mind if I open the window? is not a conditional sentence. The phrase would you mind is just a polite formula, like Do you mind if...
    People say it so often that it is equivalent to I hope you have no objection to my opening a window.

    With the other expression we could have the following sentences.
    Let's assume for the sake of argument that you are reporting for a newspaper on Obama's coming visit to Iran.

    1. I'd be surprised if President Obama spoke Farsi.
    2. I'd be surprised if President Obama were to speak Farsi.
    3. I'd be surprised if President Obama was to speak Farsi.
    4. I'd be surprised if President Obama speaks Farsi.
    5. I'd be surprised to hear President Obama speak Farsi.

    Now grammarians have invented a rule (known as the second conditional to foreign learners of English) that you musn't use the present tense when you have would in the main clause of a conditional sentence.
    This rule is normally reliable, but it falls apart with sentence 4, in which speaks (probably) means is able to speak. The sentence is equivalent semantically to I'd be surprised to hear that President Obama speaks Farsi. The same idea can be expressed as in sentences 1 to 3, which are more ambiguous and probably mean that he would utter a couple of words in Farsi, as he did when he visited Berlin (when he said Vielen Dank, which was followed by applause!). Sentence 5 does not have this ambiguity, i.e. it does not mean that he can speak Farsi.

    Native speakers are not normally aware of this second conditional rule, not surprisingly, and speak without thinking about it.
    The problem is that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd conditionals (and conveniently mixed conditionals when these rules are broken) cannot control what native speakers say. And a good thing too. :)
     
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    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I don't understand your question in post 1, sunyaer.

    In conditional sentences, "would" refers to future time, not to past time or present time.

    But perhaps I'm missing something?
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I don't understand your question in post 1, sunyaer.

    In conditional sentences, "would" refers to future time, not to past time or present time.

    But perhaps I'm missing something?

    "If you come to my house, I would make a big dinner for you" is regarded wrong; "Would" doesn't refer to future time due to the fact that the conditional clause "if you come to my house" is indicative. However, in "if you came to my house, I would make a big dinner for you", "would" does refer to future time. So, "would" can not be used as modal verb in the pattern of "if +present simple tense, main clause with modal verb with future meaning", the referenced lines on English.stackexchange.com are incorrect, aren't they?
     

    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Here's a quotation from Graham Greene (The Human Factor). Of course, one might argue that he is only repeating "incorrect" English.
    A policeman has visited a house. After he has left, someone (A) asks what he wanted:
    <<
    A. "I hope that man won't come back."
    B. "I wouldn't be surprised if he does."

    But the days passed without Inspector Butler and without news.
    >>
    (http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=...="I wouldn't be surprised if he does"&f=false)

    According to "correct" grammar, he should have written I won't be surprised if he does or I wouldn't be surprised if he did.
     
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    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Parent to adult child: "If you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition."

    ...


    ...

    The problem is that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd conditionals (and conveniently mixed conditionals when these rules are broken) cannot control what native speakers say. And a good thing too. :)

    Is "if you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition" mixed conditionals?
     

    Glenfarclas

    Senior Member
    English (American)
    Would you mind if I open the window? is not a conditional sentence. The phrase would you mind is just a polite formula, like Do you mind if...
    People say it so often that it is equivalent to I hope you have no objection to my opening a window.

    With the other expression we could have the following sentences.
    Let's assume for the sake of argument that you are reporting for a newspaper on Obama's coming visit to Iran.

    1. I'd be surprised if President Obama spoke Farsi.
    2. I'd be surprised if President Obama were to speak Farsi.
    3. I'd be surprised if President Obama was to speak Farsi.
    4. I'd be surprised if President Obama speaks Farsi.
    5. I'd be surprised to hear President Obama speak Farsi.

    Now grammarians have invented a rule (known as the second conditional to foreign learners of English) that you musn't use the present tense when you have would in the main clause of a conditional sentence.
    This rule is normally reliable, but it falls apart with sentence 4, in which speaks (probably) means is able to speak. The sentence is equivalent semantically to I'd be surprised to hear that President Obama speaks Farsi. The same idea can be expressed as in sentences 1 to 3, which are more ambiguous and probably mean that he would utter a couple of words in Farsi, as he did when he visited Berlin (when he said Vielen Dank, which was followed by applause!). Sentence 5 does not have this ambiguity, i.e. it does not mean that he can speak Farsi.

    Native speakers are not normally aware of this second conditional rule, not surprisingly, and speak without thinking about it.
    The problem is that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd conditionals (and conveniently mixed conditionals when these rules are broken) cannot control what native speakers say. And a good thing too. :)

    Maybe these things sound fine in 21st-century British English -- I admit I was very surprised to learn that "I suggested he calls his mother" is now considered standard there. From my side of the pond, "would" with a present conditional does indeed sound wrong. I include not only examples like "Would you mind if I open [read opened] the window?", but also your #4, "I'd be surprised if President Obama speaks [read spoke] Farsi."
     
    Hi Sunyaer,
    You might consult the Wiki article on categories of conditionals. Please note they are not so clear cut as ESL learners are taught. Based on the explanations there, I would say that my example is a *variant of the first conditional category.

    *ADDED: a standard, recognized and authorized variant, that is.


    Is "if you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition" mixed conditionals?
     
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    Glen, I cannot speak for our British friends, but I believe that they would say, for your first example,
    I suggested that he should call his mother.

    Maybe these things sound fine in 21st-century British English -- I admit I was very surprised to learn that "I suggested he calls his mother" is now considered standard there. From my side of the pond, "would" with a present conditional does indeed sound wrong. I include not only examples like "Would you mind if I open [read opened] the window?", but also your #4, "I'd be surprised if President Obama speaks [read spoke] Farsi."
     
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    e2efour

    Senior Member
    UK English
    Maybe these things sound fine in 21st-century British English ... From my side of the pond, "would" with a present conditional does indeed sound wrong. I include not only examples like "Would you mind if I open [read opened] the window?", but also your #4, "I'd be surprised if President Obama speaks [read spoke] Farsi."

    The more I look into this, the more common it becomes. There are far too many examples for it to be considered "wrong". I would also suspect that the reason why it is not easy to find "reputable" sources is because the copy editors have been at work (as in the mistaken "correction" in the USA of which instead of that in restrictive clauses). At worse, I think it could be regarded as informal.

    Here are some examples.

    First an academic book:
    “Also, if she already has heard the piece several times, as has Levinson's listener (1997: 45), it would be surprising if she has no idea where within the piece the theme first occurred.”
    http://www.amazon.com/Musical-Understandings-Other-Essays-Philosophy/dp/0199608776
    (published in New Zealand)

    And three US sources (the first two from newspapers):

    “It would be surprising if they don’t find more contaminants.”
    The Tenessean (http://www.tennessean.com/article/2...tis-outbreak-Tests-reveal-fungi-cause-mystery)

    “Considering that 12 of the newly appointed ERAC members make their living in real estate, it would be surprising if they don’t come out in favour of an aggressive development plan.
    The Coast News (http://issuu.com/coastnewsgroup/docs/tcn12-01-03)

    “While it’s not completely unfathomable, it would be surprising if he changes his mind and accepted a deal to play for the Sox and in the AL.”
    http://www.scoresreport.com/2009/05/25/top-five-landing-spots-for-jake-peavy/ (News report)
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Parent to adult child: "If you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition."

    ...

    The above sentence is correct, however, with a little revision, the following sentence doesn't sound right, does it? ("would" should be replaced with "will".) What is the reason?

    Parent to adult child: "If you enroll in university, I would give you an award."
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Sunyaer, as you know, I was puzzled by your question.

    So I've looked back again at the link to english.stack exchange you gave in post 1, and in particular at answer 3.

    It seems to me that the writer is not in any way suggesting any variation on the 'standard' first/second (etc) conditional models. Far from it: he uses the traditional terminology, defining the form of the second conditional as:
    conditional clause → if + past simple
    main clause → modal verb with future-in-the-past meaning [...]​
    and that of the first conditional as:
    conditional clause → if + present simple
    main clause → modal verb with future meaning [...]​

    His list of "modal verbs with future-in-the-past meaning" is (should/would/might/could); his list of "modal verbs with future meaning" is (should/would/might/could/can/could*/may/might).

    Since he's quoting English Grammar Today, published by Cambridge University Press, I went googling to see if I could discover in what sense that particular publication sees "would" as usable with a future meaning. And I think I've found the answer here:
    Would or will?
    We can use would as a more formal or polite alternative to will in requests. We often use the phrase would you mind + -ing in polite requests.
    I'm not sure if that answers your question. But I feel a lot less puzzled now, which makes me happier:D.

    --------

    * EDIT: Yes, I've spotted the fact he included two coulds;)
     
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    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    ...

    Since he's quoting English Grammar Today, published by Cambridge University Press, I went googling to see if I could discover in what sense that particular publication sees "would" as usable with a future meaning. And I think I've found the answer here:

    Would or
    will?
    We can use would as a more formal or polite alternative to will in requests. We often use the phrase would you mind + -ing in polite requests.

    I'm not sure if that answers your question. But I feel a lot less puzzled now, which makes me happier:D.

    Yes, you have partially answered my question. Is there any example showing "would" has a future meaning in "subject +would..." pattern?
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I don't think would is the real issue here, but the function of the if clause.

    When the if clause only expresses a condition for the would clause, present tense clashes with would. For example, "sentences" like "If you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition /give you an award" and "If you come to my house, I would make a big dinner for you" sound wrong (at least to some of us).

    But the tenses are more "forgiving" when the if clause functions somewhat like a that clause or an infinitive or gerund phrase:

    I would be surprised if he does that.
    = "I would be surprised that he does that (if he were to do it)."
    The if clause explains the surprise. Surprised about what? Surprised if they don't ....

    It would be surprising if they don't ....
    = "It would be surprising that they don't ... (if they didn't)."
    What would be surprising? That they don't....

    Would you mind if I open the window?
    = "Would you mind my opening the window (if I did)?"
    This if clause functions a lot like a direct object of mind.
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    ...

    When the if clause only expresses a condition for the would clause, present tense clashes with would. For example, "sentences" like "If you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition /give you an award" and "If you come to my house, I would make a big dinner for you" sound wrong (at least to some of us).

    ....

    To me,

    (A) "If you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition" sounds right, whereas

    (B) "If you enroll in university, I would give you an award" and (C) "If you come to my house, I would make a big dinner for you" sound wrong.

    In sentence (A), "if you enroll in university" is not the condition for "would", but the cause of "the tuition". "If you enroll in university" actually means "if you enroll in university and result in having to pay the tuition".


    Much differently, in sentence (B) and (C), "an award" or "a big dinner" has no logical relation with "enroll in university" or "come to my house", as such, "if you enroll in university" or "if you come to my house" is the condition for the main clause "I would give you an award" or "I would make a big dinner for you", resulting in present tense clashing with "would".


    ...

    But the tenses are more "forgiving" when the if clause functions somewhat like a that clause or an infinitive or gerund phrase:

    I would be surprised if he does that.
    = "I would be surprised that he does that (if he were to do it)."
    The if clause explains the surprise. Surprised about what? Surprised if they don't ....

    It would be surprising if they don't ....
    = "It would be surprising that they don't ... (if they didn't)."
    What would be surprising? That they don't....

    Would you mind if I open the window?
    = "Would you mind my opening the window (if I did)?"
    This if clause functions a lot like a direct object of mind.

    Another reason for the relaxing tenses here may be that the main verb "be" is static. Does "I would get disappointed / angry if he does that" sound natural with an action verb "get"?

    Physiologically, an action verb reminds the speaker / listener of a point in time of action, giving rise to a feeling about tense clashes between present tense and "would". Does this sound like a logical explanation?
     
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    Forero

    Senior Member
    To me,

    (A) "If you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition" sounds right, whereas

    (B) "If you enroll in university, I would give you an award" and (C) "If you come to my house, I would make a big dinner for you" sound wrong.

    In sentence (A), "if you enroll in university" is not the condition for "would", but the cause of "the tuition". "If you enroll in university" actually means "if you enroll in university and result in having to pay the tuition".

    Much differently, in sentence (B) and (C), "an award" or "a big dinner" has no logical relation with "enroll in university" or "come to my house", as such, "if you enroll in university" or "if you come to my house" is the condition for the main clause "I would give you an award" or "I would make a big dinner for you", resulting in present tense clashing with "would".
    A proper if statement expresses a logical relationship. It is true when the logical relationship holds and false when it doesn't, and it remains a proper sentence whether true or false.

    A, B, and C do not sound like proper if statements to me because the tenses do not fit. In other words "If you enroll in university, I will <do something>" is most likely a promise, and "If you enrolled in university, I would <do something>" is most likely a statement of the same logical relationship ignoring present reality.

    But "If you enroll [present tense] in university, I would [past tense or conditional] <do something>" looks like the first part of one sentence and the last part of a different one.
    Another reason for the relaxing tenses here may be that the main verb "be" is static. Does "I would get disappointed / angry if he does that" sound natural with an action verb "get"?
    No, and, frankly, neither does "I would be angry if he does that."
    Physiologically, an action verb reminds the speaker / listener of a point in time of action, giving rise to a feeling about tense clashes between present tense and "would". Does this sound like a logical explanation?
    This makes a certain amount of sense, ignoring the word physiologically, but it is not a complete explanation.

    Mind has intransitive uses, but it is essentially a transitive verb:

    1. I don't mind the rain.

    And the direct object of mind can be a clause:

    2. I don't mind that it's raining.

    And, to me, an if clause as direct object of mind is not out of the question:

    3. I don't mind if it rains.

    But we can also say:

    4. I don't mind it if it rains.

    ... with practically the same meaning.

    However, change don't to wouldn't, and this last example does not work for me:

    1'. I wouldn't mind the rain.:tick:
    2'. I wouldn't mind that it's raining.:tick:
    3'. I wouldn't mind if it rains.:tick:
    4'. I wouldn't mind it if it rains.:cross:

    My explanation is that when the direct object of mind is it, the if clause is forced to act purely as a condition and the tenses should match. ("I wouldn't mind it if it rained.")

    Now be surprised does not take a direct object, but a prepositional phrase is appropriate:

    5. I am surprised at the rain.

    However, if we put a clause in for "the rain", either we have to add something like "the fact" or remove the preposition:

    ?. I am surprised at that it's raining.:cross:
    6. I am surprised at the fact that it's raining.:tick:
    7. I am surprised that it's raining.:tick:

    To me, an if clause here, without a preposition of course, can have the same function as a that clause, i.e. to tell the listener the reason for my surprise:

    8. I am surprised if it's raining.

    Change am to would be, and 6-8 still work:

    6'. I would be surprised at the fact that it's raining.
    7'. I would be surprised that it's raining.
    8'. I would be surprised if it's raining.

    But add at the fact to 8' and it loses its sense:

    8''. I would be surprised at the fact if it's raining.:cross:

    Apparently "at the fact" in 8'', like "it" in 4', forces the if clause to act purely as a condition, not a reason.

    As I see it, an if clause can sometimes play two roles at once, for example as both a condition (with the obvious meaning of if) and a direct object (with if functioning like that) in 3 and 3'. And it is its dual role that allows its form to stray from what would be expected for a purely conditional if clause.

    In fact I think it is this dual role that allows if to sometimes mean "whether":

    9. You can't say/tell/know if it's raining.
    9'. You wouldn't be able to say/tell/know if it's raining.

    ("If it's raining" in 9' means "that it's raining if it were" = "whether it's raining".)
     
    Hi Forero,
    I just want to comment on one piece of your analysis. We (in this thread) have been around the block on this, but here goes.

    A, B, and C do not sound like proper if statements to me because the tenses do not fit. In other words [A*]"If you enroll in university, I will <do something>" is most likely a promise, and [B*]"If you enrolled in university, I would <do something>" is most likely a statement of the same logical relationship ignoring present reality.

    But "If you enroll [present tense] in university, I would [past tense or conditional] <do something>" looks like the first part of one sentence and the last part of a different one.

    I'm not sure I entirely understand your objection. If it's to mixing tenses, I see no problem in such examples, as "If you hit me, I will hit you back."

    Do you object to A*? Regardless of it's being threat or promise or prediction, what's the issue? How about straight prediction: "If you him[ADDED: hit] me in the face, I'll probably have a black eye tomorrow."

    Let's look at B8. If you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition.
    But "If you enroll [present tense] in university, I would [past tense or conditional] <do something>" looks like the first part of one sentence and the last part of a different one.

    That seems to be a problem since you read 'would' as past. 'Tisn't so. Alternately you say it's 'conditional'. Why would that be wrong.?

    However, I gave the example because 'would' is simply a kind of tentative stand in for 'will'. It's future. Ex: "Once he graduates, he would be in a position to run for office."
     
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    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Physiologically, an action verb reminds the speaker / listener of a point in time of action, giving rise to a feeling about tense clashes between present tense and "would". Does this sound like a logical explanation?

    This makes a certain amount of sense, ignoring the word physiologically, but it is not a complete explanation.

    Sorry, I meant psychologically, not physiologically.
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Hi Forero,
    I just want to comment on one piece of your analysis. We (in this thread) have been around the block on this, but here goes.
    A, B, and C do not sound like proper if statements to me because the tenses do not fit. In other words [A*]"If you enroll in university, I will <do something>" is most likely a promise, and [B*]"If you enrolled in university, I would <do something>" is most likely a statement of the same logical relationship ignoring present reality.
    I'm not sure I entirely understand your objection. If it's to mixing tenses, I see no problem in such examples, as "If you hit me, I will hit you back."
    If this is present tense hit, then the tenses match (in the sense I intended: present tense of hit, present tense of will), so no problem.

    If it is past tense hit, the tenses do not match, but it still makes sense. Again, no problem. (In other words, the tenses in a statement with an if clause do not always have to match.)
    Do you object to A*?
    No.
    Regardless of it's being threat or promise or prediction, what's the issue? How about straight prediction: "If you hit me in the face, I'll probably have a black eye tomorrow."
    No substantive difference here, so no problem.
    Let's look at B*. If you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition.
    But "If you enroll [present tense] in university, I would [past tense or conditional] <do something>" looks like the first part of one sentence and the last part of a different one.
    That seems to be a problem since you read 'would' as past. 'Tisn't so. Alternately you say it's 'conditional'. Why would that be wrong.?

    However, I gave the example because 'would' is simply a kind of tentative stand in for 'will'. It's future. Ex: "Once he graduates, he would be in a position to run for office."
    What I think you are saying is that the would part can stand alone, and an adverbial clause can be added without making the would part wrong.

    I agree, but I thought Sunyaer was trying to make "if you enroll" mean something more like "were you to enroll" so that "would" in "I would pay the tuition" could express contingency on "your" enrollment at a university.

    Now it occurs to me I do not really know what he means. Would is nearly always ambiguous, yet it, like all modal verbs, always expresses "future" in some sense. (My list of modal verbs is: shall [& should], irregular will [& would], irregular can [& could], may [& might], must, ought (to), need when used without to, and dare without to [& durst]. The ones in square brackets with "&" are past tense, i.e. the ones that can be used for agreement with other past tense verbs as well as for "future-in-the-past"/"conditional".)
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    ...

    I agree, but I thought Sunyaer was trying to make "if you enroll" mean something more like "were you to enroll" so that "would" in "I would pay the tuition" could express contingency on "your" enrollment at a university.

    ...

    Yes, "if you enroll" means "were you to enroll" in "if you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition". This is different than "if you enroll in university, I would give you an award", in which "enroll in university" has no logical connection with "an award". The if clause is merely an condition, whereas in "if you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition", "tuition" is a product of "if you enroll", making "if you enroll" act as "were you to enroll".
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Yes, "if you enroll" means "were you to enroll" in "if you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition". This is different than "if you enroll in university, I would give you an award", in which "enroll in university" has no logical connection with "an award". The if clause is merely an condition, whereas in "if you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition", "tuition" is a product of "if you enroll", making "if you enroll" act as "were you to enroll".
    It really does not work this way. A reference in the would clause to something in the if clause does not tell us whether you are trying to say "were you to enroll" or whether the would clause is using a "polite" would (which could stand by itself), a "contingent" would (with an express condition), or some other kind of would.

    I hope I am not just confusing you with all of this. I keep thinking of Lewis Carroll:

    "'I know what you're thinking about,' said Tweedledum; 'but it isn't so, nohow.'
    'Contrariwise,' continued Tweedledee, 'if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic.' "


    For me, none of the three sentences (A, B, C) works in the "If it were so, it would be" sense, which requires a subjunctive in the if part. They are more like Tweedledum's "if it was so [then], it might [still] be [so now]", with its if part in the indicative.

    Returning to the original sentences:
    1. "I would be surprised if he does that."

    2. "Would you mind if I open the window?"
    I suppose you could explain these as being of the "If it was/is, it might ..." type, but to me they make the most sense when I see the if clauses as having a dual function. One of the dual functions is to give the would part an express condition, as if the if clauses were in the subjunctive, but the other function is to complete the would predicate, for which function the indicative is appropriate.

    For me this dual function is destroyed if we put the if first, like the ifs in sentences A, B, and C:

    If he does that, I would be surprised.
    If I open the window, would you mind?

    If I want these to retain the express-condition meaning I see in the original sentences, I have to change them to subjunctive:

    If he did that (or If he were to do that), I would ....
    If I opened the window (or If I were to open the window), would you ...?

    Since the if clauses are now introductory adverbials, they have lost their function as predicate complements.

    Actually, I did not see this before, but if I turn your sentence A around, it works for me:

    A'. I would pay the tuition if you enroll.

    Here "if you enroll" becomes (in one of its dual functions) a defining modifier of tuition, and indicative is appropriate to this function.

    I think your intuition about B and C has some merit. For me "an award if you enroll in university" and "a big dinner for you if you come to my house" in turned-around versions of B and C do not hang together as cohesive phrases the way "the tuition if you enroll in university", "surprised if he does that", and "mind if I open the window" do.

    I can see "mind my opening the window" in "mind if I open the window", "surprised at his doing that" in "surprised if he does that", and even "the tuition for your enrollment" in "the tuition if you enroll", but "if you come to my house" does not particularize "you" or "dinner" and "if you enroll" does not tell me what "an award" would be, or what for.

    As to the original question, I think the idea of "future meaning" is a red herring. What allows sentences such as 1, 2, and A' to work is not a special meaning of would but the function of their indicative if clauses.
     
    I think this is a good point, sunyaer. That is why I chose 'variant of the first conditional pattern' as my best guess. There are as Forero says, many shades of 'would,' many types of contingency, but I think a very straightforward one is involved in my original "If you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition." A will be followed by B, where B is logically connected, as you say. There is a *slight* gap as to 'would' and a possibility of further conditions---that's the difference with 'will,' in my opinion.


    Yes, "if you enroll" means "were you to enroll" in "if you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition". This is different than "if you enroll in university, I would give you an award", in which "enroll in university" has no logical connection with "an award". The if clause is merely an condition, whereas in "if you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition", "tuition" is a product of "if you enroll", making "if you enroll" act as "were you to enroll".
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Yes, "if you enroll" means "were you to enroll" in "if you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition". This is different than "if you enroll in university, I would give you an award", in which "enroll in university" has no logical connection with "an award". The if clause is merely an condition, whereas in "if you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition", "tuition" is a product of "if you enroll", making "if you enroll" act as "were you to enroll".


    It really does not work this way. A reference in the would clause to something in the if clause does not tell us whether you are trying to say "were you to enroll" or whether the would clause is using a "polite" would (which could stand by itself), a "contingent" would (with an express condition), or some other kind of would.

    ...

    I think this is a good point, sunyaer. That is why I chose 'variant of the first conditional pattern' as my best guess. There are as Forero says, many shades of 'would,' many types of contingency, but I think a very straightforward one is involved in my original "If you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition." A will be followed by B, where B is logically connected, as you say. There is a *slight* gap as to 'would' and a possibility of further conditions---that's the difference with 'will,' in my opinion.

    But Forero objects to the original "If you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition" , doesn't he?
     
    Yes, I believe so. In his post #21, that sentence, which he calls 'B,' is subject to his objection.

    On the other hand, regardless of the tehnical issues, I think he'd agree that 'B' is eminently clear and understandable to any native speaker in the sense I intended (just slightly problematized talk of the future with a 'future tense' function for 'would.')

    Returning to your original sentence 1 (I don't know how to handle questions, as in 2.)

    1. "I would be surprised if he does that."

    As I said much earlier, I don't think this is clear 'future talk' or 'future tense.' Notice it's almost opposite as to inference. In 'B', if the enrollment happens, I'm NOT surprised, indeed I'm pleased: "Oh, you enrolled already? Great. Who do I make the cheque out to?"

    In 1, his doing whatever {=X} would lead me to say to you, "Oh, I'm surprised, I didn't think he'd do X."



    But Forero objects to the original "If you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition" , doesn't he?
     
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    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I just thought of another phrase that are commonly used with "would" expressing future tense, that is "would like".

    "If you ask me for my opinion about your new plan to expand sales, I would like to say that it's not going to be effective."

    Do you think the pattern "if... I would like..." in the above sentence is something we say everyday? How to explain the use of "would" in "would like"?
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Hi, Sunyaer.

    My objection to B in #21 is restricted to the meaning I thought you intended for it. Sentence B is, as Bennymix says, a perfectly understandable sentence, and it is also perfectly grammatical in the proper context.

    I think it is important not to confuse sentences like B (that begin with an if clause in the indicative) with sentences containing clauses in the "past" subjunctive, or with sentences like 1 and 2.

    I think we natives agree on most points, but we have different ways of saying the same thing and different ideas about what might be helpful to mention.

    As to the thread on English.stackexchange.com, I think the quote that you mentioned in #1 is off the mark as far as explaining why sentences such as 1 and 2 are correct.

    I agree with this excerpt from the same thread:

    This whole “1st/2nd/etc conditional” thing is purely an ESL meme that is never taught to native English speakers in the course of their regular grammar-school education, and which furthermore makes very little sense when subjected to rigorous analysis. I think it just confuses people to no useful end. – tchrist Jul 14 '12 at 23:54​

    In my view—

    • Sentences like 1 and 2 do not fit the ESL categories of 1st, 2nd, 3rd(, however many) conditionals.
    • Some "sentences" that native speakers utter begin with one structure and end with another, incompatible structure. We sometimes forget where we were "going" and, rather than start over, indicate nonverbally something like "I know this doesn't make sense, but you know what I mean" or "Mutatis muntandis, ceteris paribus".
    • But sentences like 1 and 2 are correct sentences for speaking or writing, not sloppy sentences from incautious speech that sometimes make their way into writing.
    • And sentences using would in a "future meaning" are perhaps one category that may be of use in explaining conditional sentences, but sentences like 1 and 2 are in a different category. The two categories may overlap, but I think it is important not to equivocate between the two.
    • Sentences like 1 and 2 have two meanings at once, representing a telescoping of two kinds of subordinate clauses: an adverbial if clause, which would normally be in the past/second subjunctive, and a clause in the indicative that acts to complete the meaning of the predicate.
    • Since the clause in question is an integral part of the predicate, it does not work (in my opinion) to move it to the beginning (like a "sentence adverbial"), even though it begins with if, and even though its meaning is (in part) subjunctive.
    I have not seen any other source mention my last two points, though some have skirted around the idea.

    I hope this is helpful to you.
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Your proposed sentence sounds normal and natural to me. I think your "would like to say" is a variant of 'would say'
    (your sentence without 'like to') which is a way of being tentative and/or polite (diplomatic) in making an assertion.

    Can "would think" be added to the list?
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I just thought of another phrase that are commonly used with "would" expressing future tense, that is "would like".

    "If you ask me for my opinion about your new plan to expand sales, I would like to say that it's not going to be effective."

    Do you think the pattern "if... I would like..." in the above sentence is something we say everyday? How to explain the use of "would" in "would like"?
    I see this as the same kind of sentence as B. It is a little different in that it would be hard to read subjunctive into it, as I did for B in #21, and in that it may be using I would like to say to mean little more than "I'll say".
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    ...

    A, B, and C do not sound like proper if statements to me because the tenses do not fit.
    ...

    Hi, Sunyaer.

    My objection to B in #21 is restricted to the meaning I thought you intended for it. Sentence B is, as Bennymix says, a perfectly understandable sentence, and it is also perfectly grammatical in the proper context.

    ...

    Hi Forero,

    it's quite confusing to me regarding your comments in the above two posts. In what context would you consider sentence B as a perfect sentence?
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Can "would think" be added to the list?
    I don't think you need a list. Would like often means "kind of want", but would think, should prefer, or, really, any of the past tense modals with practically any main verb can be used this way.

    My view is that would in this type of sentence is conditional, as if it were accompanied by a subjunctive clause, but the condition or conditions are unstated and thus left to the imagination.
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I don't think you need a list. Would like often means "kind of want", but would think, should prefer, or, really, any of the past tense modals with practically any main verb can be used this way.

    My view is that would in this type of sentence is conditional, as if it were accompanied by a subjunctive clause, but the condition or conditions are unstated and thus left to the imagination.

    I think I didn't get my point understood. My point is that when "would think" is accompanied by an indicative clause, it is used as "a way of being tentative and/or polite (diplomatic) in making an assertion", (see post #31) such as:

    "If you want me to work overtime, I would think it's not fair."
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    Hi Forero,

    it's quite confusing to me regarding your comments in the above two posts. In what context would you consider sentence B as a perfect sentence?
    Any context in which the speaker intends would in the same sense as in your sentence with would like, the sense in which conditions are left to the imagination, the sense that people call "polite" and Bennymix calls a "kind of tentative stand in for 'will'".

    The conditions left to the imagination are unstated despite the presence of another condition expressed by an if clause in the same sentence.

    Think of a sentence such as "If you'll let me explain, if I were you, I would not stand by and let her treat me that way", with two conditions. The first is in present tense (will meaning something like "acquiesce to"), and the second is in subjunctive and prompts the use of would. If we delete "if I were you", the sentence still works without the subjunctive clause to prompt the would because with would we can leave subjunctive clauses to the imagination. This makes would like a version of will with the edge taken off, independent of the tense or mood of "if you'll let me explain".
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    it's quite confusing to me regarding your comments in the above two posts. In what context would you consider sentence B as a perfect sentence?

    Any context in which the speaker intends would in the same sense as in your sentence with would like, the sense in which conditions are left to the imagination, the sense that people call "polite" and Bennymix calls a "kind of tentative stand in for 'will'".

    The conditions left to the imagination are unstated despite the presence of another condition expressed by an if clause in the same sentence.

    Think of a sentence such as "If you'll let me explain, if I were you, I would not stand by and let her treat me that way", with two conditions. The first is in present tense (will meaning something like "acquiesce to"), and the second is in subjunctive and prompts the use of would. If we delete "if I were you", the sentence still works without the subjunctive clause to prompt the would because with would we can leave subjunctive clauses to the imagination. This makes would like a version of will with the edge taken off, independent of the tense or mood of "if you'll let me explain".

    Would you please give a context that makes sentence B "if you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition" work?
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    I think I didn't get my point understood. My point is that when "would think" is accompanied by an indicative clause, it is used as "a way of being tentative and/or polite (diplomatic) in making an assertion", (see post #31) such as:

    "If you want me to work overtime, I would think it's not fair."
    Yes, just as if the indicative clause were not there.

    This latest example sentence does not say I would think it's not fair provided (only) that you wanted me to work overtime. There are unstated conditions (e.g. "if you allowed me to have my own opinion and didn't mind my expressing it now").

    A person might consider this language to be polite, or self-deprecating, or waffling, or useful for deniability. It is tentative in the sense that it is not frank. It is not tentative in the sense of a plan that is subject to future change(s).
     
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    Forero

    Senior Member
    Would you please give a context that makes sentence B "if you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition" work?
    For example: Perhaps I am thinking you will object to my paying the tuition. I want you to know I am willing to, but I don't want to invite you to complain about my offer. With would and unstated conditions, I can think "(I would pay it) if you were to gratefully allow me to" while you think "(he would pay it) if worse came to worst".

    We may have different opinions as to whether I was being polite with such a statement.
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Would you please give a context that makes sentence B "if you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition" work?

    For example: Perhaps I am thinking you will object to my paying the tuition. I want you to know I am willing to, but I don't want to invite you to complain about my offer. With would and unstated conditions, I can think "(I would pay it) if you were to gratefully allow me to" while you think "(he would pay it) if worse came to worst".

    We may have different opinions as to whether I was being polite with such a statement.

    So the key point here is that "would" needs to be implicated with a subjective, whether it's explicit or implicit in the sentence. If the subjunctive is implicit, there needs to be a context in the conversation providing information. Otherwise, the sentence would not be understandable. Here is an example:

    Husband to wife: "If I win the lottery, I would buy a big house."

    In a common context in which the husband is making a statement purely based on the winning of the lottery, the above sentence seems to have conflicting tenses, "if I win the lottery" should have been "if I won the lottery". But if the context is that the husband is showing his intent to buy a big house provided he wins the lottery, but doesn't want to invite complaint from his wife who he knows is a woman trying to save on things, there is an implicit condition clause like "if you had no objection" in the sentence, which makes "would" a correct use.

    I have used "big house" to imply the possible context denoting the opposite of saving, which the wife might insist on.


    Your comments are welcome on my understanding and whether or not the sentence is natural in my proposed context.
     
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    Forero

    Senior Member
    So the key point here is that "would" needs to be implicated with a subjective, whether it's explicit or implicit in the sentence. If the subjunctive is implicit, there needs to be a context in the conversation providing information. Otherwise, the sentence would not be understandable.
    What you seem to be asking is how we disambiguate would, in particular how we can tell if would is meant as a "conditional" form.

    There is no rule for that as far as I know. The fact is that the sentence about the tuition is understandable, though the intended meaning might not be evident to the person reading it.

    However, in the case of the sentence in question, "If you enroll in university, I would pay the tuition", would it really matter if the person hearing it thinks you started to say "If you enroll, I will pay the tuition" but changed your mind in midsentence and intended to say "I would pay the tuition if you enroll(ed)"? What if you wrote the sentence and the person reading it thought you changed your mind as you might in speech but that you neglected to edit your sentence? Would it not still be understandable enough?

    The word would is notoriously ambiguous, but we use it often, and either add information or just accept the ambiguity. You can't know what I am thinking unless I tell you, but sometimes what you understand from what I say is clear enough, despite the ambiguity.

    It is distracting to begin a conditional would sentence with a present tense indicative if clause.

    One way to overcome the distraction is to include an explicit condition, and another way is to put extra stress on would.

    An explicit condition does not have to be in the subjunctive. For example, you could use an infinitive of purpose:

    If you enroll in university, then, to help you out, I would pay the tuition. [Here to = "in order to".]
    Here is an example:

    Husband to wife: "If I win the lottery, I would buy a big house."

    In a common context in which the husband is making a statement purely based on the winning of the lottery, the above sentence seems to have conflicting tenses, "if I win the lottery" should have been "if I won the lottery". But if the context is that the husband is showing his intent to buy a big house provided he wins the lottery, but doesn't want to invite complaint from his wife who he knows is a woman trying to save on things, there is an implicit condition clause like "if you had no objection" in the sentence, which makes "would" a correct use.

    I have used "big house" to imply the possible context denoting the opposite of saving, which the wife might insist on.

    Your comments are welcome on my understanding and whether or not the sentence is natural in my proposed context.
    That is as good an "excuse" for this lottery sentence as what I provided in my previous post is for the tuition sentence.

    Unfortunately, I think perhaps we are "cheating" to tell each other what the speaker is concerned about. Without that information, both example sentences remain ambiguous.

    But sentences 1 and 2 need no special context. I hope you see why now.
     
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    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    I don't think you need a list. Would like often means "kind of want", but would think, should prefer, or, really, any of the past tense modals with practically any main verb can be used this way.

    My view is that would in this type of sentence is conditional, as if it were accompanied by a subjunctive clause, but the condition or conditions are unstated and thus left to the imagination.

    "Unstated" is a good word describing this type of sentences.

    In post # 15 of this thread, Hockey13 responded to this sentence "If all the ice in the Arctic Sea melts, what would become of the Earth" by saying

    This sentence makes a lot of sense to me. "Would become" talks about the future specifically after the melting period. "Will become" talks about the future just in general. I would personally use "If all the ice in the Arctic Sea melted," but I would never consider it wrong if someone used "melts."

    When "melts" is used, is the sentence considered as having unstated condition(s)?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    If someone said "If all the ice in the Arctic Sea melts, what would become of the earth?" I would say they were just being careless. "If all the ice melted...what would become..." is correct
     

    sunyaer

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    If someone said "If all the ice in the Arctic Sea melts, what would become of the earth?" I would say they were just being careless. "If all the ice melted...what would become..." is correct

    Hockey 13 is a native speaker, he clearly says he would never consider it wrong, confusing? Yes!
     

    Forero

    Senior Member
    "Unstated" is a good word describing this type of sentences.

    In post # 15 of this thread, Hockey13 responded to this sentence "If all the ice in the Arctic Sea melts, what would become of the Earth" by saying

    This sentence makes a lot of sense to me. "Would become" talks about the future specifically after the melting period. "Will become" talks about the future just in general. I would personally use "If all the ice in the Arctic Sea melted," but I would never consider it wrong if someone used "melts."
    I disagree with most of that post #15.
    When "melts" is used, is the sentence considered as having unstated condition(s)?
    The form makes it appear so, but I think it is just an incorrect version of "If all the ice in the Arctic Sea melted, what would become of the Earth?", meaning "Were all the ice in the Arctic Sea to melt, what would become of the Earth?".

    "Would become" is far less likely to be used with unstated conditions than something like "would like".
     
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