wondered why a literary genius <would> go

VicNicSor

Senior Member
Russian
ANNIE: Well, the other afternoon I was on my way home, and there you were, leavin' the lodge. And I wondered why a literary genius would go for a drivewhen there was a big storm comin'.
PAUL: I didn't know there was a big storm coming.
ANNIE: Well, lucky for you, I did. And lucky for me, too, 'cause now you're alive and you can write more books.
Misery, movie

I'm wondering if the "would" here is a "future-in-the-past" because of "I wondered"; or is it rather the "would" we use when amased or can't believe why someone would some thing?
I think it's the latter.
Thanks.
 
  • Vronsky

    Senior Member
    Russian - Russia
    I think the direct thought was: "Why will a literary genius go for a drive when there is a big storm coming?"
    "Will" here is not "the future" but "willingness".
     

    VicNicSor

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I think the direct thought was: "Why will a literary genius go for a drive when there is a big storm coming?"
    I think the direct speech was: "Why would a literary genius go for a drive when there is a big storm coming?"
    Let's see what a native speaker says though.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I agree with you, Vic. I'd say the direct speech version would be:
    And I wondered: Why would a literary genius go for a drive when there was/there's a big storm comin'?
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    I wondered, why would a literary genius ...
    I wonder, why would a literary genius ...


    Modal verbs have their own uses and meanings. To me, this "would" in the narrative expresses volition and not exactly "future in the past" (given that, as I understand it, Paul was already in the process of "leaving" when Annie saw him). The same volition can be expressed in the present, which means that this "would" isn't tied or governed by the form of the verb "wonder."

    And "will" doesn't fit in such contexts, because "will" has its own syntax.
     

    VicNicSor

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I agree with you, Vic. I'd say the direct speech version would be:
    And I wondered: Why would a literary genius go for a drive when there was/there's a big storm comin'?
    Thank you!
    I wondered, why would a literary genius ...
    I wonder, why would a literary genius ...


    Modal verbs have their own uses and meanings. To me, this "would" in the narrative expresses volition and not exactly "future in the past" (given that, as I understand it, Paul was already in the process of "leaving" when Annie saw him). The same volition can be expressed in the present, which means that this "would" isn't tied or governed by the form of the verb "wonder."

    And "will" doesn't fit in such contexts, because "will" has its own syntax.
    It's a little different than that. It's the "would" we use in "Why would .................?" questions when we're guessing.
    CALD calls this meaning "reason":
    • Why would he run away from the scene of the crime if he wasn't guilty?
    • Why would you drive, when you could take the train?
    • Why would anyone do such a thing?
     

    VicNicSor

    Senior Member
    Russian
    You're talking about the usual intention/volition meaning of would/will: "They said they would meet us at 10.30 at the station."

    But "why would ....?" indicates the speaker has no idea why someone would do/did/will do something.
     

    Vronsky

    Senior Member
    Russian - Russia
    I think the direct speech was: "Why would
    Yes, you're correct. My mistake.
    It's not about Paul's volition, it's guessing about the present/future. "Why will" doesn't make much sense because Paul was already going, so "why would".
    English modal verbs are very tricky :mad:
     

    SevenDays

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Modal verbs are all about meaning, and meaning is about context.

    In "I wondered why a literary genius would go for a drive when there's a big storm coming," modal "would" isn't exclusively in the domain of "I" (where "would" refers to what the speaker doesn't know); "would" also refers to what the literary genius is doing ("going for a drive," where volition is involved).

    In "They said they would meet us at 10.30," the speaker simply reports what was said, and so "would" refers only to the volition/intent of those coming at 10.30. The speaker's judgment, feelings, etc. are not an issue.

    And, yes, modal verbs are tricky, precisely because they are all about meaning.
     
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