Would that you had seen an omen,’ the Clan Leader muttered, rising.

Pran Chole also straightened. ‘Would that I had,’ he agreed in a tone that only faintly echoed Cannig Tol’s wry, sardonic utterance.

I recently came across this dialogue while reading a novel and am having trouble understanding its meaning.

  • Mostly what it means is the speaker is a character in a play, historical novel, fantasy, or similar. It's incredibly unlikely in normal conversation today, so please don't learn it with a view to repeating it! – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 25 '19 at 16:20

This construction is quite unusual. In my experience, its usage is very limited and rare, so it's not surprising you found it hard to understand.

Some other phrases with very similar meanings:

"If only I had"


[I] wish I had"


"it is regrettable that I hadn't".

So the clan leader is saying they wished that Pran Chole had seen an omen. And then Pran Chole agrees, he wishes he had seen an omen.

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Ben is incorrect. It would be something like this:

“Had you seen a good omen, You would have done [some thing is being previously referenced]”

Chloe affirms: “i would have, had I seen one”

Implying that there wasn’t a good omen, so nothing was done.

“Would that I had” simply means “I would have [done a thing] if only I had [seen or done something]

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  • 3
    Ben asked the question, but didn't give an answer. And, in fact, Wilson's answer is correct. "Would" can be used this way without there actually being any action either previously referenced or even possible to take. – Nathan Tuggy Nov 7 '18 at 0:05

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