1) She would go to the graduation ceremony if she had not broken her leg last week.

2) She would be going to the graduation ceremony if she had not broken her leg last week.

What is the difference in meaning ?

  • 2
    It's a matter of nuance. In practice (1) is probably less likely, but to my ear it carries stronger allusions to volition, intention (she wanted to go, but can't). (2) is more neutral on that point, and could feasibly be used even in contexts where she never wanted to go anyway (she might even think the broken leg was a lucky break, since it got her out of having to go). Jun 6 '17 at 15:29

As is usually the case, the progressive places emphasis on the unfolding action. The practical implications of that fact might become clearer if we talk about what situations might call for the progressive over the simple present.

Let's say we are students lined up to enter the hall where our graduation ceremony will take place in a few minutes. Our friend is not here because she has broken her leg. Which tense are we likely to choose?

She would be going to graduation if she hadn't broken her leg.

Now, by way of contrast, let's say that we are students discussing the graduation ceremony which is to take place several weeks from now. If is very doubtful that our friend will be there with us because she has just broken her leg quite badly. We know that she would like to attend but the nature of the injury was severe and she won't be ambulatory for quite a long time.

She would go to graduation if she hadn't broken her leg so badly.

Would go places emphasis on the prospective aspect.

P.S. Please note that I say "are we likely to choose". Both of these forms are grammatical. The speaker could frame the statement in either way, reflecting their thought and perspective at that moment.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .