In the dictionary, I found this example (Source):

I would appreciate it if you paid in cash.

Clearly, this is the conditional sentence, type 2 which expresses something that is impossible in the future or at the present. For example the following sentence expresses something that is impossible in the future or at the present:

If I won lottery, I would buy a 10 bedroom house.

So, let’s say you want to buy a newspaper at a shop; you give your debit card to the seller; and the seller says:

I would appreciate it if you paid in cash.

Does the seller think that the chance that I can pay in cash is impossible?

Why can‘t the seller use the following conditional sentence, type 1, meaning something that is possible in the future or at the present?

I will appreciate it if you pay in cash.

This way he says that he thinks that the chance that I can pay in cash is possible.

So, which structures do native people use?

  • I would appreciate it if you paid in cash.

  • I will appreciate it if you pay in cash.

  • 2
    In British English, "I will appreciate it if you pay/paid in cash" often has the implication that "and if you don't, something bad will happen to you in the near future." It is less "polite" than a notice in the shop saying "credit cards not accepted" or "please pay by cash only", which is a neutral-toned statement of the fact that there are no other options. As the answers say, "would" is the polite way to ask the question, implying that you would prefer to be paid in cash, but you don't insist on a cash payment.
    – alephzero
    Apr 8, 2016 at 18:31
  • why are no answers mentioning the subjunctive mood? isn't that the real reason for this? the person, in the future, might or might not pay in cash—it's unknown. therefore this is the subjunctive, where you use would instead of will. seems like a way simpler explanation than stoneyb's answer.
    – user428517
    Apr 8, 2016 at 22:31
  • Saying "I will appreciate it if you pay in cash" implies that the appreciation, or rather desire, for this action (of so paying) does not exist now but will only exist in the future. That is not the intent of the speaker. Instead, the speaker is saying I appreciate now (or desire now, but expressed in a less forceful way) your consideration of paying in cash. The merchant is not really speaking about potential future actions or responses, but instead indicating his current state.
    – ErikE
    Apr 8, 2016 at 23:04
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    @JasonBassford so why isn't your comment valid as an answer?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Aug 8, 2019 at 4:54
  • 1
    I do wish people who can't do grammar wouldn't vote-to-close grammar questions. Leave that to the grammar people. Aug 9, 2019 at 17:26

5 Answers 5


Conditional constructions are vastly more complex than the “first, second, third conditionals” teachers employ to introduce them. Now that you are dealing with expressions which do not conform to the ‘canonical’ n-conditionals, you are ready to discard those pedagogical baby rules.

The use of past-form would in the apodosis (consequence clause) does not necessarily, or even usually, imply impossibility. It may express actual past tense; it may express the contingency or non-certainty of the consequence; it may express willingness; it may express a recommendation—or it may, as in this case, primarily express courtesy: a polite indication that the speaker does not require you to pay cash but earnestly hopes that you will do him that kindness.


Expressions such as I would appreciate it if you paid in cash are commonly used to soften a request, to make it less direct, and thus to avoid putting an onus on the person being spoken to. Grammatically, you are right--the speaker is using the conditional incorrectly here. But this is a common colloquialism that is not restricted to English. In French, you'll hear things like "Je voudrais aller" (I'd like to go) when, to be completely literal about it, the proper response is "I want to go." In your example, the idea is that the speaker is not demanding to be paid in cash, but he is making it clear he prefers (would prefer) cash.

See this: http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/politeness Also: http://blog.harwardcommunications.com/2014/07/30/how-to-be-polite/

  • 3
    this is what Michael Swan (Practical English Usage) calls the 'distancing' use of tenses: think of sentences like 'I wonder whether you would lend me your car', 'I wondered whether you would lend me your car', 'I was wondering whether you would lend me your car'; not just tense (a past instead of a present) but also aspect (continuous or progressive, instead of simple) can be used to make the listener feel free to refuse, showing consideration, which heightens the chances of him or her agreeing to do what we want!
    – user58319
    Apr 8, 2016 at 15:40
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    Disagree that "the speaker is using the conditional incorrectly"; use of "would" in the conditional in no way implies "something that is not possible" at any time, especially when combined with another verb, but by no means exclusively. Eg. "I would chip in for pizza if you are interested" is correct usage, even though in this case substituting "I will" would also be correct. As @StoneyB says it is much more complex than some simple "type 1, 2, 3" rule.
    – jkf
    Apr 8, 2016 at 17:08
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    It is worth noting that this use of 'would' is often overused by people who are trying to sound polite. For example: "We would remind you that entry to the party is for paid ticket holders only." "We would inform you that since you have ignored our requests to pay back your loan for the last three months, we shall be sending two large gentlemen to your residence to receive your payment." Apr 8, 2016 at 17:51

The difference is not so much in the type of the conditional, but the tense of the verb, specifically future versus future-in-the-past.

For sake of discussion, imagine that the seller is himself imagining the situation a few minutes from when he speaks, wherein the buyer has already paid. At that hypothetical future moment, the seller appreciates that the buyer has paid in cash. The way that is phrased is to use the future-in-the-past tense, or with the word would


Conditional does not necessarily equate to "impossible now"; it can simply represent a hypothetical scenario. In other words, it hasn't happened yet (e.g., "If I won the lottery..." [but I haven't yet], "If you paid in cash..." [but you haven't yet]). Of the two options you provided, native speakers, when speaking correctly, would say, "I would appreciate if you paid in cash." Note the use of "would" in my own sentence ("native speakers...would say"). This is conditional and in this case means "if...then" (if speaking correctly, then they would say). That (if...then, otherwise known as a hypothetical scenario) really is often what conditional represents.


"I would appreciate it if you paid in/by cash" is the correct sentence.

You have to use would in this case, because an if in part of the sentence requires would in the next part (even when the second part comes first). => "If you paid in/by cash, I would appreciate it".

  • Furthermore, a different tense would work as follows : "I would have appreciated it, if you had paid in cash"
    – MorganFR
    Apr 8, 2016 at 15:06

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