Retired English Teacher
1. The door would stick when I tried to open it.
2. The engine would keep cutting out when I stopped at traffic lights.
However,this is slightly different from the sentence we have been discussing. We can see the difference in these two examples:
3. My father knew that she was unsuitable, but he would marry her. Then he was upset when she left him two weeks later. (= (roughly) insisted on)
4. It is typical of my father to do something thoughtless like that. He would marry her on a day when I couldn't be there. (stressing the typical behaviour).
Different intonation in speech brings out this difference in meaning.
Well I have been grubbing round my books, and come up with the following, from Huddleston, Rodney & Pullum, Geoffrey K (2002) The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language:
Past time would
1. I had no money on me, but he wouldn’t lend me any. [volition. [...] Volitional would is normally excluded from affirmative contexts with singulary dynamic situations.
2. Whenever he heard her coming he would quickly put out his pipe [propensity. This normally involves a serial state, but there is a use of would which can be regarded as a special case of the propensity use and where we do find singulary actualisation in an affirmative context see next example:]
3. HE WOULD call round just when I wanted an early night. [propensity. The modal is always stressed – with an emotive effect […] The connection with the ordinary case of propensity is that the event is presented as typical. What it is typical of is not expressed, but we infer something like ‘typical of the inconvenient/ annoying things that he does or that happen (to me)’ ]
4. Only a few months later their love would change to hate. [futurity]
I have highlighted in blue the relevant words. It seems to me that #3 is very close to Kotfor's original example.. What do you think?
I've been following this thread with interest and I thought it worthwhile to highlight a little more how crucial the intonation is in this case.
As Fivejj and the Cambridge Grammar have indicated:
"Different intonation in speech brings out this difference in meaning".
"The modal is always stressed – with an emotive effect".
Intonation changes: "He would have to come round on a Friday"
from "It is most practical and convenient that he comes on a Friday"
to "How irritating and inconvenient that he came (or 'is coming') on a Friday!"
It's in the particular way that "would" is stressed, the irritated or resigned tone, the implied (or actual) rolling of the eyes.
Regarding the stuck door, this sentence incorporates the meaning being discussed.
"Last night the house caught fire and I couldn't get out, that old door would have to jam right at that moment!"
That is, "how typical of that door .. of my luck .. of life in general!"
not a teacher
Last edited by JMurray; 27-Mar-2011 at 06:00.