Is it standard British usage to add forms of the verb "Do" after a conditional like "Would"? e.g., If I could, I would do"?

  • 3
    Interesting question. It's completely weird by American standards; it marks text as British just as fast as RP would in speech. Aug 18, 2014 at 17:08
  • I'd say it's about 50 - 50, but your example is unbalanced. Aug 18, 2014 at 17:17
  • @EdwinAshworth by which you mean that do is added after could as well as would? Aug 18, 2014 at 17:21
  • 1
    I don't see how "after a conditional" makes any difference here. It's no different with, say, "Everybody dies sooner or later. You will [do] too.". I can't see anything weird about including do there (or not - they're both fine to my BrE ear). Aug 18, 2014 at 17:49
  • 2
    No, adding 'do' after a 'conditional' (or, as FF says, modal in general). Adding a 'do' after your 'could' would not cause any consternation over here. Aug 18, 2014 at 18:32

2 Answers 2


What is going on here is not the addition of 'do', and has little to do with conditionals in particular. It presents a different prioritization of reduction rules.

There is no added 'do'. The construction in your example is that 'would', for instance, takes another verb, and that in backward references the phrase would therefore properly end with 'would do so'. Nor does the auxiliary verb have to be 'do'.

AmE more aggressively suppresses auxiliary verbs for which the objects have already been suppressed.

He has done that, and I would do so, too.

He pays his rent because he has to do so.

He will be dead before you are so.

You fill out tax forms faster than I do so.

becomes these in AmE.

He has done that and I would, too.

He does that because he has to.

He will be dead before you.

You fill out tax forms faster than I.

In BrE, you are more likely to remove the object of the verb, without removing the verb itself.

The 'exception that proves the rule' is the optional hanging verb in the last two examples. When the omitted part is less surely guaranteed to be a simple back-reference like 'so' or 'that', it is sometimes slightly clearer to hint at the omission. So sometimes these examples have their terminal auxiliary verbs. But it sounds more well-considered when they are omitted as well.

  • "You work faster than I do so"? No! Not in AmE, at least. Aug 29, 2014 at 0:36
  • It is proper, make work something much more complicated with the same gist like 'perform our assigned function', and you can hear it right. You are just used to hearing it already reduced. When words are short, reductions become almost mandatory. And I agree that is one that would not be heard in that form in public. Aug 29, 2014 at 0:37
  • I don't think that's it. You use "do so" when there's an object in the first verb, but you need to leave out the "so" when there's no object. "You fill out these forms faster than I do so" because there's an object: "these forms". Same for your first and third examples. But your fourth example sounds wrong to me. Aug 29, 2014 at 0:40
  • Right, the reduction is forced. But it is a reduction. Use a word less familiar than 'work' without an object like, like 'pirouette', and the awkwardness reduces. The problem is "Why would you say 'do so' instead of just repeating 'work'?" Aug 29, 2014 at 0:42
  • "You pirouette better than I do so"? That's just as bad. The "so" works like a pronoun standing for the object or the complement, and if there's no object or complement, it can't stand for anything, so it's ungrammatical. Aug 29, 2014 at 0:43

In colloquial speech, yes. In formal written or spoken English, no.

Reason: in the example you present, the 'do' is valid, but redundant.

  • 3
    Hello The. What we're really looking for (on this or any other Stack Exchange site) is a supported answer: one that you can support with authoritative references (in this case a dictionary, grammar, or article say). [Matt Gutting] Aug 20, 2014 at 20:23
  • Ugh... okay. Noted. Bit strange though... given the nature of the language LOL! Aug 20, 2014 at 20:32
  • 1
    This answer reads like there is some weird rule in formal English that any word that can be removed, must be removed. But that is not true of any variety, register, or dialect of English, or any other language for that matter.
    – RegDwigнt
    Aug 26, 2014 at 20:16

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