The questionThe first question employing the word ‘could’ is an inquiry about the possibility of something happening. In it reposes doubt that the post’s writer has the right answer. By simply replying ‘yes’, the writer would have answered the question, but would that satisfy the curiosity of the questioner? No. On the other hand, the question featuring the word ‘would’ is a polite request for a definite answer. Were the word ‘will’ to be used in the place of ‘would’, the question would cease to be a polite request and assume the tone of a command.
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In motionThe word ‘would’ should be used with action verbs; walk, jump, run, dance etcetera. It should not be used with stative verbs that describe situations (I have, he has) and the state of being (I am, she is). Stative verbs are not action verbs and do not assume the progressive form. That is, they are not normally in motion, which is what the addition of the letters ‘ing’ does some verbs. The verb ‘walk’ can be depicted in motion by adding ‘ing’ to it to get the word ‘walking’. To do so with the word ‘have’ would be ungrammatical. Thus, one cannot write ‘Beware, John is having a knife in his trousers pocket”. The grammatical way to write is; “Beware, John has a knife in his trousers pocket”. Whenever one volunteers an opinion that is not entirely factual, the appropriate word to use is ‘would’. For example, “I would imagine that being an assistant to a powerful politician is glamorous”. In summary, the word would is used in the following contexts: When stating one’s preference (I would prefer to see the doctor in private); when asking for permission (would it be okay if I leave now?) ; in imagination (If I was an MP, I would sponsor all disabled children in my constituency to secondary school); to show the past(When I was a child, I would run around stark naked for we were dirt poor); to depict arrangement (Would 1300 hrs on Friday be okay with you?); for invitations (Would you like to accompany me to the party later in the day?)
Mr Chagema is a correspondent for The [email protected]