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  1. #1
    victor su is offline Member
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    Default why using the "would -do" pattern in some narration?

    I read some passages narrating past events, in which the narrator used the "would-verb" pattern instead of the past tense when it seemed to me the latter can do just fine. Is there any effect to achieve by using the "would - verb" pattern?

    Examples:
    1. Upon receiving no answer after several knocks, Eunice would become concerned and ......
    2. Later, Monroe's corpse would be transferred to the county morgue, where .......

    Thank you.

  2. #2
    philo2009 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: why using the "would -do" pattern in some narration?

    'Would', like 'used to', refers to a regular/habitual action in the past.

  3. #3
    Raymott's Avatar
    Raymott is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: why using the "would -do" pattern in some narration?

    Quote Originally Posted by victor su View Post
    I read some passages narrating past events, in which the narrator used the "would-verb" pattern instead of the past tense when it seemed to me the latter can do just fine. Is there any effect to achieve by using the "would - verb" pattern?

    Examples:
    1. Upon receiving no answer after several knocks, Eunice would become concerned and ......
    2. Later, Monroe's corpse would be transferred to the county morgue, where .......

    Thank you.
    .
    In 2, and maybe 1, this is a single event. It's in the past now. But at that point in the story, it is still in the future.
    "Later, Monroe's corpse would be transferred to the county morgue," but we haven't got to that part yet.

    Present tense narration: "I'm sitting here answering some posts. Later I will watch some TV."
    Past tense: "I was sitting there answering some posts. Later I would watch some TV."

  4. #4
    tzfujimino's Avatar
    tzfujimino is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: why using the "would -do" pattern in some narration?

    Quote Originally Posted by philo2009 View Post
    'Would', like 'used to', refers to a regular/habitual action in the past.
    Hello, philo.

    May I ask a question here?

    Does the second example refer to a regular/habit action in the past?

    I'm also interested in the usage of 'would' in those examples above.

    Thank you.

  5. #5
    bhaisahab's Avatar
    bhaisahab is online now Moderator
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    Default Re: why using the "would -do" pattern in some narration?

    Quote Originally Posted by tzfujimino View Post

    May I ask a question here?

    Does the second example refer to a regular/habit action in the past?


    Thank you.
    No, it doesn't. See Raymott's post. (#3)

  6. #6
    tzfujimino's Avatar
    tzfujimino is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: why using the "would -do" pattern in some narration?

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    .
    Past tense: "I was sitting there answering some posts. Later I would watch some TV."
    So, in your example, "Later I would watch some TV." is similar to "Later I was going to watch some TV" in that they both refer to "the future in the past"?

    Thank you.

  7. #7
    Raymott's Avatar
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    Default Re: why using the "would -do" pattern in some narration?

    Quote Originally Posted by tzfujimino View Post
    So, in your example, "Later I would watch some TV." is similar to "Later I was going to watch some TV" in that they both refer to "the future in the past"?

    Thank you.
    Yes, it's a similar concept. But "would" is used more often in written narratives. Also, "would" signifies that the event did actually happen. That is, "Later, they were going to take Monroe's corpse to the morgue" is not right, because it leaves open the possibility that they did not - it might even suggest that.
    It's a way of letting the reader know what happened in the "future in the past", as you say. "Dr. Jones began work at a small university physics lab in 1970. Ten years later he would win the Nobel Prize." That is a way to get readers interested in the narrative of what happened in the 10 years after he started working. He did eventually win the Nobel Prize. Saying "Ten years later he was going to win the Nobel Prize" is not the way to say this.

  8. #8
    victor su is offline Member
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    Default Re: why using the "would -do" pattern in some narration?

    Thank you all for inspiring me in this discussion. Today I encountered another passage using the would-do sentence. I got a feeling (though maybe not correct) that by using "later he would do sth" the narrator put the reader in the space-time of the event being told to foresee the future, while "later he did sth" seems not to have the same effect.

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Yes, it's a similar concept. But "would" is used more often in written narratives. Also, "would" signifies that the event did actually happen. That is, "Later, they were going to take Monroe's corpse to the morgue" is not right, because it leaves open the possibility that they did not - it might even suggest that.
    It's a way of letting the reader know what happened in the "future in the past", as you say. "Dr. Jones began work at a small university physics lab in 1970. Ten years later he would win the Nobel Prize." That is a way to get readers interested in the narrative of what happened in the 10 years after he started working. He did eventually win the Nobel Prize. Saying "Ten years later he was going to win the Nobel Prize" is not the way to say this.

  9. #9
    philo2009 is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: why using the "would -do" pattern in some narration?

    Quote Originally Posted by philo2009 View Post
    'Would', like 'used to', refers to a regular/habitual action in the past.
    Or, indeed, as others have pointed out, a future-in-the-past event...

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