Speaking of Which – The Woulds Are Not Lovely

12 Oct,2012

By Vidya Heble


Perhaps afraid of committing themselves with a “will”, or wanting to sound polite and ineffable, more and more people are using “would” in the wrong place. It is reminiscent of the backlash against “me”, which resulted in everyone saying “I” even when “me” was the correct word. That wave has begun to recede, fortunately, but there’s a new one upon us. It’s the tsunami of the “would”.


I see it in at least one press release every other day, and I kid you not. There’s an announcement of someone’s impending appointment or a product launch or an event, and we are told, “So-and-so would take charge on Monday.” “The gadget would be priced at Rs x.” It should be obvious to the reader that “will” is the right word to use in these instances. So why don’t they say “will”? (Or are they secretly telling us that So-and-so would take charge on Monday if he could shake off the massive hangover he’s bound to get after the Sunday party? And that the gadget would be priced at Rs x if the marketers felt generous, but instead they are selling it at Rs x++, suckers?)


I can only imagine that it is some sort of desire to sound fancy – that is what drives most of the drivel these days.  But being wrong is not fancy at all, and the sooner the would-wielders learn it, the better.


“Would” is, of course, used by news writers when quoting someone in indirect speech, ie without inverted commas. For example: The announcement would revolutionize the industry, he said. “The announcement will revolutionize the industry,” he said. When “would” is used in the context of a future event, it indicates a condition attached to it – ie, “I would if I could”. It is also a super-polite way to say “will”, but not quite in Press Release Land: “Mr Tochuka Sui would be happy to attend.”


There are many other legitimate uses of “would”, and who better than the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/grammar/learnit/learnitv43.shtml)  and the British Council (http://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar/verbs/modal-verbs/will-or-would) to explain them?


I would hit the sack now if I could, but there are miles to go before I sleep.


Vidya Heble is Deputy Editor at MxMIndia, when she is not twitching obsessive-compulsively.


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