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What's the difference:

  • Would you give me some advice?
  • Will you give me some advices?
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2  
What is the past future tense? –  kiamlaluno Feb 13 '11 at 13:18
    
My textbook just tell me there are 16 kinds of tenses in English. see: louhau.edu.mo/www/discol/english/past/past_future_tense.htm –  lovespring Feb 14 '11 at 2:00
    
I am not mother-tongue, but I believe that an example of past future tense could be: "Next year, I shall send you a letter indicating where I shall have gone on holiday" –  Sklivvz Apr 22 '11 at 22:13
    
@Sklivvz Nope. What they mean by past future, I think, is the result of English sequence of tense for subordinate clauses. For instance, a main clause in the future “I will go to see the mayor” will become the following when used a subordinate clause in secondary sequence: “I said I would see the mayor”. –  Jonathan Sterling Apr 23 '11 at 16:55
    
By the way, the whole idea of a past future tense is nonsense, but that works in English because we only have two true elementary tenses: past and non-past. All of our other tenses are formed periphrastically, which makes a “past future” just the past analogue to a periphrasis which denotes the future. –  Jonathan Sterling Apr 23 '11 at 16:57

6 Answers 6

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Would can be either conditional or subjunctive, but it is often used (as your examples demonstrate) interchangeably with will.

Will is an inquiry after the consent of the respondent, whose inclinations comprise the sole issue at hand. "Will you give me some advice?" literally means it is up to "your" discretion either to give or withhold the advice.

"Would you give me some advice?" on the other hand implies some other conditions may affect your decision. Unstated but implied in this sentence may be some other information. Or there may be a contextual linkage or even a direct statement. I think of Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham:

Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat them with a fox?

The terms of the conditional are clearly set forth. The questioner is proffering various inducements to sweeten the deal for the recalcitrant hater of "Sam-I-Am".

In any case, asking either question in conversation will, in the vast majority of cases, be understood simply as a request for advice, without all the grammatical analysis.

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Does the "would" mean a past future tense? PS:Your logo means "dream" in CJK(Chinese/Japanese/Korean) :) –  lovespring Jan 19 '11 at 14:47
    
@lovespring: No, the "would" does not mean a "past future tense"; it can help in such constructions as "would have been" or "would have done" and so on. And yes, I'm aware what my avatar means. In Japanese it's yume, pronounced "yu-meh". –  Robusto Jan 19 '11 at 14:54
    
How could I different it from the past tense of "will"? because they two share the some form. –  lovespring Jan 19 '11 at 15:17
    
@lovespring: I'm not sure what you're asking me? Where are you having problems with differentiating the various uses of would? –  Robusto Jan 20 '11 at 18:50
    
Yes, How could i know the 'would' is used as an modal auxiliary or just the past tense form of the 'will'? –  lovespring Jan 20 '11 at 19:13

Is “would” the past future tense of “will” or just a modal verb?

Would is the past tense of will in sentences like

He said he would be away for a couple of days.
He wanted out, but she wouldn't leave.

The difference between Would you give me some advice? and Will you give me some advice? is that the first is considered a polite way to ask help, while the second (depending on the context) could be also understood as expressing desire, consent, or willingness.

Will you have a cognac?

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Either would or will work, but you wouldn't change the noun:

Would you give me some advice?

and

Will you give me some advice?

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Conventionally, would can be either the past simple or the past subjunctive of will. To put it very simply, it is best considered past simple if you are looking forward from a past perspective in a story. In that case, it is used in the middle of a narrative that is in the past tense. Both the narrative and would are then simply a description of the past; what would be will in a narrative in the present tense becomes would:

  • She said she would succeed. (In direct speech it would be: She said: "I will succeed".)

  • He knew they would find him eventually. (In direct speech it would be: He thought: "I know they will find me eventually".)

In most other cases, it is past subjunctive. This tense can be used in several ways, of which the conditional is the most frequent:

  • If he were rich, he would still be a bastard. (The conditional is used to express that "he will still be a bastard" is only true if the "if" condition is fulfilled.)

  • She would like some more tea. (Here there is some implied condition, such as "if you asked her", "if it were possible", "if she were permitted to speak", "if it weren't rude", etc.; that is why conditional past subjunctives are often used to express politeness.)

All the above generally applies equally to the other modal verbs, can, shall, and may.

If you say "will you give me some advice?", this is a perfectly fine and polite request, though perhaps a tiny bit old fashioned. It could theoretically be a question about the other person's desire, but context makes it clear that this is not what is intended.

"Would you give me some advice?" is an attempt at even greater politeness, because the conditional makes the request even more tentative, as explained above. Take your pick.

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Kosmonaut:I don't know where you are getting these ideas. "I told him that I would meet him in the city on Tuesday." — This is a past tense usage of will. "I couldn't watch my favorite show yesterday." — This is a past tense usage of can.

These ideas come from long years of teaching ESL/EFL and from those same long years spent studying the English language. I simply made note that when students followed the rules they produced unnatural English. I made note when students said to me, "why are you saying, "we might [do something] tomorrow" when 'might' is the past tense of may and you're talking about tomorrow"?

Kosmonaut: "I told him that I would meet him in the city on Tuesday." — This is a past tense usage of will.

No, it isn't. I certainly agree with you that that's long been what people have been told, but it's simply not true. But I don't suspect that me telling you that, even twice, is going to convince you.

I won't try to give you an example of 'would' as a past tense usage of 'will' because I can't. No English speaker can. It can't be done.

The only part of your quote above that is past/finished is 'told'. I'm making the assumption for the purposes of my argument that we haven't yet come to Tuesday, so the event isn't finished, which is another great indicator that what 'would' is doing here is not describing a past time event which would, of course, then have to trigger a true past tense use.

Another equally valid and grammatical response to what you suggest is 'would' as a "past tense usage of will", could be,

2) I told him, "I will meet you in the city on Tuesday".

Do you agree?

Now, how would 'would' be the past tense of an action that has not yet occurred. Do we ever use a past tense for the purpose of describing an action that hasn't happened?

Moreover, if it was a true past tense, why are we able to use 'will' in 2), above.

In fact, why can we continue to use 'will' for all time, even when and if the action IS ever completed, to describe the direct quote? The reason for that is a simple one; the actions that we take with respect to direct versus indirect speech are done to mark them, not as past or present tense, but as direct [quoted accurately] or indirect [not quoted accurately].

Think of all the times that we [newspapers, people] use these grammatical patterns and we never seek to find out if the action commented on has ever come to pass.

Now, let's say that we have reached Tuesday, and the "I" has met the "you/him". We now have a completed action.

Would any native speaker ever say in order to describe that that action of meeting has been completed,

We would meet on Tuesday. ?

[I'm referring to a usual past tense, not to 'would used in the past for a future'.]

Why does 'would' fail when it comes time to the central purpose of past tense, describing a finished action?

[I'm not ignoring you, Cerebus.]

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Hi Dan, please try to keep your posts short and to the point. This site is different from a traditional forum. Answers should be reserved for actual answers. Comments should be replied to in comments. Lengthy discussions should be taken to chat. –  RegDwigнt Apr 22 '11 at 22:16
    
@RegDwight: Is there no other venue here to discuss these issues, Reg? –  Dan Apr 23 '11 at 4:53

Yes, How could i know the 'would' is used as an modal auxiliary or just the past tense form of the 'will'?

There is a very easy way to tell. Modal verbs have no tense. In modern English, all modal verbs are tenseless. There are no past tense forms or present tense forms. In older forms of English, modals did have tense, so we can accurately refer to modern modals as "historical past tense forms" or "historical present tense forms".

It's easy to prove this because no one can make a sentence in English where any one of the purported past tense modals acts as a real past tense.

Where modals seem like they are being used as a past tense, in reporting speech, they aren't really acting as past tense. They are simply being used the same as the past tense FORM of lexical verbs in a process called backshifting, to signal that the speech is not direct/quoted but rather it is indirect/reported.

The difference between "Would you give me some advice?" and "Will you give me some advice?" is only one of level of politeness/deference. As the historical past tense forms, in their epistemic [level of certainty] meanings show a greater sense of doubt/certainty, that same doubt/uncertainty carries over to modal deontic [social] meaning so they are considered more polite/more deferential/softer/less direct.

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6  
I don't know where you are getting these ideas. "I told him that I would meet him in the city on Tuesday." — This is a past tense usage of will. "I couldn't watch my favorite show yesterday." — This is a past tense usage of can. –  Kosmonaut Apr 19 '11 at 23:25
    
"They are simply being used the same as the past tense FORM of lexical verbs in a process called backshifting, to signal that the speech is not direct/quoted but rather it is indirect/reported." — Then why do we say I am telling her that he will never leave his wife? It is indirect speech, and yet I see "will", not "would". Transposing this sentence to the past may give "would": I was telling her that he would never leave his wife. Of course it turned out I was right. –  Cerberus Apr 20 '11 at 0:01

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