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"So, I think I'm a tomboy." “I wouldn’t call you a tomboy, sweetie. I think that you’re you.” “But you could call me a tomboy.” “But I wouldn’t.” “But if you did … ” “I wouldn’t. And I won’t. I’ll just keep calling you Emilia.”

I learned that would is a conditional verb and used in imagined or hypothetical situations.

In the story above, what exactly does "I wouldn't call you a tomboy" mean? Does it mean "I wouldn't call you a tomboy even if someone called you a tomboy."? or Does it just mean "I wouldn't call you a tomboy (in any imagined or hypothetical situations)"?

And in the sentence "I wouldn't. And I won't.”, what is the difference between "I wouldn't" and "I won't"?

Thank you for your answer.

  • What is the context of this quote? – Rand al'Thor Jul 27 at 10:34
  • The second speaker would not call her a tomboy. This means that he or she would not call her a tomboy in any situation, real or imagined. – rajah9 Jul 27 at 11:20
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    "Wouldn't" is the contitional form and "won't" indicates intention. By using "wouldn't" the speaker is saying that, in no hypothetical situation, would they call her a tomboy. They then go on to say, using "won't", that they refuse to say that she is a tomboy in the current situation. The implication is that, no matter how much Emilia provokes them and insists on being called a tomboy at the present time the speaker will not do so. – BoldBen Jul 27 at 12:07
  • I suppose the implied context of the expression "I wouldn't call you a..." is "If someone asked me to describe you..." In this case, the speaker goes on to promise never to call Emilia a tomboy. – Kate Bunting Jul 27 at 12:08
  • Thank you. you guys are very helpful.~~ but the exact meaning of "would&wouldn't" is still confusing. Thanks. – Minandmin Jul 27 at 13:30
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"I wouldn't call you a tomboy" is a polite/gentle way of saying "I disagree with your assessment that you are a tomboy."

The implied sense is "If somebody asked me to describe you, I wouldn't call you a tomboy"<—"I could be wrong, and you are of course the ultimate arbiter of who and what you are, but what I know of you would lead me to describe you to somebody who asked me as something other than a tomboy."

In English, such conditional verbs are often a marker of politeness/consideration.

"And I won't" is a very subtle meta-linguistic joke, based on a purposeful misunderstanding of the implied premise of "if somebody asked me to describe you" as replaced by "if I had the opportunity to call you a tomboy right now." "If I had the opportunity to call you a tomboy right now, I wouldn't call you a tomboy. And I do have the opportunity to call you a tomboy, so I won't call you a tomboy."

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  • Maybe your answer simplifies to "I have no reason to label you as something you are not." – Yosef Baskin Jul 27 at 13:15

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