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The following quote is from an article in the New York Times about D. Trump’s new budget, which can be found here.

Hardest hit would be the Environmental Protection Agency, with a cut of 31 percent. These cuts would end climate change research — a global setback. They would eliminate money to carry out President Obama’s plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired plants — the centerpiece of his strategy to combat global warming. They also would disadvantage states that went for Mr. Trump. For Wisconsin and Michigan, for example, the budget would zero out initiatives to restore the Great Lakes. For Virginia, it would end restoration of Chesapeake Bay, whose watershed affects Pennsylvania also. Farm states, which largely supported Mr. Trump, would face a 21 percent reduction in the Department of Agriculture.

I am puzzled by the repeated and consistent use of the conditional modal verb would in the above paragraph. What meaning is it supposed to convey? If replaced by will it would imply some level of certainty on the author’s part about his inferences. Is the author therefore communicating his non-conviction in using would? If say, he is not sure, won’t it be better to use may or might instead, so as to alert the reader about this? Or is the nuance in these statements clear to a native speaker?

marked as duplicate by Edwin Ashworth, Hot Licks, Arun, Cascabel, Kit Z. Fox Mar 17 '17 at 14:13

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  • @marcellothearcane I see there is an overlap, but I see that that question is quite broad. I also would like to have a clarification on whether the colloquial usage of would applied to hypothetical scenarios is suitable here, seeing the rigour expected in news reporting. – Arun Mar 17 '17 at 9:15
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    Perhaps it's because it discusses a budget proposal (for 2018), not an actual budget (which BTW is also no more than a plan). – michael.hor257k Mar 17 '17 at 9:32
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it fails to point out that this article covers possible rather than enacted legislation. This is a standard usage of the modal 'would'. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 17 '17 at 11:19

Looking at the article, they're talking about a budget proposal. Using "will" would not only indicate certainty from the author about their predictions, but also indicate the author is certain the budget will be enacted... Because the paper is describing consequences of the budget being enacted and being the law of the land, i.e. things that will not happen (...or won't be consequences of the budget being enacted at least if you want to nitpick) if the budget doesn't get enacted in the first place.

"May" or "Might" in this context would describe uncertainty about the author's predictions; "would" is basically saying "If the bill passes these things will happen". (the same way I used "would" myself in the previous sentence).

  • Modal usages, especially the central ones such as this example uses, have been covered here before on numerous occasions. Please don't ignore close-votes without checking. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 17 '17 at 12:23

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