You <would> never understand.

< Previous | Next >

Tenacious Learner

Senior Member
Spanish
Hello teachers,
One of the uses of would is to talk about hypotheses or the past of 'will'. Having said that, is the person in the following sentence using 'would' because s/he is talking about a hypotheses or just using it because it's the past of 'will'?
Sentence:
A: Well, they guarantee results, but ah, never mind. You would never understand.

Thanks in advance.
 
Last edited:
  • se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    The first rule of modal verbs, including will, is that they are (almost?) by definition ambiguous.

    I would take this would to be conditional, which an implied condition something like even if I explained it to you a hundred times, and with never referring to the repeated explanations.
     

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Hi Teddy,
    Hmm ... very interesting explanation.
    Then it is used as the Present Unreal Conditional thinking about what someone would generally do in imaginary situations. Right?
    Eg.
    Katy will move to China if she spoke Chinese.

    TL
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Katy will move to China if she spoke Chinese.
    I don't think that this is what you mean. It is a "real" conditional and means
    - it is possible that Katy spoke Chinese in the past - I am not sure
    - if she did speak Chinese in the past, she will travel to China in the future.

    Katy will move to China if she speaks Chinese
    is possible, and so is Katy would move to China if she spoke Chinese.
     
    Last edited:

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Sentence:
    A: Well, they guarantee results, but ah, never mind. You would never understand.
    Thank you. Going back to my original sentence and after googling I found this explanation that, to me, it fits.
    I think the sentence uses the future in the past, to make a prediction about the future.

    TL
     
    Last edited:

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Hi teddy; Glen,
    Thank you once again. I know that on its own, "you would" is ambiguous and that in context always becomes clear. Though it's difficult, to me, to understand this use of "would".
    How to differentiate if it's a subjunctive form or a conditional one?
    Aren't these examples correct?
    "You will never understand." is assertive.
    "You would never understand." seems to be acting as a subjunctive form >> "I suppose/fear that this is true - you will never understand."

    It could also (as teddy said earlier) be considered to actually be a conditional, with the exact condition not expressed.
    'Even if I explained it to you a hundred times, you would never understand'.
    To summarize, one of the uses of 'would/wouldn't' is when we imagine a situation or an action; when we think of something that is not real. Is this meaning in my original post?

    Do you agree with these explanations?
    In addition to the various tenses, verbs can exist in three moods:
    • indicative--for stating facts
    • subjunctive--for stating possibilities, conjectures, "what if," what someone else said, thought or believed
    • Subjunctive II expresses hypothetical and "counterfactual" statements ("what if," "I wish," "I would," "I could" etc.). Normally, if someone speaks about "the subjunctive," they mean Subjunctive II.
    • Subjunctive I is used to report indirect speech, i.e. what someone else said (and, by extension, what s/he thought, believed, etc.)

    TL
     
    Last edited:

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    The sentence of #1 does not just predict the future. "Would never" specifically countenances a range of different ways in which the future (and past and present) might evolve, and states that you will not understand in any of them.
    What's the meaning of 'countenances'? Is it 'supports; tolerates?

    TL
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I mean that the speaker who says "would never" has in mind a range of different ways in which the future might evolve.

    Modal verbs only have two forms (can/could, will/would etc) and I therefore doubt that the range of moods envisaged in #8 is helpful here. However, it is true that the past tense of a modal verb can be used to express a tentative opinion:
    You may never understand - possibility
    You might never understand - tentative expression of possibility
    You will never understand - probability
    You would never understand - tentative expression of probability.
    It is possible that some native speakers might say or understand "You would never understand" in this sense, but I don't: I habitually hear the idiom as conditional.
     

    Tenacious Learner

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Hi teddy,
    Thank you. It is indeed very difficult to explain when we are using it in one way or the other.
    Though this explanation that I found on the net it's, to me, a succinct way to explain it:

    It is the 2nd Conditional. 'Would' is used to talk about a possible situation that has not happened or that you are imagining ("I would quit my job if I won the lottery."), and it is also used with have to describe a situation that could have happened but did not ("She would have eaten less if she had known there was going to be dessert.").

    TL
     
    Last edited:
    < Previous | Next >
    Top