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Edit: More Context: At least one other Indo-European language (Latvian) uses a morphological conditional mood for the politely enquiring about desired future states: vai tu gribētu ... ? Is equivalent to "Would you like ... ?" and the verb is in the conditional mood. This prompted me to consider whether (and how) "Would you ... " is in the conditional mood in English.

Edit: Not a duplicate: Not a duplicate of Which dialects of English consider "would" to be a polite form of "will"? because that question deals with cases in which would is directly substituted for will. No such substitution can be made for "Would you like to dance?" - "Will you dance?" has a different meaning and *"Will you like to dance?".

Question:

Most explanations of the conditional mood (e.g. WP) are statements not questions, and the examples they give generally include both the the apodosis and protasis.

I am looking for an analysis of expressions like:

Would you like to dance?

(in which I assume to like is in the conditional mood).

Possible Explanation 1

Does it have an implied dependent clause? E.g.

[If I had opportunity], I would like to dance.

[If you had the opportunity], you would like to dance.

And then as a question:

[If you had the opportunity], would you like to dance?

[If it was with me], would you like to dance?

Possible Explanation 2

I am not 100% satisfied with those examples though, because to me any condition is specific, and omitting the dependent clause also omits any "specificity". Which makes me wonder if lack of specificity is the whole point of omitting the dependent clause, for example:

[There exists a condition under which] I would like to dance.

[Does there exist a condition under which] you would like to dance?

[*Does there exist a condition under which] would you like to dance?

Edit: Possible Explanation 3

Replying to comments I thought of some constructions that demonstrate the probable conditionality of "Would you like ... ?"

Take an unambigious conditional like:

If it happened, you would like it.

We can step towards "Would you like ..."

If we danced, you would like it.

If we danced, you would like to dance.

Now question the truth of that statement:

If we danced, you would like to dance?

But the statement has some redundancy, let's remove it

[If we danced] you would like to dance?

You would like to dance?

Would you like to dance?

Or maybe "Would you ... ?" is not in the conditional mood at all?

  • "Would you" doesn't sound conditional. Interrogative, perhaps? – Lawrence Jun 8 '18 at 8:41
  • @Lawrence at least one other Indo-European language (Latvian), the same construction uses a morphological conditional mood for the same question. vai tu gribētu ... ? Is equivalent to "Would you like ... ?" and the verb is definitely in the conditional mood. This prompted me to consider whether (and how) "Would you ... " is in the conditional mood in English. – jsj Jun 8 '18 at 8:45
  • Thanks for the extra context. I'm not familiar with Latvian, unfortunately, but it would be good to add the motivation for the question to your question text for those that are in a better position to help. – Lawrence Jun 8 '18 at 8:47
  • I don't think it's conditional; it's basically a polite form of Do you want to dance?. In order to make it less direct (to reduce the amount of imposition and loss of face in case of a negative reply) it is phrased that way. So technically it might be a conditional, but functionally it is not. It then depends on your view of grammar how you judge it. – Oliver Mason Jun 8 '18 at 8:55
  • 2
    Possible duplicate of Which dialects of English consider "would" to be a polite form of "will"?. Certainly answered there (tchrist's first comment). / 'Would you like to ...?' is a fixed phrase, one example of 'polite would'. There is certainly more than a hint of 'It's entirely your choice: no pressure', and a hint of 'If it pleases you', but this isn't classed as a conditional usage. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 8 '18 at 9:14
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I agree with the above "if-dependency" comment by msam.

Modals have many uses. The 'polite form usage' is relevant here:

"We can use certain modal verbs, especially the past forms of the modal verbs can, may, shall and will (could, might, should and would), to be more polite or less direct."

(source: https://dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/functions/politeness)

In your example, it does not seem to be a conditional because there is no condition imposed. "Would you like to dance?" is an invitation, yes/no reply.

  • It's been answered before, but +1 for the clarity. // At the logicians ball, "Would you like to dance?" is risky, inviting the response "Under what conditions?" Though at the logician's ball, perhaps a straight "Yes, I'd love to" is the greater risk. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 8 '18 at 9:56
  • I really disagree that the only difference between "Would you like to ... " and "will you ..." is politeness. The first interrogates the listeners wishes, the second his intentions (or invites him to form an as yet unformed intention). It's more polite not because of the function of language, but because the speaker is actually more considerate. Similarly if I ask my guest "Would you like a drink?" It's not a polite way of making a demand, it's a genuine enquiry into whether or not the listener is thirsty and, on whether in the conditional future when they had a drink they would like it. – jsj Jun 8 '18 at 13:27

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