Questener: my friend says that it's also correct to say "I'm going to a cinema", then what's the difference with "I'm going to the cinema"?

Answer: it really depends on what the speaker means. If you're speaking of a cinema that's already been mentioned or is clear from the context in some way, or if there is only one cinema in town, then "the" WOULD be the correct form.

Here why is the clause "if there is only one cinema in town" in the present tense if this sentence is conditional type 2? Why not "if there were only one cinema in town"? I also wonder what the function of "would" is here? The speaker mixs tense, therefore I'm a bit confused by the use of "would" also here.

  • The modal would here expresses certainty. – P. E. Dant Aug 2 '17 at 8:26

"Were" subjunctive is possible in such a clause, but not required. Use the "were" subjunctive is rather rare in modern English.

The presence of a cinema is a constant fact, and so uses the simple present.

On the other hand, "would" is used to indicate conditionality: "I would go shopping, if it stops raining". It doesn't indicate tense. To quote wiktionary

would: Used as the auxiliary of the simple conditional modality (with a bare infinitive); indicating an action or state that is conditional on another.

In your sentence, the clause headed by "if" expresses the condition "If there is one cinema" and the dependent clause uses would: "then 'the' would be correct".

  • Thanks. But the sentence above is also conditional "if there is only one cinema in town, then "the" would be correct form". I'm confused. So, does "would" here show politeness or conditionality or tentativeness? – whitekrystal Aug 2 '17 at 8:12

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