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I'm struggling to differentiate between these two uses of 'would' that I got from a website:

would: Talking about the past

We often use would as a kind of past tense of will or going to:

  • Even as a boy, he knew that he would succeed in life.

  • I thought it would rain so I brought my umbrella.

would: Future in past

When talking about the past we can use would to express something that has not happened at the time we are talking about:

  • In London she met the man that she would one day marry.

  • He left 5 minutes late, unaware that the delay would save his life.
In the first set of examples, the verbs in the main clause 'knew' and 'thought' are past simple. 'would succeed' and 'would rain' are obviously past simple but follow on from the verbs thought and knew. I see no difference for the following two examples... Can you please explain?

Thanks.
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In the first case, the idiomatic use of 'would' is for past habit. It is a formal and somewhat dated form of 'used to'.
Mister Micawber
In the first case, the idiomatic use of 'would' is for past habit. It is a formal and somewhat dated form of 'used to'.


I don't see that. The only difference I see is that in the first pair the future event was known or predicted at the time, whereas in the second it's known only with hindsight. However, the function of "would" seems fundamentally the same and the vague heading "Talking about the past" doesn't give any hint that this is the intended reason for the differentiation.
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I agree completely with Mr Wordy. I must have been reading another page somewhere. Please ignore my post.
Mr Wordy
Mister Micawber
In the first case, the idiomatic use of 'would' is for past habit. It is a formal and somewhat dated form of 'used to'.


I don't see that. The only difference I see is that in the first pair the future event was known or predicted at the time, whereas in the second it's known only with hindsight. However, the function of "would" seems fundamentally the same and the vague heading "Talking about the past" doesn't give any hint that this is the intended reason for the differentiation.

Thank you. I came to the same/similar conclusion, but it is nice to hear from someone else I can trust. Emotion: smile

More on 'would': What is the tense of would + infinitive? Is it taken from the surrounding verbs?

or is this below always the tense of the modal would, along with the other modals?

The following modal verbs are used to with the present verb tense:

  • can, will, shall, ought to, must, need, may


The following modal verbs are used in the past tense:

  • would, should, could, might




Thanks a lot for your time.

English 1b3What is the tense of would + infinitive? Is it taken from the surrounding verbs?

In the future-in-the-past sense, "would" is identifiably the past tense of "will": "I know I will be successful" -> "I knew I would be successful".

In other cases, such as in conditional sentences, it's not terribly obvious to me that "would" has any intrinsic "tense". Any temporal sense that it has seems to be a consequence of its role in the sentence as a whole.

I'm sure somebody with greater technical knowledge could give you a better answer.
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English 1b3 I see no difference
I don't either, except as noted by Mr Wordy. I don't think the headings are very informative. As far as I can see, both categories are about the future of the past.

In the first case, the speaker places himself in the past, so the future of the past is presented as unknown; in the second case, the speaker places himself in the present, so the future of that past is already known.

In the first case, for example, would succeed / would rain do not imply did succeed / did rain, whereas in the second case, would marry / would save do imply did marry / did save.

CJ
CalifJimin the second case, the speaker places himself in the present, so the future of that past is already known.

Are you talking about the third sentence of mine; that is, do you mean 'herself'?

And how has the speaker placed himself in the present?
English 1b3Are you talking about the third sentence of mine; that is, do you mean 'herself'?
No. I'm talking about the speaker of any such sentence.
English 1b3And how has the speaker placed himself in the present?
The speaker already knows the outcome of the past situation. It's a sort of omniscient present point of view. If I already know the whole story and what eventually happened, I can "place myself in the present" when I talk about something in the story.

CJ
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