won't/wouldn't-unwillingness

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Bob8964

Senior Member
Chinese
Dear All,

I have two sentences about the unwillingness. I can understand the wouldn't used in sentence 1: the unwillingness to do something in the pass. But I can't figure out the reason why won't is used in sentence 2. 'I asked Sue what happened' indicates an action in the past, but won't is about the present situation. They aren't in a consistent verb tense. Please kindly give me some advice.

1. She wouldn't say what was wrong when I asked.

2. I asked Sue what happened but she won't tell me.

Thank you!

Bob
 
  • xqby

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    Well, 2 could easily be rewritten to "... but she wouldn't tell me."

    I think it depends on the speaker’s perspective. If they see Sue frequently and consider their interaction with her to be ongoing—that is, extending into the present—then the present tense makes sense. If they don’t see her very much, or wish to emphasize that single encounter, then the past tense would be favored.
     

    Bob8964

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thanks a lot!

    If I use the present perfect in sentence 2, would it seem more natural?

    I has asked Sue what happened but she won't tell me.
     

    xqby

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    I would take it to mean that you asked her more than once; in other words, you slightly change the meaning.

    I asked Sue "what happened?" on Wednesday.
    I asked Sue what happened, but she won't tell me.

    I asked Sue "what happened?" on Wedneday. I asked her again on Thursday, and a third time on Friday.
    I have asked Sue what happened, but she won't tell me.

    P.S. I have - he has - she has - we have - they have
     
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