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1a. I was going to ask whether you had the whole DVD collection of the TV sitcom Friends.

1b. I was going to ask whether or not you had the whole DVD collection of the TV sitcom Friends.

1c. I was going to ask if you had the whole DVD collection of the TV sitcom Friends.

2a. I would ask whether you had the whole DVD collection of the TV sitcom Friends.

2b. I would ask whether or not you had the whole DVD collection of the TV sitcom Friends.

2c. I would ask if you had the whole DVD collection of the TV sitcom Friends.

1. Is the more technically correct conjunction whether, not if?

2. Can I use would-the past tense of will-instead of 'was going to'? If not, why?

3. Which is the most idiomatic version?

Thank you very much for your help. Emotion: smile
Comments  
1. Probably yes, but in sentences like this "if" is widespread and pretty much universally accepted.

2. No. As the past tense of "will", "would" means that something did happen later, not that it was one's plan or intention to do something later. For example, "I'll see him tomorrow" = "I intend to see him tomorrow" = "I'm going to see him tomorrow" can't be backshifted to "I would see him the next day". In any case, "I was going to" in your example hardly refers to a past intention -- it's more just a way of introducing an oblique question.

3. 1a, 1b and 1c are all fine. I'd guess that 1c is most usual in conversation simply because "if" is shorter and easier to say.
Mr Wordy2. No. As the past tense of "will", "would" means that something did happen later, not that it was one's plan or intention to do something later. For example, "I'll see him tomorrow" = "I intend to see him tomorrow" = "I'm going to see him tomorrow" can't be backshifted to "I would see him the next day". In any case, "I was going to" in your example hardly refers to a past intention -- it's more just a way of introducing an oblique question.

My first mistake was that I stupidly thought my first three sentences were 'is going to'... Isn't this the root of the problem?

Could you please show me an example of when I can and can't use would as the past tense of will?
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English 1b3My first mistake was that I stupidly thought my first three sentences were 'is going to'... Isn't this the root of the problem?
Sorry, I don't quite follow. "is going to" doesn't seem to fit in those sentences. Do you perhaps mean you thought you'd written "I am going to..."?
English 1b3Could you please show me an example of when I can and can't use would as the past tense of will?
I think the point here is that you can't use "would" as the past tense of "will" (or "going to") when "will" (or "going to") has a strong volitional/intentional sense. For example, you can say "I'll pick up the groceries on the way back", and it means "it's my intention to pick up the groceries". However, you can't say "yesterday afternoon I would pick up the groceries" to mean "yesterday afternoon it was my intention to later pick up the groceries". As future-in-the past, "would" is used for things that happen later as events unfold, in a way that is not necessarily predictable at the time, and not necessarily through the agent's direct volition. For example, "At school he studied medicine; later he would become a doctor". OK, maybe at school he did say "I will be a doctor", but that's not what "later he would become a doctor" means; it has a much more impersonal feel. (However, you can say "At school he knew he would one day be a doctor" as the past tense of "I know I will one day be a doctor", so the insertion of "knew" makes a difference. No doubt there are othetr complications too.)

After all that, I'm not at all sure I've answered the question!
I think that 'would' as the past of 'will' appears mostly (at least on the forums here) in reported speech: "I'll see you tomorrow" - He said he'd see me the next day.
Mister MicawberI think that 'would' as the past of 'will' appears mostly (at least on the forums here) in reported speech
Yes, good point. I forgot about that one.
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I think I see what you're getting at. And I agree. That's how I saw it too. If the action is only an intention that may or may not come to fruition, then we can't use would. We can only use would if the action does actually happen. And, of course, as MM pointed out, 'would' is usually used in noun clauses.

If I still have misinterpreted you, please do say.

Thanks