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Hi guys,

Take a look at the following passage taken from an article:
http://www.branaghcompendium.com/artic-footie.htm

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"Sometimes actors have to make terrible sacrifices. When England played West Germany in Italia 90, Kenneth Branagh was doing King Lear in Norwich. In a tent. The telly was on in the green room - where the actors congregate when not on stage - but, in the best theatrical traditions, the show had to go on, no matter what happened in Turin. Even during the penalties.

`We were in the middle of the storm scene,' Branagh recalls. `Richard Briers was out there giving it `Blow winds and crack your cheeks' as they started them. We were doing it in relays, as each penalty was being taken. You'd be looking over into the wings and somebody would be doing that [he indicates a thumbs up or thumbs down]. That's how we found out. It was a desperate, desperate night. God knows who was watching the play. We had a tiny audience in this tent, who were, I guess, all the people who weren't interested in football in the country. If it had been any smaller, we'd have cancelled it and watched the game.'"
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Why 'would'? As far as I know, 'would' (if to the past) can refer to a repeated activity (not state), like in:
Whenever I wanted to do some shopping he would offer his help to me.

However, the parts in bold in the article refer rather to a single activity in the past, where it's impossible for 'would' to function as 'used to', like in the example above. How can you justify this structure here? Is it because he's talking of that like of an imaginary situation; like he wanted the interlocutor to imagine this situation themselves?

Michal
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The author is describing two parallel actions (looking and doing). Both past and future continuous can be used to describe two actions happening at the same time.

The sentence "We were doing it in relays, as each penalty was being taken" made use of the past continuous while the one that you mentioned used the future continuous (placed in the past so will is replaced with would).

To me, the use of the future continuous here is also more emphatic.
Sorry but I don't see just how this sentence ("You'd be looking over into the wings and somebody would be doing that [he indicates a thumbs up or thumbs down]".), in this particular context, could refer to the future. To me, it's a description of what happened in the past, during a performance.

Can you elaborate on what you make out of the sentence in question so I can see your point better?
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Imagine this situation

It was a sunny Sunday afternoon at about 5 pm. The life guards were watching the ocean while the surfers were riding the waves.

All of a sudden, one of the surfers was swallowed by a massive wave. At this point you'd be looking at the ocean to see if the man is still afloat while the life guards'd be rushing to his rescue.

This can refer to an actual event but the use of would+be+verb+ing reflects what is expected in these kinds of situations.
Thanks Ivanhr,

I can see your point now! However, I'm not so sure that it's an instance of the Future Continuous with "will" exchanged for "would". Maybe If I see a similar context in the present with "will be V+ing" used, I'll be convinced. Emotion: smile I appreciate your help!

Anyway, I'm not sure if I understand this usage... Emotion: shake

Let's wait for a native speaker to settle this, shall we?

CJ?, Mr Wordy?, Philip?, Mister Micawber?, Clive?
I'd be most grateful for an explanation on the usage of 'would' here.

Michal
"Would" is also used for repeated action in the past.

Every Sunday, we would all go to my grandmother's house for dinner.
Every summer, we would go to this lovely house right next to the ocean for a week.

Although this repeated action was for a very short period of time, each of them did it enough times that it qualified for this use of "repeated action."

When it was my turn to be on stage, I would... Then, while I was there, he would... Then I would...

It was a repeated cycled until the game was over.

(It's a great image.)
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Aha! So it's a repeated action indeed! I was misled by this short period of time in which it was repeated, as you pointed out. How embarrassing! Thank you kindly, Grammar Geek!

If you could bear with me a little longer, why do you think you (native speakers of English) tend to use 'you' so often in contexts like this one here: 'You'd be looking over into the wings and somebody would be doing that.'?

Why not 'I'd be looking over into the wings and somebody would be doing that.'? Is it simply a manner of talking to somebody or is there something more to it?

Grammar Geek(It's a great image.)


You mean the scene described in the article?
And just one more thing!

Would you say it's possible to replace every 'would' with 'used to' in this context (the article)?

`We were in the middle of the storm scene,' Branagh recalls. `Richard Briers was out there giving it `Blow winds and crack your cheeks' as they started them. We were doing it in relays, as each penalty was being taken. You used to be looking over into the wings and somebody used to be doing that [he indicates a thumbs up or thumbs down]. That's how we found out. It was a desperate, desperate night. God knows who was watching the play. We had a tiny audience in this tent, who were, I guess, all the people who weren't interested in football in the country. If it had been any smaller, we'd have cancelled it and watched the game.'"

I think it should be possible, given that each 'would' referring to a repeated action in the past should be able to be replaced with 'used to'.
Very often, when telling a story, we switch from "we" to "you" -- we don't usually think about it -- it just happens. I guess it's from a desire to pull the reader/listener into the story, so they can imagine exactly what it was like.

Yes, I meant the scene described. All these actors in their costumes, running back and forth like little boys so they can catch what's happening on the television.
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