started / would start in a non-conditional sentece

Discussion in 'English Only' started by DannyV5, Jan 11, 2019.

  1. 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 :)
     
  2. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    Both sentences are fine.
     
  3. lingobingo

    lingobingo Senior Member

    London
    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.
     
  4. 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.
     
  5. lingobingo

    lingobingo Senior Member

    London
    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.
     
  6. 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.)
     
  7. prudent260 Senior Member

    Chinese
    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?

    Thank you, lingobingo and Linkway. It is amazing to have you here.
     
  8. lingobingo

    lingobingo Senior Member

    London
    English - England
    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​
     
  9. SevenDays Senior Member

    Spanish
    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").
     
  10. Linkway Senior Member

    British English
    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.
     
  11. london calling Senior Member

    SALERNO, ITALY
    UK ENGLISH
    Agreed. The same as 'used to': "He used to make me coffee every time I came in".
     
  12. DannyV5 New Member

    Dutch - The Netherlands
    Thanks to all of you! You've been of great help :)
     

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