2

I am aware that in hypothetical situations one should use "would" instead of "will".
But I came across this text:

The World Bank report addresses a particular worry of Russian authorities: that unemployment will translate into civil unrest.
- from the article "World Bank Sees Slump in Russia Worsening" -

As far as I understand this is just hypothetical forecast, so my guess is that "would" should have been used. But it is not the case. Is this done to emphasis that forecasting is very likely to happen?

  • 3
    I won't eat that mushroom you picked. I'm worried that it will make me ill. That is hardly a "hypothetical". Rather it is a real concern about a real possibility. The possible and the hypothetical are not synonymous. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 10 '17 at 22:38
  • If you go, you will see him. If you went, you would see him. The World Bank thing though is not a hypothetical. It is a sure thing but future. – Lambie May 10 '17 at 23:36
4

The future is always hypothetical. Whenever you use will, you are talking about someone's expectation, plan, hope, or fear.

If the concern is still current, if the authorities are worried today, use will.

  • Thanks for your reply. Does it mean that 'will' can always be used instead of 'would". For instance in this case: I would come - I will come. – Vardan Hovhannisyan May 10 '17 at 21:01
  • @VardanHovhannisyan - No, they're not completely interchangeable. But if the context of the sentence makes it clear that the situation is hypothetical, then you can use will. The original article isn't just saying "unemployment will definitely translate into unrest", it's saying that the authorities are afraid that this is going to happen. – stangdon May 10 '17 at 21:21
  • @VardanHovhannisyan -- always use "would" for a counterfactual: "If I were a dog, I would come when called." If you are talking about something that might happen, use "will": "If you ask me nicely, I will come." "Would" is also used an imperfect when the action is periodic or in response to something: "When she called me, I would come" or "Every Tuesday, I would come home." – Malvolio May 11 '17 at 18:06
1

As @Tᴚoɯɐuo has noted, possibility and hypothesis are not synonymous.

A hypothesis does indeed connote a possibility, but that's not to say the two concepts are the same.

What's more, if you're learning English, I'm guessing you are referring to hypotheses as the antecedents of conditional sentences.

Take Lambie's minimal examples: "If you go..." / "If you went..."

Those two are hypotheses.

First one signifies a "hypothetical (but entirely possible) future event".

Second one signifies a hypothetical condition that is "presented as unlikely".
(For some reason, you believe that the person you are addressing will most probably not go.)

Hypotheses of the first kind are often (but not always) followed by consequents containing the modal verb will.

Consult Wikipedia's article on conditional sentences for further information.

Likewise, hypotheses of the second kind are often followed by consequents containing the modal verb would.


Having said all this, you must take note of the fact that both will and would are frequently encountered outside conditional sentences, which is the case in the example you have provided:

The World Bank report addresses a particular worry of Russian authorities: that unemployment will translate into civil unrest.

There is no hypothesis here. Merely a prediction. Unemployment is a fact. And Russian authorities are simply predicting what consequences it will have.

Compare:

Unemployment is going to translate into civil unrest.

(This is still a prediction, made, however, with much more certainty: We are doomed...)

If unemployment exceeded 40%, it would translate into civil unrest.

(This is a prediction of what will happen if a certain condition is fullfilled. That condition, however, seems unlikely to be fullfilled.)

  • I think you are complicating the situation. "Would" is used for counterfactuals, past or future. "If Hillary had been elected, unemployment would have gone up [but she wasn't]." "If Trump governed well, unemployment would go down [but he won't]." – Malvolio May 11 '17 at 18:10

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.