I want to know the meaning of "Why would anybody want" what does would mean here does it mean " Why did anybody want" ? if the question is about the guy who's chasing them why the woman used anybody instead of this guy ?

Context: A woman and a man are chased by a another man inside a house,(This man set traps inside the house.)They're trying to get out without him seeing them, They enter enter a room, the woman finds a machine that makes air cool Turned On she says: "I don't get it.. why would anybody want to make this place any cooler? it's freezing" and the man with her responds : "God only knows what goes on inside this guy's head."

1 Answer 1


The Cambridge Dictionary gives a meaning of "would": "used after 'why' when giving or asking the reason for something". I'll use an example it provides in order to explain why this writer uses "would" instead of "did".

Why would anyone want to eat something so horrible?

This is more of a general statement; the speaker is not necessarily asking why a specific person did want to but why anybody might want to, at any point in time (past, present, or future). It is this general, all-encompassing meaning of "would" that serves as the backdrop for your speaker's question. The speaker doesn't understand this man's motivation for what he did in his specific circumstance--but then she doesn't understand anyone's motivation for doing the same thing, in any circumstance.

Not that she's necessarily thinking all that. It's just how we've learned to use the word.

  • what if we change anybody with somebody ? would that be general statement as well ? I learned to understand "Why would someone do this?" As "What motivated someone to do this" is that wrong ?
    – Nameless
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 3:09
  • It will still be a general statement, yes. "Why would someone do this?" and "What motivated someone to do this?" are somewhat different. They both ask for motivation, but the former asks "why" rather more nebulously, while the latter asks "why" the way a detective asks "why". The former asks "why" vaguely, not necessarily expecting a concrete answer, but the latter asks "why" rationally, expecting some thought to go into the answer.
    – Jonathan Spirit
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 3:13
  • By the way, when you want to respond to someone's answer, please use "Add Comment".
    – Jonathan Spirit
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 3:14
  • Sorry, but the question is about the past motivation whether it is why would someone do this or what motivated someone to do this , then it isn't a general statement because we're asking about someone's past motivation not at any time right ?
    – Nameless
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 3:24
  • It's a vague, general statement because you used the word "would". If you wanted to ask specifically about a certain someone's past motivation, you might use your second question, or something else concrete. But you wouldn't use the first one.
    – Jonathan Spirit
    Commented Sep 2, 2017 at 3:35

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