1

Longman Advanced Learners' grammar says: (p 27/7)

  1. Dad would always help us out financially when we were at university, however difficult it was for him.

Is it correct to use 'would' in this context?

Or should it be:

1b. Dad always helped us out financially when we were at university, however difficult it was for him.

  • If you are telling your past to someone else, you should say like that when we were at university, my father always helped us financially, however he would have difficulty. – kuldeep May 9 '14 at 8:43
  • @kuldeep That's very unhelpful. For once, no pun intended. – Edwin Ashworth May 9 '14 at 8:57
  • @Edwin Ashworth i am really not able to understand what he wrote. sentences are ungrammatical. – kuldeep May 9 '14 at 9:07
  • @kuldeep: You do realise that your first comment is ungrammatical? 'However' used as a sentence-connector (as in your comment, but not in OP) needs at least a semi-colon before it. – Edwin Ashworth May 9 '14 at 9:35
  • The question is, whether the following sentence is correct: Dad would always help us out financially when we were at university, however difficult it was for him. Who can help Marius? – Marius Krijger May 10 '14 at 15:37
2

Wikipedia has:

The modal verbs of English are a small class of auxiliary verbs used mostly to express modality (properties such as possibility, obligation, etc.)

We'll leave aside the main verb 'will' (I was willing him to leave , etc). The unmarked, unstressed use of 'will' to form future constructions (Life on the island seems idyllic. But in two days' time, Krakatoa will erupt catastrophically) does not express modality, but is often taken to be a modal usage because of the syntax involved.

AHD plays safe and just uses the hypernymic term 'auxiliary (verb)' here:

would aux.v. Past tense of will2

  1. Used to express desire or intent: She said she would meet us at the corner.
  2. Used to express a wish: Would that we had gone with you!
  3. Used after a statement of desire, request, or advice: I wish you would stay.
  4. Used to make a polite request: Would you go with me?
  5. Used in the main clause of a conditional statement to express a possibility or likelihood: If I had enough money, I would buy a car. We would have gone to the beach, had the weather been good. See Usage Note at if.
  6. Used to express presumption or expectation: That would be Steve at the door.
  7. Used to indicate uncertainty: He would seem to be getting better.
  8. Used to express repeated or habitual action in the past: Every morning we would walk in the garden.

(How sensible to give 'how-the-word-is-used' rather than synonynous definitions here.)

Sense '8' is the relevant one. Using 'would' gives the repeated / habitual sense that the past tense doesn't (though the 'always' in OP's example also does this).

Another example:

When they first met, they would always have picnics on the beach. [repetition]

  • The unmarked, unstressed form of 'will' to form future constructions ... does not express modality, but is often taken to be a modal usage because of the syntax involved. False. In linguistics, modality is what allows speakers to attach expressions of belief, attitude and obligation to statements. Saying that something will happen is nothing more or less than the belief that an event is (obliged) to happen in the future. – jimsug May 9 '14 at 14:24
  • @ jimsug You've adopted one of the 'definitions' of 'modal'. There is a syntactic one, which does not overlap entirely, as I took the trouble to point out. Your 'wrong' is opinionated. Wikipedia shows that the terms 'modal' and 'modality' are not always taken to be equivalent: 'Some other English verbs express modality although they are not modal verbs'. The example I gave above was carefully set in the past. – Edwin Ashworth May 9 '14 at 14:33
  • Mmm. Not invalidating the balance of your answer, which is fine. But now I'm curious - are you saying that you were excluding the syntactic definition (which I didn't mention), or that you were adopting it? I'm just concerned that someone will come across the answer, see that you've said that it doesn't express modality, without qualification or condition, and misunderstand. – jimsug May 9 '14 at 14:41
  • 1
    I was essentially saying that one can't just assume (1) that everybody knows what a modal verb is, or even (2) that all authorities use the same classification. I'll go with your definition of 'modality' (the classification of logical propositions according to their asserting or denying the possibility, impossibility, contingency, or necessity of their content [MW] [and by extension, the practice of conveying, and techniques used to convey, such commentary]), but by 'The modal verbs ... are a small class of auxiliary verbs used mostly to express modality' Wiki implies non-modality also. – Edwin Ashworth May 9 '14 at 19:30
1

Both are right

"Would" in your first sentence indicates repetition in the past. "He would help us" ~ "He used to help us" ~ "He helped us frequently/regularly"

Compare this with "Dad helped us out financially" - he did it once. But since you have "always" in your sentence, the meaning is changed to something that happened multiple times.

The difference between "always helped us" and "would help us" is that "would help us" leaves the possibility that he regularly helped you but not always. By adding "always" to the "would" phrase "would always help us" is made equivalent to "always helped us"

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