I've heard a lot about conditional grammar and how the word 'would' plays a role in those structures, but sometimes I run into this word out of conditional structures. For example :

A: I told her a lie about my family.
B: Why would you lie about that?

I'm confused in understanding such usage of "would".
Could you explain to me what kind of structure this is ?

  • +1 for the context you found, a conditional that talks (asks in present) about a past event. I have never seen it in any grammar book. Nevertheless, many people would say you should have used past conditional, that is, why would you have lied about that, as the lie was told in the past. Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 9:31
  • A similar question being discussed here: Why would she do this? Have a look.
    – tum_
    Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 10:07
  • 2
    It's the same as asking, "Why would anyone lie about their family?" Past conditionals of that kind denote something done on a general, past-present-and-future basis.
    – Ricky
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 19:10

1 Answer 1


"Would" is a modal auxiliary with multiple uses. It is also the past form of 'will'. Broadly speaking, we use "Would" to talk about the past, the future in the past and conditions real or hypothetical in all the tenses.

The context of or association with the past event may way lay us to think about WOULD as past form of WILL and overlook other functions of WOULD.

'WOULD' is used to express desire/ desirability, politeness/polite request and question, opinion/hope, wish or request .

A: I told her a lie about my family.

B: why would you lie about that?

It is simply a polite question that reinforces what speaker B thinks desirable; she might not tell a lie. The question is highly opinionated.

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