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  1. Offroad's Avatar
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    #1

    would

    Dear teachers and friends...

    This man would die about 20 years ago.

    Does this sentence mean he died 20 years ago?

    Thanks.

  2. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: would

    Quote Originally Posted by marciobarbalho View Post
    Dear teachers and friends...

    This man would die about 20 years ago.

    Does this sentence mean he died 20 years ago?

    Thanks.
    It looks unusual. What is the context?


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    #3

    Re: would

    Quote Originally Posted by marciobarbalho View Post
    Dear teachers and friends...

    This man would die about 20 years ago.

    Does this sentence mean he died 20 years ago?

    Thanks.
    Yes, that's what it means. It's possible to use "would" to mean that something happened in the past in the same way we use the simple past.

    However, as I see it, in order for your example sentence to make sense, we have to change the adverb "ago". This man would die about 20 years later.

    This use of "would" functions to project an action from one time in the past forward to another time in the past. This use of "would" doesn't always work that way, but it can. If you search Google, you'll probably find more examples of this usage of "would".


    Also, this use of "would" is typically heard in narrative stories and sometimes in regular conversation in which someone is telling a story. This usage of "would" is heard less frequently in conversation.

    When he got on the plane, that was the last time they would see each other for a year.

    Here "would see" means "saw".

    This use of "would", in my opinion, is not often talked about in ESL classes. I think it's rightly classified as an advanced grammar topic, or high intermediate at the most. It's used infrequently, and it would be difficult for many students to assimilate into their English language speaking and writing without being conscious of the fact that they are using "would" in this way. It should be easier to read and hear this use of "would", as well as remember it and understand it, as receptive skills develop more quickly than productive skills.

  3. Offroad's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: would

    Proesl, thank you for your detailed explanation.

    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    It looks unusual. What is the context?
    I made it up.

    I was wondering if I could talk about a late man using 'would'.

    About 2 years ago, Mr Thompson would die. He was a very smart man etc.

    This particle 'ago' still troubles me. As Proesl points out.
    if 'would' could be used this way, then why not use 'ago' in the sentence?

    In 1904 our dear friend would die from a terrible affliction.
    It was 1890, 5 years later, our beloved friend would die.
    About 40 years ago, Mr Solimon would pass away.


    Thank you for your time.

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    #5

    Re: would

    Quote Originally Posted by PROESL View Post
    This use of "would", in my opinion, is not often talked about in ESL classes.
    Absolutely! I don't remember ever seeing such topic in any level ESL books/classes, either as a student or as a teacher.
    (although I must add I have less than a year of ESL teaching experience)


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    #6

    Smile Re: would

    Proesl, thank you for your detailed explanation.

    You're welcome.

    _________________________________________

    I was wondering if I could talk about a late man using 'would'.

    About 2 years ago, Mr Thompson would die. He was a very smart man etc. - This is correct, but only without ago. Using "ago" might work well in other situations along with this use of "would", but not here.

    This particle 'ago' still troubles me. As Proesl points out.
    if 'would' could be used this way, then why not use 'ago' in the sentence?

    In 1904 our dear friend would die from a terrible affliction. - okay
    It was 1890, 5 years later, our beloved friend would die. - okay
    About 40 years ago, Mr Solimon would pass away. - mmm .... I wouldn't think so.

    It wasn't until about 40 years later that Mr. Solimon would pass away. - The context would have to allow for this sentence, but this is how we would expect to read or hear this usage of "would".

    I would say that "ago" does not work well in these sentences along with this use of "would" because using "would" in this way projects something from one point in the past forward to another point in the past, and the adverb "ago" seems to very strongly indicate that something was finished at one time in the past - ago - no movement to another time later in the past. The particular use of "would" that we're talking about here indicates movement from a time in the past to another later time in the past. This seems to run counter to the meaning of "ago", which we use for completed actions.

    Thank you for your time. <<

    You're welcome. It's an interesting question to consider: Why doesn't "ago" work well, or sound good, in combination with this use of "would"? Yes, an interesting question.

    Last edited by PROESL; 21-Aug-2009 at 14:33.

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    #7

    Re: would

    Quote Originally Posted by marciobarbalho View Post
    This man would die about 20 years ago.
    Quote Originally Posted by bhaisahab View Post
    What is the context?
    Quote Originally Posted by marciobarbalho View Post
    I made it up.
    I think without a clear context, this sentence may have many different meanings. It is impossible to decide whether the poor man is still alive.

  4. Offroad's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: would

    Quote Originally Posted by ymnisky View Post
    I think without a clear context, this sentence may have many different meanings. It is impossible to decide whether the poor man is still alive.
    It seems that 'ago' does not "fit" in this particular case.

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    #9

    Re: would

    Quote Originally Posted by PROESL View Post

    However, as I see it, in order for your example sentence to make sense, we have to change the adverb "ago". This man would die about 20 years later.
    I think 'later' here passes the idea that the man would die about 20 years after the contextual time. For example: This sentence could be in picture/photograph caption, dated from, say, 1980. The man had then (1980) some disease and died about the year 2000. Of course the sentence happened to be written after 2000, say 2009.

    What do you think?

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    #10

    Re: would

    Quote Originally Posted by PROESL View Post
    I would say that "ago" does not work well in these sentences along with this use of "would" because using "would" in this way projects something from one point in the past forward to another point in the past, and the adverb "ago" seems to very strongly indicate that something was finished at one time in the past - ago - no movement to another time later in the past. The particular use of "would" that we're talking about here indicates movement from a time in the past to another later time in the past. This seems to run counter to the meaning of "ago", which we use for completed actions.
    Your explanation rules, and now, for me, it's a rule. Easy for students to learn English this way.

    Thank you.

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