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Would, Could Part 2

Would, Could Part 2

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Would, Could (2)

 

 

Hello! In this lesson, we will expand our understanding of the modal verbs "could" and "would". We will learn how to use the modal "could" in a new way, and we will learn how to construct a hypothetical "if-then" sentence, using the words "could" and "would".


In a previous lesson, we learned to form a basic hypothetical sentence. For example, we learned to make sentences like "If I had a million dollars,(then) I would buy a lot of cars.". In this sentence, the "if-clause", the first clause of this sentence, contains a verb which looks like the simple past tense and which conveys an unreal condition. The "then-clause" contains a modal conditional verb, which conveys an unreal, hypothetical result.


We also learned earlier that the "then-clause" might contain the modal verb "could"; for example, we might say "If I had a car, (then) I could drive to San Francisco.". This sentence is an unreal hypothetical statement.  The speaker does not have a car and cannot drive to San Francisco, but if the speaker had a car, he or she would be able to drive to San Francisco.

 
We will learn that the modal "could" is a very versatile verb. The word "could" is the simple past tense of the verb "can", and it is also used in the "if-clause" of a hypothetical sentence.

For example, we might say "If I can find my jacket, I will go outside." This sentence is a prediction. We can change it to an unreal hypothetical statement by changing the verbs, like this: "If I could find my jacket, I would go outside." This sentence means that the speaker cannot find his jacket and therefore will not go outside. It is an unreal hypothetical; it is not a prediction.

Now that you have an idea of how to form unreal hypothetical sentences, let us listen to the dialog.

Jennifer: Would you go outside and start the car?

David:  No, it is very cold outside, and I cannot find my jacket.

Jennifer: If you could find your jacket, would you go outside and start the car?

David: Yes, I would. But if I cannot find my jacket, I will not go outside.

Jennifer:  If you could find a sweatshirt, would you go out?

David: No. It is very cold outside.

Jennifer:  David! Here is your jacket!

David:  (from outside) Jennifer! I cannot start the car!

Now that we have an idea of how to use the modal "could" in hypothetical sentences, let us look more closely at the sentences in the dialog.

Jennifer begins by asking David "Would you go outside and start the car?". As we have learned in a previous lesson, this is a polite request. Jennifer might also have asked "Could you go outside and start the car?" or "Can you go outside and start the car?". She might have said "Please go out and start the car.".

However, David says "No, it is very cold outside, and I cannot find my jacket.".

Jennifer asks a hypothetical question: "If you could find your jacket, would you go outside and start the car?". With this question, Jennifer is questioning David's willingness to go out and start the car.

We notice that she uses the unreal "if-clause": "if you could find your jacket" because she knows that he cannot find his jacket in reality.

David answers"Yes, I would." With this answer, David is expressing his willingness to go outside, but only under the condition that he find his jacket, which he cannot do.

But in the next sentence, he reminds Jennifer that if he cannot find his jacket, he will not go outside. "If I cannot find my jacket, I will not go outside.".

Jennifer asks "If you could find a sweatshirt, would you go out?". This is another unreal hypothetical – Jennifer is questioning whether David would be willing to go out if he were able to find a sweatshirt.

We notice the unreal "if-clause": "If you could find a sweatshirt" rather than "If you could find your jacket". Jennifer is again questioning David's willingness to go outside under a different condition.

David answers "No. It is very cold outside.".  -- But Jennifer has been looking for David's jacket, and has found it. She says "David! Here is your jacket!"

.Now David will fulfill the prediction made earlier. He will go outside. He goes outside, and we hear him from outside "Jennifer! I cannot start the car!".

So although David was willing to go outside if he found his jacket, and he found his jacket, he cannot start the car.

Now that we have examined the dialogand understand how to use the modal "could" in a sentence, let us listen to the dialog again. Listen for real and und unreal conditions.

Jennifer: Would you go outside and start the car?

David:  No, it is very cold outside, and I cannot find my jacket.

Jennifer: If you could find your jacket, would you go outside and start the car?

David: Yes, I would. But if I cannot find my jacket, I will not go outside.

Jennifer:  If you could find a sweatshirt, would you go out?

David: No. It is very cold outside.

Jennifer:  David! Here is your jacket!

David:  (from outside) Jennifer! I cannot start the car!

Wonderful! You are becoming more able to form hypothetical questions and give hypothetical answers.  You can also make polite requests in a variety of ways. Add these abilities to your growing repertoire in English, and be sure to use them in your English conversations.