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What's the difference between the following sentences?

  1. Would you give me some advice?

  2. Will you give me some advices?

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    What is the past future tense?
    – apaderno
    Feb 13, 2011 at 13:18
  • 1
    My textbook just tell me there are 16 kinds of tenses in English. see: louhau.edu.mo/www/discol/english/past/past_future_tense.htm
    – lovespring
    Feb 14, 2011 at 2:00
  • I am not mother-tongue, but I believe that an example of past future tense could be: "Next year, I shall send you a letter indicating where I shall have gone on holiday"
    – Sklivvz
    Apr 22, 2011 at 22:13
  • @Sklivvz Nope. What they mean by past future, I think, is the result of English sequence of tense for subordinate clauses. For instance, a main clause in the future “I will go to see the mayor” will become the following when used a subordinate clause in secondary sequence: “I said I would see the mayor”.
    – user3217
    Apr 23, 2011 at 16:55
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    @kiamlaluno, The future of the past.
    – Pacerier
    Nov 24, 2018 at 2:46

5 Answers 5

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Would can be either conditional or subjunctive, but it is often used (as your examples demonstrate) interchangeably with will.

Will is an inquiry after the consent of the respondent, whose inclinations comprise the sole issue at hand. "Will you give me some advice?" literally means it is up to "your" discretion either to give or withhold the advice.

"Would you give me some advice?" on the other hand implies some other conditions may affect your decision. Unstated but implied in this sentence may be some other information. Or there may be a contextual linkage or even a direct statement. I think of Dr. Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham:

Would you eat them in a box? Would you eat them with a fox?

The terms of the conditional are clearly set forth. The questioner is proffering various inducements to sweeten the deal for the recalcitrant hater of "Sam-I-Am".

In any case, asking either question in conversation will, in the vast majority of cases, be understood simply as a request for advice, without all the grammatical analysis.

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  • Does the "would" mean a past future tense? PS:Your logo means "dream" in CJK(Chinese/Japanese/Korean) :)
    – lovespring
    Jan 19, 2011 at 14:47
  • @lovespring: No, the "would" does not mean a "past future tense"; it can help in such constructions as "would have been" or "would have done" and so on. And yes, I'm aware what my avatar means. In Japanese it's yume, pronounced "yu-meh".
    – Robusto
    Jan 19, 2011 at 14:54
  • How could I different it from the past tense of "will"? because they two share the some form.
    – lovespring
    Jan 19, 2011 at 15:17
  • @lovespring: I'm not sure what you're asking me? Where are you having problems with differentiating the various uses of would?
    – Robusto
    Jan 20, 2011 at 18:50
  • Yes, How could i know the 'would' is used as an modal auxiliary or just the past tense form of the 'will'?
    – lovespring
    Jan 20, 2011 at 19:13
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Conventionally, would can be either the past simple or the past subjunctive of will. To put it very simply, it is best considered past simple if you are looking forward from a past perspective in a story. In that case, it is used in the middle of a narrative that is in the past tense. Both the narrative and would are then simply a description of the past; what would be will in a narrative in the present tense becomes would:

  • She said she would succeed. (In direct speech it would be: She said: "I will succeed".)

  • He knew they would find him eventually. (In direct speech it would be: He thought: "I know they will find me eventually".)

In most other cases, it is past subjunctive. This tense can be used in several ways, of which the conditional is the most frequent:

  • If he were rich, he would still be a bastard. (The conditional is used to express that "he will still be a bastard" is only true if the "if" condition is fulfilled.)

  • She would like some more tea. (Here there is some implied condition, such as "if you asked her", "if it were possible", "if she were permitted to speak", "if it weren't rude", etc.; that is why conditional past subjunctives are often used to express politeness.)

All the above generally applies equally to the other modal verbs, can, shall, and may.

If you say "will you give me some advice?", this is a perfectly fine and polite request, though perhaps a tiny bit old fashioned. It could theoretically be a question about the other person's desire, but context makes it clear that this is not what is intended.

"Would you give me some advice?" is an attempt at even greater politeness, because the conditional makes the request even more tentative, as explained above. Take your pick.

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Either would or will work, but you wouldn't change the noun:

Would you give me some advice?

and

Will you give me some advice?

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Is “would” the past future tense of “will” or just a modal verb?

Would is the past tense of will in sentences like

He said he would be away for a couple of days.
He wanted out, but she wouldn't leave.

The difference between Would you give me some advice? and Will you give me some advice? is that the first is considered a polite way to ask help, while the second (depending on the context) could be also understood as expressing desire, consent, or willingness.

Will you have a cognac?

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  • Your answer has "advice" yet in the edit you performed on the OP both sentences were changed to "advises" which is the 3rd person singular of the verb "to advise."
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 24, 2018 at 13:41
  • @Mari-LouA That was the automatic corrector I triggered by mistake.
    – apaderno
    Nov 24, 2018 at 13:48
  • So the grammarchecker or the spellchecker corrected something that was correct in the first place? I'm talking about the first sentence.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 24, 2018 at 13:51
  • Yes, I didn't notice that word was changed.
    – apaderno
    Nov 24, 2018 at 15:22
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Yes, How could i know the 'would' is used as an modal auxiliary or just the past tense form of the 'will'?

There is a very easy way to tell. Modal verbs have no tense. In modern English, all modal verbs are tenseless. There are no past tense forms or present tense forms. In older forms of English, modals did have tense, so we can accurately refer to modern modals as "historical past tense forms" or "historical present tense forms".

It's easy to prove this because no one can make a sentence in English where any one of the purported past tense modals acts as a real past tense.

Where modals seem like they are being used as a past tense, in reporting speech, they aren't really acting as past tense. They are simply being used the same as the past tense FORM of lexical verbs in a process called backshifting, to signal that the speech is not direct/quoted but rather it is indirect/reported.

The difference between "Would you give me some advice?" and "Will you give me some advice?" is only one of level of politeness/deference. As the historical past tense forms, in their epistemic [level of certainty] meanings show a greater sense of doubt/certainty, that same doubt/uncertainty carries over to modal deontic [social] meaning so they are considered more polite/more deferential/softer/less direct.

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    I don't know where you are getting these ideas. "I told him that I would meet him in the city on Tuesday." — This is a past tense usage of will. "I couldn't watch my favorite show yesterday." — This is a past tense usage of can.
    – Kosmonaut
    Apr 19, 2011 at 23:25
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    "They are simply being used the same as the past tense FORM of lexical verbs in a process called backshifting, to signal that the speech is not direct/quoted but rather it is indirect/reported." — Then why do we say I am telling her that he will never leave his wife? It is indirect speech, and yet I see "will", not "would". Transposing this sentence to the past may give "would": I was telling her that he would never leave his wife. Of course it turned out I was right. Apr 20, 2011 at 0:01

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