Hi everyone; it’s comedy grammar time!
But first: I’m giving a four-week writing course for women starting Tuesday, Feb. 16th, in Jerusalem, and running four consecutive Tuesdays from 10:30 am until 12:30 pm. We’re going to be covering the following topics: writing techniques, developing your own unique voice, how to make your writing a priority without it being at the expense of your family, polishing your product, tips for the writing life, and common grammar challenges. Each session will also have a hands-on component to enable you to put what you’ve learned into immediate practice.
Anyone who is interested (and can get to Jerusalem :)) should call Temech (the Jerusalem Businesswoman’s Network) at 02-538-8665, ext. 0. Tell them you’re calling for JWWS/Writers’ Courses) and want to register for Deena Nataf’s course.
Okay, on to the post…
The Willies and the Wouldies
I like to tailor my posts to my audience. One of my favorite readers (I say that about all of you and I actually mean it) asked me recently: “When do you use will vs. would?” I thought this would make an excellent post, so I will dive right in without further ado.
Figuring out the difference between “will” and “would” might sound like a simple exercise, but if you go a little deeper, you will discover that there are a lot of nuances of meaning within each word. Getting it right in your prose or poetry will help your readers better understand what you’re trying to say.
In a nutshell, “will” is used for future, definite events, both conditional and unconditional, while “would” is used for expressing a conditional plan or action that is also indefinite, imagined, or theoretical. It is also the past tense of will (more about that below).
Here’s the rule in a graphic:
Now let’s look at some examples:
- If Henry breaks his curfew, I will take his driver’s license away.
- She will not take no for an answer unless you pay her a hundred bucks.
- If my mother’s nose is not stuffed tomorrow, she will smell the roses.
- Unless my mother’s nose is stuffed tomorrow, she will smell the roses.
- If my date stands me up, I will have waited in front of the movie theater in vain.
- I will take Henry’s driver’s license away when he gets home.
- She will not take no for an answer.
- My mother will remember to smell the roses.
- At two o’clock, I will have been at the doctor’s office two hours.
- You will have to leave at two-fifteen regardless of whether the doctor has seen you.
- She will have left the house by now.
- Perhaps Lauren’s mom will give you a ride. (In other words, if she agrees, she will definitely do it.)
- Will you take my books back to the library?
conditional (plus indefinite, imagined, or theoretical):
- She assumed that she would fail the test and therefore would have to take it over in the fall.
- If she would just put her mind to it, she would pass the test.
- If she had put her mind to it, she would have passed the test.
- If my grandmother had wheels, she’d be a trolley car.
- If I had a dollar for every person who told me I have a limp, I would be a millionaire.
- If I had a dollar for every person who told me I have a limp, I’d be a millionaire.
- I thought I would die when she told everyone I was divorced.
- If he would only call me, I’d be the happiest girl in the world.
- It would be difficult to hike in all that mud.
- I would assume that it would be difficult to hike in all that mud.
past tense of will (which means that, like will, it is definite):
- Every time he would go to the beach, he would buy himself an ice cream.
- When my boss got mad, she would go into a temper tantrum.
- Yesterday morning the washing machine wouldn’t drain, the kids wouldn’t wake up, and the car wouldn’t start.
- Tony said he would finish copying my notes by nine o’clock. (Past tense, but discussing something that was supposed to happen in the future.)
- Perhaps Lauren’s mom would give you a ride. (We don’t know whether Lauren’s mom will agree to give you a ride if you asked her, but it’s worth a try.)
- Would you take my books back to the library?
What say you?
I hope you’re convinced that there’s more to these “easy” words than you might have once thought. Thankfully, there are easy hacks to remember when and how to use these elements in your writing.
Every little rule, every little hack, counts. Put them all together, and you will become the writer you want to be. You’ll be light years ahead of everyone else, because your writing will make more sense, be more precise, and stand out among all the other offerings we see so frequently on the Internet, in magazines, and on bookshelves.
Let me know what other grammar issues you have, and what you’d like to see covered on my blog posts.