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Would, Could Part 1

Would, Could Part 1

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Would, Could Part 1


Hello! In this lesson, we will learn one way to use the modals "would" and "could".  In previous lessons, we have learned to use the modal verbs "will" and "can".  We have also touched on the usage of "could" and "would" in making polite requests. In fact, the word "would" is a form of "will", and the word "could" is a form of "can". In this lesson, we will learn how to use the conditional, or hypothetical use of these modal verbs.

In the same way that the word "can" does not change conjugations, the word "could" does not change conjugations. Similarly, in the same way that the word "will" does not change conjugations, the word "would" does not change conjugations either.

We can change real statements to unreal statements by using a modal verb in the conditional form. For example, here is a real statement: "If I have money, I will go to the museum." This statement is a prediction of real events. Here is an unreal statement in which we change "will" to "would": "If I had money, I would go to the museum." This statement is a hypothetical statement. The speaker does not have money and is speaking only in a hypothetical way.

  We notice that the second, unreal statement contains the word "had". The word "had" looks like the simple past tense of the word "have." However, the meaning is actually hypothetical, unreal. We might similarly say "If I had a million dollars," I would buy a lot of cars!" The speaker does not really have a million dollars. It is not a prediction; it is hypothetical statement.

We might say "If I have a car, I can drive to San Francisco.".  This is a real statement; it is a prediction. To change this statement to a hypothetical, we would say "If I had a car, I could drive to San Francisco.". This is an unreal, hypothetical statement. The speaker does not have a car and therefore cannot drive to San Francisco.  We might say "If Jennifer bakes a cake, David can eat it for dessert.". This is a real statement. We can change it to a hypothetical statement by saying "If Jennifer baked a cake, David could eat it for dessert.". This is a hypothetical statement. Jennifer does not bake a cake. David cannot eat cake for dessert.

Now that you have learned how to form hypothetical statements, listen to the dialog.

David: Jennifer, are you going to bake a big chocolate cake?

Jennifer: No. If I baked a big chocolate cake, we would eat it.

David:  Yes! If you baked a big chocolate cake, we could eat it.

Jennifer: If I do not bake a big chocolate cake, we cannot eat it.

David: What are you going to bake?

Jennifer: I am going to bake fish.

David: If you bake fish, we will eat it.

Jennifer: If we eat fish, we will stay healthy and strong.

David: If we stay healthy and strong …

Jennifer: … we will be happy.

After David asks Jennifer "Are you going to bake a big chocolate cake?", Jennifer answers"No. If I baked a big chocolate cake, we would eat it.". Jennifer uses the unreal conditional. She says she is not going to bake a cake. If she were really going to bake a cake, she would say "If I bake a big chocolate cake, we will eat it.". But in this case, she is not going to bake a cake.

David says "Yes! If you baked a big chocolate cake, we could eat it.". We notice that David also uses the unreal conditional. He is speaking in a hypothetical way – Jennifer is not going to bake a cake. But if she baked a cake, she and David would be able to eat it. If David wanted to speak to speak of reality, he would say "If you bake a big chocolate cake, we can eat it.".But in this case, Jennifer is not going to bake a cake.

Next, Jennifer states a real fact. She says "If I do not bake a big chocolate cake, we cannot eat it.". This is a true statement. Jennifer is not going to bake a cake, and they will not be able to eat it.
David next asks "What are you going to bake?". Jennifer answers "I am going to bake fish.". David makes a true statement: "If you bake fish, we will eat it.". This is a prediction.

Jennifer then says "If we eat fish, we will stay healthy and strong.". This is also a true statement, a prediction.

David and Jennifer then work together to produce the next prediction: "If we stay healthy and strong, we will be happy.". This is a prediction, not a hypothetical statement.

Now that we understand how to form predictions and unreal statements with modal verbs, let us listen to the dialog again. Listen for the use of "would" and could".

David: Jennifer, are you going to bake a big chocolate cake?

Jennifer: No. If I baked a big chocolate cake, we would eat it.

David:  Yes! If you baked a big chocolate cake, we could eat it.

Jennifer: If I do not bake a big chocolate cake, we cannot eat it.

David: What are you going to bake?

Jennifer: I am going to bake fish.

David: If you bake fish, we will eat it.

Jennifer: If we eat fish, we will stay healthy and strong.

David: If we stay healthy and strong …

Jennifer: … we will be happy.

Excellent! You are making great strides in English. You are now able to make predictions and hypothetical statements. Use your new abilities as you speak in English! "If you work hard, you will learn a lot!".