2
   

WOULD in if-clauses

 
 
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 09:51 am
Would you please be so kind as to explain when or in which cases you use "would" in an if-clause?

Also, would you please give me a few examples?

When I was in high school, we used to study Business English. One of the most recurring sentences was this one:

We would be grateful if you could/would send us your latest catalogue and price list.

Thank you.
  • Topic Stats
  • Top Replies
  • Link to this Topic
Type: Question • Score: 2 • Views: 697 • Replies: 30

 
centrox
 
  3  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 10:17 am
Would and could are equally correct in sentences like your example. These are examples of formal, polite ways of making a request, e.g. in a business letter.


layman
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 10:36 am
@centrox,
Could? Really? Not round these here parts.

"We could be grateful if you could/would send us your latest catalogue and price list."

Well, I get it, maybe...we could be, possibly, but not likely, but if you also send me some money to rent a ho with, the I WOULD be grateful, sho nuff.

Glennn
 
  0  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 11:46 am
@paok1970,
Do not use the word could. You are not asking them whether or not they are able to send you their latest catalogue. You're asking them whether or not they are willing to send it to you.
paok1970
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 11:52 am
@centrox,
I've just found this in Practical English Usage by Micheal Swan:

https://i.imgur.com/zAhMf0j.jpg

My question are these:

Would it be equally correct to write the above sentences in the following way? If so, would they retain the same meaning as the original ones?

>It would be good if we got some rain.

>How would we feel if this happened to your family?

Again, many, many thanks for your kind help.
centrox
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 01:12 pm
@Glennn,
Glennn wrote:

Do not use the word could. You are not asking them whether or not they are able to send you their latest catalogue. You're asking them whether or not they are willing to send it to you.


In formal British English business letters, we ask an indirect question, or make an indirect statement when we ask someone to do something. The objective is, for politeness, to distance oneself from saying "Send me a catalogue!". There are various formulations involving 'would', 'would be able to' and 'could'.

I wonder if/would be grateful if...

you would send/would be so kind/helpful as to send/would be able to send/could send/might perhaps see your way to sending...

me a catalogue. Very long formulations like the last are frowned upon these days, and may only used when an element of sarcasm is desired (like if you asked already). So 'would' or 'could' would work equally well in Britain.
centrox
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 01:16 pm
@paok1970,
paok1970 wrote:
https://i.imgur.com/zAhMf0j.jpg

Would it be equally correct to write the above sentences in the following way? If so, would they retain the same meaning as the original ones?

>It would be good if we got some rain.
>How would we feel if this happened to your family?

If you re-wrote them as you suggest, you would be transforming them from American to British style.
0 Replies
 
centrox
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 01:35 pm
@centrox,
centrox wrote:
In formal British English business letters, we ask an indirect question, or make an indirect statement when we ask someone to do something. The objective is, for politeness, to distance oneself from saying "Send me a catalogue!". There are various formulations involving 'would', 'would be able to' and 'could'.

Like in Italian business letters you use burocratese. If you want to e.g. book an hotel, you use conditionals: vorrei prenotare (I would like to book), vorrei sapere se (I would like to know if), etc.
0 Replies
 
Glennn
 
  2  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 03:09 pm
@centrox,
Quote:
The objective is, for politeness, to distance oneself from saying "Send me a catalogue!".

We would be grateful if you could/would send us your latest catalogue and price list.

To break it down, politeness was never in question since the sentence opens with an expression of gratitude. And using the word 'would' does not detract from intended politeness. Also, in the context of the OP's question, the recipient of the letter is being asked if he is willing to send the catalog, and not whether or not he is able to send it. Such is the difference between 'would' and 'could'.
centrox
 
  2  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 03:23 pm
@Glennn,
Glennn wrote:
in the context of the OP's question, the recipient of the letter is being asked if he is willing to send the catalog, and not whether or not he is able to send it.

Nope. The recipient is being asked, using a polite formula, to send the catalog/catalogue. The writer does not know or care whether the recipient is willing or able to send the catalogue. The writer just wants the goddam catalog. Also, are you doubting my statement that would or could are equally acceptable in British business English?
camlok
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 03:32 pm
@centrox,
Glennn wrote:
in the context of the OP's question, the recipient of the letter is being asked if he is willing to send the catalog, and not whether or not he is able to send it.

Quote:
Centrox: Nope. The recipient is being asked, using a polite formula, to send the catalog/catalogue. The writer does not know or care whether the recipient is willing or able to send the catalogue. The writer just wants the goddam catalog. Also, are you doubting my statement that would or could are equally acceptable in British business English?


Methinks, and I might be wrong, is that your differences are none at all. I think there is confusion as to what can/could be used in the first instance, where the first 'would' sits, the underlined 'would'.

Layman raised this too.

We would be grateful if you could/would send us your latest catalogue and price list.
0 Replies
 
Glennn
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 03:35 pm
@centrox,
Quote:
are you doubting my statement that would or could are equally acceptable in British business English?

No. But according to word definitions, asking someone if they 'could' do something is asking them if they at capable of doing that something, whereas asking someone if they 'would' do something is asking them if they will do something. Is there a difference between English definitions and American definitions concerning those two words?
Quote:
The writer does not know or care whether the recipient is willing or able to send the catalogue.

Of course he does. That's the reason for the letter in the first place; he wants to know. Since there is no question as to whether or not the recipient of the letter has catalogs to send, and the mails are dependable, asking him if he could is meaningless.
camlok
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 03:42 pm
@Glennn,
Are you gentlemen arguing about the placement of 'could' in position 1, 2 or both?

We 1. would/could be grateful if you 2. could/would send us your latest catalogue and price list.
0 Replies
 
centrox
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 03:45 pm
Like I said, it's a polite formula. That is, the words are used to wrap up the true intended meaning. This is something that autistic people often get confused by. The writer says "I wonder if you could send me a catalogue." The writer is emphatically not expressing any curiosity whatsoever about the recipient's ability to send a catalogue, or anything else. This is fully understood by both side.

BUSINESS ENGLISH VOCABULARY (On a British-oriented site)

Writing Business Letters

Useful phrases and vocabulary for writing business letters.

Making a request

• We would appreciate it if you would ...
• I would be grateful if you could ...
• Could you please send me ...
• Could you possibly tell us / let us have ...
• In addition, I would like to receive ...
• It would be helpful if you could send us ...
• I am interested in (obtaining / receiving) ...
• I would appreciate your immediate attention to this matter.
• Please let me know what action you propose to take.
Glennn
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 03:52 pm
@centrox,
Quote:
The writer is emphatically not expressing any curiosity whatsoever about the recipient's ability to send a catalogue, or anything else. This is fully understood by both side.

Exactly! The writer understands that there is no question as to the recipient's ability to send a catalog. That's why he needn't ask the recipient whether or not he can or could send the catalog. And that's why the word 'would' is more appropriate.
0 Replies
 
camlok
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 03:56 pm
@centrox,
Quote:
Like I said, it's a polite formula.


That is very true of English for polite requests, the wordier it is the more polite/gracious it becomes. Putting it into the past tense FORM makes it even more polite/gracious.

I was wondering if you would/might consider ... .

The connection to past tense - "was wondering" has no connection to actual time, the speaker isn't saying they wondered/were wondering about this in the past, ie. it isn't a time issue, it is merely an expression denoting a degree of subservience to enhance politeness.
0 Replies
 
camlok
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 04:15 pm
@layman,
Quote:
Could? Really? Not round these here parts.

1. "We could be grateful if you could/would send us your latest catalogue and price list."


No one is suggesting that an initial modal verb could, in bold, [epistemic/level of certainty meaning] be written as 'could' to effect a meaning of politeness/deontic meaning.

It is grammatically possible to write/use/say that as in 1. but the meaning obviously changes. That comes from the meaning of the word 'could' in that position holding an epistemic/level of certainty modal meaning rather than it having a deontic/social modal meaning.

0 Replies
 
Glennn
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 04:16 pm
@centrox,
I concede the point that both are used for the same purpose. My beef is that politeness should not determine definitions. Asking whether or not someone could do something is like asking them whether or not they can do something. Asking someone whether or not they would do something is like asking them whether or not they will do something. But your point is taken.
camlok
 
  0  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 05:59 pm
@Glennn,
Quote:
I concede the point that both are used for the same purpose. Asking whether or not someone could do something is like asking them whether or not they can do something.


Glennn, you may well be following the admonitions of an old false "grammar rule" about the meaning 'can', ie. can means ability, which led to the old schoolmarm admonition regarding 'may/can'.

Student: Can I go to the bathroom?
Teacher: You can but you may not.

The student's 'can' is not referencing their physical ability to go to the bathroom, it's a meaning of permission and it flows from the epistemic/level of certainty meaning of 'can' described in c - "used to indicate possibility". And further described in M-W 2 : have permission to.

The student's request is not, "Do I have the ability to go to the bathroom?". That 'can' can be paraphrased by "Is it possible for me to go to the bathroom?"

-----------------
M-W:
can
1.
a : know how to She can read.
b : be physically or mentally able to He can lift 200 pounds.
c —used to indicate possibility Do you think he can still be alive?Those things can happen. —sometimes used interchangeably with may
d : be permitted by conscience or feeling to can hardly blame her
e : be made possible or probable by circumstances to he can hardly have meant that
f : be inherently able or designed to everything that money can buy
g : be logically or axiologically able to 2 + 2 can also be written 3 + 1.
h : be enabled by law, agreement, or custom to Congress can declare war.
2 : have permission to —used interchangeably with may You can go now if you like.
-------------------

Quote:
My beef is that politeness should not determine definitions.


Politeness/softness is definitely determined by the meanings that English modal verbs have come to hold.

In English the modal/semi-modal verbs have two major uses, one, as epistemic/level of certainty auxiliary verbs,

Examples: He might go/She may be pregnant/They must have heard/You should have known/

and, two, as deontic/politeness/social auxiliary or modal verbs.

Examples: Might I have a drink?/You may use my computer/Can I borrow you bike?/...

The epistemic/level of certainty meanings are primary and from those meanings flow the deontic/politeness meanings.

'can' and 'could' share an identical epistemic range of the M-W meaning described in c, "used to indicate possibility" but 'could' gains more deference/politeness from its place as the historical past tense of 'can'.

Both of the 'can' and 'could' meanings can be made to illustrate less certainty or greater certainty by the use of intonation or the addition of adverbs.

He cooooould be there. XHe cannnnnn be there.X

He certainly could be there. He certainly can be there.

Glennn: The writer understands that there is no question as to the recipient's ability to send a catalog. That's why he needn't ask the recipient whether or not he can or could send the catalog.

We would be grateful if you could send us your latest catalogue and price list.

This 'could' above, in the original sentence, marked in red, does not ask about 'ability', it is solely a deontic/politeness/social meaning that asks "is it possible for you to ... ?"




0 Replies
 
centrox
 
  1  
Reply Sat 20 Jan, 2018 06:06 pm
@Glennn,
Glennn wrote:
My beef is that politeness should not determine definitions.

OK. You made me do this (for which I thank you). I'll bring my own personal feelings about this kind of thing in here. You are absolutely right. It defies logic, and even common sense, to write stuff like that in business communications. I wonder if you could. I'd be grateful if you would. Etc. It is obsolete. I work in UK government finance. We have a thing called the "Plain English Campaign". Adoption of it has a long way to go! Put briefly, say what you mean. use short sentences. Use a readable typeface (12pt Arial). The idea is to avoid all those extra words that don't add anything, that just take up time typing them, that put a distance between the writer and the reader, and (in my own opinion) lead, by a fairly short path, to the realm of "corporate bullshit" where people just fill up pages of stuff they they don't even believe themselves.

There. I said it.
 

Related Topics

 
  1. Forums
  2. » WOULD in if-clauses
Copyright © 2019 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.05 seconds on 04/19/2019 at 11:50:12