+0
Hi,
Please look at these sentences and tell me the 'would' and 'could' are used in a past sense and has no present-time implications.

1. We were all watching in a sort of stunned silence waiting to see if we would be asked for money or if we were simply his audience.
2. While I was reading it, I could not help being concerned about young people in this country.

If we change the tenses to reflect the present time, the functions of 'would' and 'could' be different -- these will have present-time implications, IMO. Right?

1. We are all watching in a sort of stunned silence waiting to see if we would be asked for money or if we are simply his audience.
2. While I am reading it, I could not help being concerned about young people in this country.
Comments  
The first two are fine. The second two are wrong. In the second set, you have tenses that don't go together.
You need: We are all watching ... to see if we will be asked ... and While I am reading it, I cannot help being ...
While it is true that would and could are sometimes used in the context of present time, the contexts established in these sentences do not permit that usage.
CJ
Thank you.

Would you say that the second set lacks proper context for their present-time usage since for the present-time uses, 'would' and 'could' have a sense of conditional -- depending on something to make the one with 'would' and 'could' to make it a reality or make it true. Correct? I think I understand somewhat fully the modal 'would' being conditional but don't have the same level of understanding as to the use of 'could' as conditional. Can you help?

I think these reflect correct present-time use of two modals.

I am sitting in a room and am wondering if I could go to see a movie.
I am sitting in a room and wonders what I would have to do to get the promotion. -- Can I be able to input a possible if-factor into the sentence to validate the conditional nature of 'would' here like this?

I am sitting in a room and wonders what I would have to do to get the promotion (if I had to try to get the promotion).

Is this good for any sentences with present-time context that have 'would' in them?

Can I do this -- that is adding some words or phrases to validate the conditional nature -- with sentences with present-time context for 'could' too?
Site Hint: Check out our list of pronunciation videos.
Anonymousbut don't have the same level of understanding as to the use of 'could' as conditional.
That's fairly easy to explain. The conditional meaning of could includes would:
I could go to the movie if I had enough money. = I would be able to go to the movie if I had enough money.
Could you do me a favor? = Would you be able to do me a favor?
Cheat on an exam? I could never do that! = Cheat on an exam? I would never be able to do that!
_____

to wonder introduces an indirect question, so these are not if ..., (then) ... structures:
I wonder [if / whether] I [can / could / would be able to] go to see a movie.
I wonder what I [can / could / would be able to] do to get the promotion.
I wonder what I [will / would] have to do to get the promotion.
However, you can add an if-clause within the scope of the indirect question:
I wonder what I {will / would} have to do if I {want / wanted} the promotion.
I wonder what I {can / could} do if I {want / wanted} the promotion.
I wonder [if / whether] I {can / could} buy a house like that if I {save / saved} my money for a few years.

{ } indicates correlated choices. (The first choice goes with the first choice; the second choice goes with the second choice.)
CJ
Thank you, again.
I think I have seen Doll use this type of insertion technique to confirm the conditional nature of a sentence with the modal 'would'. Except the kind that is used for politeness, like your sentence here, would you say this is good to confirm the conditional nature of the modal 'would'? Can I do the same with what I consider to be conditional 'could'?

Your sentence with 'could' used for politness IMO:

Could you do me a favor? = Would you be able to do me a favor?
My example sentence:

I am sitting in a room and wonders what I would have to do to get the promotion >>> inserting element:
(if I had to try to get the promotion).

Is this good for any sentences with present-time context that have 'would' in them?

Can I do this -- that is adding some words or phrases to validate the conditional nature -- with sentences with present-time context for 'could' too?

Your sentence:

Cheat on an exam? I could never do that! = Cheat on an exam? I would never be able to do that!

Can I insert this to confirm a conditional nature of 'would be able to'?

Cheat on an exam? I could never do that! = Cheat on an exam? I would never be able to do that >>> inserting element: (if you asked me to)!
Hi,

Are they wrong since the modal usages lack the fundamental conditional uses of the modals 'would' and 'could'?

1. We are all watching in a sort of stunned silence waiting to see if we would be asked for money or if we are simply his audience.
No conditional element present, thus 'will' is correct? Right?
2. While I am reading it, I could not help being concerned about young people in this country.
Same here too. No conditional element present, so 'can' is correct? Right or wrong?

So, except those modal uses like politeness for 'would', most modal uses of 'would' and 'could' involve conditional nature. Right or wrong?

Could you please answer these? -- case of a modal use for politeness.
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
AnonymousYour sentence with 'could' used for politness IMO:

Could you do me a favor? = Would you be able to do me a favor?
Yes. That's right. This illustrates that even the could of politeness includes would.
AnonymousCan I do this -- that is adding some words or phrases to validate the conditional nature
Yes. You are simply making explicit what can be left implicit if you wish. Your additions of an if-clause both in your example and in mine are possible, but not necessary.
CJ
Are they wrong since the modal usages lack the fundamental conditional uses of the modals 'would' and 'could'? Not sure what you're asking. The correct sequence of tenses applies to conditionals as well as to non-conditionals.

1. We are all watching in a sort of stunned silence waiting to see if we would be asked for money or if we are simply his audience.
No conditional element present, thus 'will' is correct? Right? will is correct, but not for the reason that no conditional element is present. will is correct because will goes with are.

2. While I am reading it, I could not help being concerned about young people in this country.
Same here too. No conditional element present, so 'can' is correct? Right or wrong? Same here. can is correct because it goes with the present tense I am.
So, except those modal uses like politeness for 'would', most modal uses of 'would' and 'could' involve conditional nature. Right or wrong? It depends on the text you're reading. You may find a text that uses would or could in non-conditional contexts quite often.
Could you please answer these? -- case of a modal use for politeness. True.
Generally, will and can go with the present tense; would and could go with the past tense. It doesn't matter whether they are used in a conditional pattern or not.
Henry wants to know where he can find a good restaurant. / Henry wanted to know where he could find a good restaurant.
Kate needs a dress that will make her look slim. / Kate wanted a dress that would make her look slim.
If they sign the contract, they can take possession of the car immediately. / If they signed the contract, they could take possession of the car immediately.
If he hurries, he will arrive on time. / If he hurried, he would arrive on time.
_______________
Occasionally would and could go with the present tense, but these should be regarded as special cases. For example, take the idiom would like to:
I would like to buy the coat which is on sale.

The would and could of politeness are also usually combined with the present tense.
Could you please help me move these books which are lying on the floor?
CJ