I wouldn't want you to do that
I didn't want you to do that

We use "would not" to talk about repeated past actions that are not true in the present, and "did not" for actions completed in the past.

If both sentences are about the past, what is the difference in meaning between them? I'm quite confused.

  • 2
    "I wouldn't want you to do that" is not past tense, it's just conditional.
    – Neil
    Dec 21, 2017 at 14:11
  • Assuming the first one is the apodosis of a conditional construction, then it is future. The second is straightforwardly past.
    – BillJ
    Dec 21, 2017 at 17:31
  • To be more clear, the first one is most likely future embedded in past narrative. I suggest you include the context because as @Neil wrote, it could also be conditional. Dec 22, 2017 at 1:37
  • Cam you please state an example I can understand.
    – fusion
    Dec 22, 2017 at 13:12

1 Answer 1


I didn't want you to do that

Whatever "that" is, it's done. That's why you are saying did instead of do. This is an expression of regret.

I wouldn't want you to do that

Whatever "that" is, it's not done yet. This is trying to tell someone not to do something.

This can have a "conditional" meaning, and that means there's an if X or because X somewhere that applies to this, either mentioned previously or assumed by the listener.

This can also be a polite or "softer" version of "I don't want you to do that."

This can also be "will in the past" - and basically be a "past tense" form of "I will not want you to do that" referring to something already done - this could be used if a person A did something, thinking someone else B wanted him/her to do it, but A did not want that to be done.

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