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Hi,
i would like to to know the rules that need to be followed when using the words, "would " and "could"
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Comments  (Page 4) 
If opinions differ, as they clearly do in this case, there's little point in citing assertions from this or that handbook. In any case, we know that a future generation of 'language professionals' will take yet another view – if only because they have reputations to maintain and books to sell.

On the basis of intuition, rather than books, I see no problem in stating that 'could' sometimes acts as the past tense of 'can' ('was able to'), and sometimes as a variant of 'can' (tentative 'can').

Otherwise, we would be unable to explain the distinction between:

1. I can't see you this morning, unfortunately.
2. I couldn't see you this morning, unfortunately.

The 'tenseless' theory suggests that #2 has a possible future meaning, and so isn't tenseless:

3. I couldn't see you this morning, unfortunately.

But I would guess that this meaning only occurs to most ordinary native speakers as a sudden, once the possibility has been pointed out to them. Till then, #2 reads as 'past'. And if that's the case, where does that default 'pastness' reside, if not in the form?

(By 'ordinary native speakers', I don't mean those who study or teach language: the latter are naturally sensitised to these things.)

MrP
could you please show me an inflected modal.


Well, aside from MrP's "could", there's

She has to go. (Present)
She had to go. (Past)

But then again, the kind of "inflection" we're concerned about in this discussion is temporal in nature, and not morphological in form. That is, if it's not called "inflection", then what is it called? Is there a difference between run/ran and has to/had to, and if not, is has to/had to not a true modal? Moreover, why is it that in order to get "could" to bend time, we have to negate it?

I can swim. (non-past)
I could swim. (non-past ~ past) ambiguous if I wanted to ~ when I was young
I couldn't swim. (past)
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why is it that in order to get "could" to bend time, we have to negate it?

Perhaps a negated possibility is more likely to be past. Possibility stretches infinitely in all directions, until we limit it in some way.

I wonder whether the 'tenseless' theory sufficiently takes into account this aspect of possibility: sometimes the discussion seems to relate more to the nature of possibility, than the nature of how it's expressed.

In #3, for instance:

3. I couldn't see you this morning, unfortunately.
~ It will not be possible for me to see you this morning, unfortunately.

although the 'seeing' relates to future time, the 'possibility' of that 'seeing' (embedded in 'could') has already been closed. In other words, the doctor's appointment book is already full.

So a more accurate 'translation' might be:

4. It is no longer possible for me to see you this morning.

If something is 'no longer possible', any 'possibility' it ever had must now reside in the past.

MrP
Perhaps a negated possibility is more likely to be past.


What about "would", though, or is that different from "could"?

EX: I wouldn't do that if I were you.

Is it possible that "would" is the future past of "will"?
If something is 'no longer possible', any 'possibility' it ever had must now reside in the past.


I like that answer. Emotion: smile
Can/could exhibit some past/non-past alternation. They make time distinctions, but they are not marked for tense. In order to call this "tense," one needs to utilize a personal definition of "tense" and, consequently, "inflection," it seems to me.
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Hello Cacarr

I'm not quite sure what you mean by 'marked for tense'.

With 'might', 'could', 'should', and 'would', for instance, I take the final t/d as a sign of tense.

MrP
There are English lexifier creoles in which one can talk about one "tools."

The "'s" is no longer an inflectional morpheme.

Such is the case here, in my opinion.

If one would like to assert the right to have "tense" mean whatever they should like it to mean, then I don't suppose there is much to argue about.

Some modals retain a vestigial association with past or non-past events. These pairs differ in form. The difference in form does not consitute inflection. I can't ignore usage. In English as it exists today, stance is the primary distinction made by modals.
Hello Cacarr

I am probably being extremely obtuse, but I still don't quite understand what you require, to demonstrate tense.

For instance, what is it in an ordinary verb that shows tense, that is lacking in modal verbs?

MrP
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when to use will woulld and could
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