'Would' what the heck is wrong with it?

Questions from teachers about English grammar and usage

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'Would' what the heck is wrong with it?

Unread post by Unabashed » Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:43 am

Could you help me, please? Recently I have come across some sentences I didn't know what to make of.
The sentences are:

1. Lord Henry “Is that very vain of me? I think it is rather vain.”
Dorian “I should think it was, Harry…” (Oscar Wilde - The picture of Dorian Gray)

2. I think we would both say we were spiritual people (That Mitchell and Webb Look - Evil Vicar)

3. So I think it would be useful if we started by your telling me something about your state of mind at the moment.
How would you describe it? Would you say you were happy or depressed? Confident or unsure of yourself?
(A bit of Fry and Laurie)

4. You wouldn't know what a pair of lungs did if you hadn't been told, would you? (A bit of Fry and Laurie).

My teachers say these are simply incorrect. They argue that in these sentences real present situations are expressed therefore present tenses must be used. Is it the case or past forms are also possible?

Thank you.

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Re: 'Would' what the heck is wrong with it?

Unread post by Joe » Thu Feb 07, 2019 3:30 pm

They all seem okay to me, although maybe a little old-fashioned in some cases.

It's hard to argue with Oscar Wilde.
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Re: 'Would' what the heck is wrong with it?

Unread post by Unabashed » Thu Feb 07, 2019 7:17 pm

Could you, please, explain why in these sentences past verb forms are used?

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Re: 'Would' what the heck is wrong with it?

Unread post by sigmou » Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:34 pm

Looking at the third sentence, I guess the speaker had expeccted his friend to describe his state at the beginning of their conversation- which he didn't. Thus,in supposing what the later would have said, he makes use of the past tense. This is just my opinion.

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Re: 'Would' what the heck is wrong with it?

Unread post by sigmou » Tue Mar 19, 2019 11:53 pm

In my opinion, the past tense is used in sentence two because the sentence deals with an imaginary situation. The speakers are not spiritual and try to imagine what they would say if they were spiritual. It might also be that they try to imagine the response they would have given if they were asked the reason or motive of an action they did.

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