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    #1

    when+past simple+would

    "When the train reached Cairo the two men would part."
    Please help. How do we call this structure (When+Past Simple+Would) in English Grammar. When do we use it and what exactly does it mean? Is it some sort of an unreal conditional structure? Thank you.
    "When the train reaches Cairo the two men will part." What is the difference between these 2 sentences?
    Thank you.
    Last edited by vasea1977; 31-Jul-2013 at 21:09.

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    #2

    Re: when+past simple+would

    This construction is used to talk about repeated past actions.
    In your sentence you can use any of would part/parted/used to part.
    The word "will/would" has dozens of uses, and there are several possible interpretations. These include
    1) It is indirect speech equivalent of the direct speech The two men said "When the train reaches Cairo we will part"
    2) The two men were fated to part when the train reached Cairo.
    3) The two men regularly travelled on the train and they regularly parted when they reached Cairo.
    4) At that time, the men's journey on the train and their parting in Cairo were in the future.
    As ever, context helps to clarify which is meant.
    (I am neither a teacher nor a native English speaker.)
    Last edited by EnglishLearner1990; 31-Jul-2013 at 21:29.

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    #3

    Re: when+past simple+would

    Quote Originally Posted by vasea1977 View Post
    "When the train reached Cairo the two men would part."
    Please help. How do we call this structure (When+Past Simple+Would) in English Grammar. When do we use it and what exactly does it mean? Is it some sort of an unreal conditional structure? Thank you.
    "When the train reaches Cairo the two men will part." What is the difference between these 2 sentences?
    Thank you.
    As far as the name of this kind of structure, I'll leave that to the teachers.

    But, I feel the first sentence is talking about the past. It could be the use of 'would' as habitual past action:
    "Everyday when the train reached Cairo, the two men would part," meaning that was part of their everyday routine in the past.

    I could also imagine it being a hypothetical future use of 'would' taking place in the past, as in:
    "It was their plan that when the train reached Cairo, the two men would part." (But maybe their plan was unfulfilled, or the sentence is only talking about the plans they made without any reference to it actually happening.)

    "When the train reaches Cairo, the two men will part" is talking about the future.

    (not a teacher, just a language lover)

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