0

I am aware that in conditional sentences "if" and "would" do not go together, but I came across a sentence I am baffled by. Here it goes in context:

Although we might disappear one day our legacy can live on if anyone would think to find it.

What does "if anyone would think" mean? Does this mean that the writer politely wants someone to find it?

4
  • It is trying to be: if anyone were to think of looking for it. So, it's one of those no-nos. So many people can't write for beans these days. It's because they don't read. And because they just don't know the grammar. Sorry, not worth making this into a formal answer.
    – Lambie
    Oct 10, 2017 at 22:26
  • I dont know the syntactic terms, but can + would is inconsistent. It should be either can+will or could+would. The difference is that can+will implies the thing can be done now, but could+would implies there is some qualifying condition that must be met, its more hypothetical. Oct 10, 2017 at 23:51
  • 1
    "If you would" is not uncommon in polite requests. I'm not sure why you might have been taught they don't go together. "If you would, please get me that jar from the top shelf?"
    – Andrew
    Oct 11, 2017 at 1:56
  • This is informative: english.stackexchange.com/questions/56876/…
    – Maulik V
    Oct 13, 2017 at 5:46

1 Answer 1

1

Although we might disappear one day our legacy can live on if anyone would think to find it.

The sentence is poorly written.

I believe that "would" here is meant to cast doubt on the likelihood of anyone finding it. It is a slightly different usage of "would" from that found in conditional result clauses. It brings to mind phrases such as "I doubt that anyone would think to find it" or "I don't think anyone would think to find it". I agree with Lambie that the writer might better have expressed this as "if anyone were to think to look for it".

I also think Max Pleaner is right to cast doubt on the grammaticality of this sentence. The use of "can" (indicating a definite possibility and present or future potentiality) alongside "would think" (indicating hypotheticality and in this context improbability) is awkward at best.

The writer should really have written either

Although we might disappear one day our legacy can live on if anyone thinks to find it

or

Although we might disappear one day our legacy could live on if anyone thought to find it or were to think to find it or would think to find it

"Look for it" would, of course, make more sense than "find it", although the writer is perhaps trying to convey that the legacy is very easy to find if only someone thinks to look.

You must log in to answer this question.

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