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  1. #1
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    Default Why Would -Conditionals

    Are these correct? The tenses don't match? Is it becase 'would' acts as a modal in these sentences?

    What do these mean?
    1. Why would he steal your car if he has his own. (What kind of structure is this? What does this mean?)
    2. Why would he steal your car if he had his own. (Imaginary?)

    3. Would you go to the movies with me if you are not busy? (Asking someone out?)
    4. Would you go to the movies with me if you were not busy? (Imaginary?)

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Why Would -Conditionals

    The first two appear to be rhetorical questions using the conditional; the meanings are:

    1. If he has his own, he wouldn't steal your car.
    2. If he had his own, he wouldn't steal your car.

    As such, the first breaches the rules of Conditional I and should be emended to:

    1a. If he has his own, he won't steal your car.


    I agree with your view on 3 and 4. The former is a use of the 'would' conditional as an ameliorator-- a distancer-- for the request. The latter is classic Conditional II.

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    Default Re: Why Would -Conditionals

    1. Why would he steal your car if he has his own
    As such, the first breaches the rules of Conditional I and should be emended to:
    3. Would you go to the movies with me if you are not busy? (Asking someone out?)
    I don't get it. So #1 is incorrect? And #3 is correct? How come?

    Thanks.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Why Would -Conditionals

    I would consider #1 formally incorrect according to the rules for conditional construction, which require (Conditional I) 'he will if he has' and (Conditional II) 'he would if he had'. However, I will wager that the form you give is widely used colloquially and without challenge. If speaker and listener know 'he' has a car, then the mixed form would be appropriate:

    'He stole my car, but he has one'
    'Why would he steal your car if he has one?'

    3. Is correct for the reason I gave: it is a 'would' used for distancing in a polite request. 'Would you like wine with your dinner, sir?' The conditional concept still exists: 'Would you like wine [if the I may trouble you by asking/if it is to your liking]?'
    'Would you go out with me [if I importuned you by asking]?'

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    Default Re: Why Would -Conditionals

    1. Why would he steal your car if he had one? (Imaginary?)
    2. Why will he steal your car if he has one? (What kind of structure is this? When would I use this?)

    Thanks.

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    Default Re: Why Would -Conditionals

    3. Would you go to the movies with me if you are not busy? (Asking someone out?)
    4. Would you go to the movies with me if you were not busy? (Imaginary?)

    I agree with your view on 3 and 4. The former is a use of the 'would' conditional as an ameliorator-- a distancer-- for the request. The latter is classic Conditional II.
    When asking somebody out, is it better to use #3 or #4? In #3 is 'would' in present tense because 'would' is being used for a polite request? If 'would' is not in present tense, how is it correct? Is it becuase it is a mixed conditional? If it is a mixed conditional, what does it mean? Becase it doesn't make any sense, you're asking about something in the past and saying that you'll go in the future.

    Thanks.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Why Would -Conditionals

    To me, the full idea is:

    'If you are not busy-- would you go out with me (if I asked you for a date)?'

    Frankly, I don't know what to all this, Jack-- it is just the product of what is going through the shy speaker's mind.

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    Default Re: Why Would -Conditionals

    As such, the first breaches the rules of Conditional

    1. Why would he steal your car if he has his own.

    So #1 is incorrect? How do I correct it? Is it like this:
    2. Why will he steal your car if he has his own. (It sounds odd with 'will' ? Or is it okay?)

    3. Why would he steal your car if he had his own

    What do #2 and #3 mean?

    Thanks.

  9. #9
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: Why Would -Conditionals

    2 sounds strange. It would be possible to invent a context for it, without which, it doesn't mean much. The third makes perfect sense- if a friend of yours with a car were charged with stealing a car, you might say this as a way of expressing surprise and disbelief.

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