started / would start in a non-conditional sentece

DannyV5

New Member
Dutch - The Netherlands
Hi All,

I was wondering if you could help me with the following sentence:

Every time I came in, he would start preparing my coffee
Every time I came in, he started preparing my coffee

The first one sounds more correct to me, though I don't know if this is the case nor why this would be correct. All help would be appreciated :)
 
  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Both are grammatically correct. The first indicates his habitual practice but implies that the habit was ongoing. The second says it slightly differently, without that future implication.
     

    prudent260

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    The sentence starts with 'every time' which implies habitual practice.
    May I know in what situation I could use the 2nd sentence to give no future implication?

    I should provide a scenario. just can't think of any.
    Could you help? Thank you.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Every time I came in, he started preparing my coffee = Every time I came in, he used to start preparing my coffee

    There’s no future implication in this.
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    When I lived with Tom, he would make me coffee every morning. (This is an habitual action that was done over an extended period, eg several years. It was "typical" of him.)

    When the police raided his house last week, they went in and out several times. Every time an officer entered the house, Jack offered him or her coffee.
    (This is a REPEATED action, but not habitual.)
     

    prudent260

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Every time I came in, he started preparing my coffee = Every time I came in, he used to start preparing my coffee
    In this situation, I might say, "Every time I came in, he would have started preparing my coffee," which means he didn't do it anymore at the time I talked. Am I right about this? And do nuances of meaning exist between the two sentences?

    (This is a REPEATED action, but not habitual.)
    Thank you, lingobingo and Linkway. It is amazing to have you here.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    In this situation, I might say, "Every time I came in, he would have started preparing my coffee," which means he didn't do it anymore at the time I talked. Am I right about this? And do nuances of meaning exist between the two sentences?
    Every time I came in, he would start making my coffee
    — expresses a habitual action within a past-tense narrative

    Every time I came in, he would have started making my coffee = I would find him already making my coffee
    — as above, but backshifting to indicate that the action had already begun when “I” entered the room

    The construction also works conditionally:
    … he would have started making my coffee if we had had any coffee
    … he would have started making my coffee but for the fact that I was under doctor’s orders to cut down on my caffeine intake​
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Hi All,

    I was wondering if you could help me with the following sentence:

    Every time I came in, he would start preparing my coffee
    Every time I came in, he started preparing my coffee

    The first one sounds more correct to me, though I don't know if this is the case nor why this would be correct. All help would be appreciated :)
    They are both correct, and they have the same meaning. The difference, of course, is that the first one has "would;" so what is this "would" doing there?

    Perhaps "would" signals willingness. Or perhaps "would" signals prediction: an action ("come in") led to another action ("start preparing coffee") each and every time. Or perhaps "would" means obligation: he had to start preparing coffee every time you came in (maybe he was your servant; maybe he lost a bet to you; or maybe there was another reason that compelled him to behave that way). The only way to know the meaning of "would" is for the speaker to tell us what he has in mind. In other words, "would" is about modality (signalling a particular meaning, according to speaker perspective).

    By contrast, he started preparing my coffee is what it is: a factual statement about repeated past actions. If there's any modality here, it'd have to be extra-linguistic (i.e., contextual), since there's no modal verb (no modal "would").
     

    Linkway

    Senior Member
    British English
    Perhaps "would" signals willingness. Or perhaps "would" signals prediction: an action ("come in") led to another action ("start preparing coffee") each and every time. Or perhaps "would" means obligation: he had to start preparing coffee every time you came in (maybe he was your servant; maybe he lost a bet to you; or maybe there was another reason that compelled him to behave that way). The only way to know the meaning of "would" is for the speaker to tell us what he has in mind.
    I think the use of "would" in the OP is used simply to indicate habitual actions - nothing to do with willingness, obligation, expectation, etc.

    Consider:
    We lived in Spain for five years in the eighties. In the spring, we would pick flowers. In the summer, we would spend every day in the pool or on the beach. Every evening, we would visit a bar or restaurant.
     
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