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  1. #1
    Nanatuha is offline Junior Member
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    Default Would in past tense

    Hello.

    This is sentences from an Arthurian novel.

    "A full moon rose, and still the battle wore on. An hour passed, then another; the combatants staggered and limped. Each time one knight would muster the strength to launch an attack, the other would somehow find the strength to repulse it.
    Twice the two knights fell and lay on the ground gasping, watching each other. But each time one would finally struggle to his feet, the other would stand as well."

    I have difficulty in grasping those "would"'s usage in past tense. Are those woulds expressing narrator's guess? If so, did those actions actually happen at that time and the narrator is describing those with his/her guess, or the actions were expected to would happen in future on the viewpoint of the past?

    Thank you in advance.
    Last edited by Nanatuha; 18-Nov-2006 at 07:18.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Would in past tense

    Quote Originally Posted by Nanatuha View Post
    Hello.

    This is sentences from an Arthurian novel.

    "A full moon rose, and still the battle wore on. An hour passed, then another; the combatants staggered and limped. Each time one knight would muster the strength to launch an attack, the other would somehow find the strength to repulse it.
    Twice the two knights fell and lay on the ground gasping, watching each other. But each time one would finally struggle to his feet, the other would stand as well."

    I have difficulty in grasping those "would"'s usage in past tense. Are those woulds expressing narrator's guess? If so, did those actions actually happen at that time and the narrator is describing those with his/her guess, or the actions were expected to would happen in future on the viewpoint of the past?

    Thank you in advance.

    I think you are thinking of "would" as the past tense of "will," which it is. However, that is not how it is used here. Here, it is "indicating an action in the past that happened repeatedly or commonly." The key words that indicate that it is a repetitive action are: "Each time" and "twice".

    See this article:

    would - Wiktionary
    Last edited by DCPaco; 19-Nov-2006 at 13:27.

  3. #3
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Would in past tense

    Quote Originally Posted by DCPaco View Post
    I think you are thinking of "would" as the past tense of "will," which it is. However, that is not how it is used here. Here, it is "indicating an action in the past that happened repeatedly or commonly." The key words that indicate that is repeated are: "Each time" and "twice".
    Good description of how 'would' works in this example, DCPaco.

    What's confusing for ESLs is that modals are described as having tense, DCPaco. That was true in older forms of English but in modern English modals are tenseless.

  4. #4
    Nanatuha is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: Would in past tense

    I see. I didn't know this "would"'s usage.

    Thank you, DCPaco, riverkid.

  5. #5
    MikeNewYork's Avatar
    MikeNewYork is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Would in past tense

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    Good description of how 'would' works in this example, DCPaco.

    What's confusing for ESLs is that modals are described as having tense, DCPaco.
    That's because "would" is the past tense of "will".

  6. #6
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Would in past tense

    Don't anyone hold their breath waiting for proof or examples.

  7. #7
    MikeNewYork's Avatar
    MikeNewYork is offline VIP Member
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    Default Re: Would in past tense

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    Don't anyone hold their breath waiting for proof or examples.
    The language is replete with examples.

  8. #8
    riverkid is offline Banned
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    Default Re: Would in past tense

    And yet the very person who raised the point is unable to provide them.

  9. #9
    MrPedantic is offline Moderator
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    Default Re: Would in past tense

    I'd agree with what has been said. But I'm not sure the first "would" in each case is necessary, in view of the preceding "each time". A simple past would do as well, perhaps.

    MrP

  10. #10
    Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim is offline Senior Member
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    Default Re: Would in past tense

    Quote Originally Posted by riverkid View Post
    Good description of how 'would' works in this example, DCPaco.
    What's confusing for ESLs is that modals are described as having tense, DCPaco. That was true in older forms of English but in modern English modals are tenseless.
    In other words the modals can have a past form but a /past/present/future meaning or reference. I agree modals are tenseless although "must" lost its Germanic past form and reference.
    Last edited by Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim; 19-Nov-2006 at 15:41.

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