Sunday, May 18, 2008


The results of my test, collected from personal interviews and the last post, seem to suggest that the following is a correct way to report Fred's assertion:

"Fred, you said that when you went to the store, you would get milk."

This is exactly as I expected. But, now I am a bit puzzled. Why is it that the verb 'to be' is in the 'would' form in this sentence? Is there a connection between the use of 'would' in this sentence and the use of 'would' in typical counterfactuals? Is this a natural development and do other languages exhibit the same seemingly dual use of the word 'would'? If anyone knows anything that will help illuminate these issues, please feel free to post.


Blogger Neal Tognazzini said...

Hey Joshua! Thanks for sending me the link to your blog...I'm having fun reading through old posts. Of course, that means I'm really late in commenting, but here goes anyway.

I'm not an expert on the English language, but I was under the impression that 'would' in this context is simply the past tense form of 'will'. Add that to the fact that there is indirect speech going on here, and you get a double past tense: "You SAID that you WOULD buy milk". Really all that's going on here, I think, is this: "It was the case that (you are saying that you will buy milk)." For some strange reason, when we report speech rather than quote it, verbs change to past tense.

All this is to say that I don't think the use of 'would' here is related to the the subjunctive.

9:20 AM  

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