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The following question is intended to be an example of a real conditional sentence ( first conditional)--not hypothetical. I would like to know whether to use "will" or "would" in this question:

If a naive person falls victim to a trickster, would/will you blame the person for being naive or the trickster for being a criminal?

As far as I understand, I should use "will," as "would" is only used for hypothetical situations. But, since my intention is not to talk about something that will happen in the future but something that is a possibility and can happen at any given time, I think that "will" is not the best choice in the example sentence above, is it? Or should I use "would" instead?

marked as duplicate by Mari-Lou A, JJJ, marcellothearcane, Chappo, jimm101 Aug 9 at 12:44

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    I think your conclusion that "would" is only used for hypothetical situations comes from a grammar book. That is not true. – user140086 Oct 9 '15 at 10:18
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    Asking someone if they will do something is asking for a future commitment from the addressee; asking someone if they would do something merely requests the addressee's prediction of their hypothetical future behavior. – John Lawler Oct 9 '15 at 19:00

Based on personal experience, I would think that would would be the word to use here 90% of time, but it kind of depends on the background context of the question.

If this question is being posed to someone "out of the blue," i.e., as a scenario they haven't considered before, I think would would be appropriate.

On the other hand, say you are talking to a judge who has spent a long time reviewing a case. In that instance, he is well-informed of the situation, and you would definitely ask "Will you rule him guilty or innocent? It would definitely sound weird to use "would" there.

Perhaps will is more likely to be used when the person be asked the question is certain to take a course of action regarding the subject, rather than just speculating about it...

Also, notice in the hypothetical scenarios I've introduced in this response, I've solely used the word would in describing your possible courses of action.

  • Thank you for your answer. I want to ask you a couple of questions just to make sure that I have understood correctly: Would you say that the version of the original question with "would" is grammatically correct, and that it is an example of a mixed conditional--since it contains a verb (falls) in simple present tense in the if clause and the modal "would" in the result clause? Or would you say that the question with "would" is incorrect because the verb in the if clause should be in simple past tense (fell) in order to form the second hypothetical conditional? – Luke Oct 10 '15 at 15:06

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