The storm raged more and more ferociously as the night went on. Harry couldn't sleep. He shivered and turned over, trying to get comfortable, his stomach rumbling with hunger. Dudley's snores were drowned by the low rolls of thunder that started near midnight. The lighted dial of Dudley's watch, which was dangling over the edge of the sofa on his fat wrist, told Harry he'd be eleven in ten minutes' time. He lay and watched his birthday tick nearer, wondering if the Dursleys would remember at all, wondering where the letter writer was now.
   Five minutes to go. Harry heard something creak outside. He hoped the roof wasn't going to fall in, although he might be warmer if it did. Four minutes to go. Maybe the house in Privet Drive would be so full of letters when they got back that he'd be able to steal one somehow.
   Three minutes to go. Was that the sea, slapping hard on the rock like that? And (two minutes to go) what was that funny crunching noise? Was the rock crumbling into the sea?    One minute to go and he'd be eleven. Thirty seconds. . . twenty. . . ten. . . nine –– maybe he'd wake Dudley up, just to annoy him –– three. . . two. . . one. . .
(Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone)

The modality would is very hard to guess what it means. Would you pick the right meaning in OALD?

  • I don't suppose you'd be willing to undelete this question, would you? I wrote up an answer and came back to find that the question was gone :-(
    – user230
    Sep 25, 2013 at 2:24
  • @snailboat, I'm regret you've made up an answer for it and found no place for it. It made some dispute over the rightness, so I deleted it. I'm undeleting it for your exquisite answer.
    – Listenever
    Sep 25, 2013 at 5:21

1 Answer 1


It's number 1.

1 used as the past form of will when reporting what somebody has said or thought
He said he would be here at eight o'clock (= His words were: ‘I will be there at eight o'clock.’).
She asked if I would help.
They told me that they probably wouldn't come.

In this case, Harry actually thought "Maybe I will wake Dudley up, just to annoy him," while considering whether that would be a good course of action.

In narrating what happened, will becomes would, just as the first example in OALD.

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