from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • auxiliary v. Used to express desire or intent: She said she would meet us at the corner.
  • auxiliary v. Used to express a wish: Would that we had gone with you!
  • auxiliary v. Used after a statement of desire, request, or advice: I wish you would stay.
  • auxiliary v. Used to make a polite request: Would you go with me?
  • auxiliary v. Used in the main clause of a conditional statement to express a possibility or likelihood: If I had enough money, I would buy a car. We would have gone to the beach, had the weather been good. See Usage Note at if.
  • auxiliary v. Used to express presumption or expectation: That would be Steve at the door.
  • auxiliary v. Used to indicate uncertainty: He would seem to be getting better.
  • auxiliary v. Used to express repeated or habitual action in the past: Every morning we would walk in the garden.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. As a past-tense form of will.
  • v. As a modal verb, the subjunctive of will.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. See 2d weld.
  • Commonly used as an auxiliary verb, either in the past tense or in the conditional or optative present. See 2d & 3d will.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Preterit and past subjunctive of will.


Sorry, no etymologies found.



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  • As I was browsing the Interwebs yesterday, I came across a list of advice to young people. It was titled "What I Wish I Would Have Known", and every item on the list began with "I wish I would have known that..."

    After I stopped banging my head against my keyboard, something occurred to me. The reason why this phrasing bothers me so much is that it combines two different indicators of the subjunctive mood: "I wish that I had" and "I would have", which is redundant. You don't need the extra indicator. You can just say "I wish I had known", and that's enough to establish the subjunctive. So, why do so many people feel the need to add "would have"?

    Well, maybe it's a similar phenomenon to the double negative. As I mentioned in another thread, many languages, and some dialects of English, use double negatives as negatives. ("I ain't no fool", for example.) The double negatives don't cancel each other out, and they aren't considered to be redundant. They just emphasize the negativity of the statement.

    By analogy, if "I ain't no fool" is a double negative, then maybe "I wish I would have known..." is a "double subjunctive"? Maybe it's not redundant... maybe the second subjunctive is for emphasis?

    I don't know. It's an interesting theory to think about, though.

    July 11, 2013