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I am a Spanish speaker. Recently I found the following sentence in linguee.com:

I had never been married and I was sure that I would never find anyone who would love and accept me, especially...

I also found the following one:

This amendment cannot be accepted as it would exclude from the Directive anyone who had taken a distance-learning course...

Now, in Spanish we would say the second sentence just as it is written here with "had taken" in subjuntive. Can someone explain why the first sentence uses the conditional "would love" instead of the past subjuntive "anyone who loved me" just like in the other sentence? Or why the second sentence is not written "anyone who would have written"?

What is the difference between them? They are both hypothetical, aren't they?

  • You will also hear native speakers saying as it would exclude anyone who took a distance-learning course. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 16 '18 at 17:34
  • That's perfectly valid in spanish too. What is not valid is the conditional. – user298966 May 16 '18 at 19:53
  • I was sure that I would (past tense of will) never find anyone. That is future-in-past. It is not a hypothetical. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 16 '18 at 20:02
  • What about "it would exclude", is that a future-in-past too or not? Is that the difference? – user298966 May 16 '18 at 21:05
  • In the sentence using it would exclude it is a conditional, not a future-in-past. The sentence can be understood as if accepted, the amendment would exclude ... would is used modally there – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 16 '18 at 22:13
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Short answer

The difference is the time frame during which an action occurs with respect to a hypothetical point in time.

Details

For purposes of explanation, let's define a reference point in time, then the time frame during which the expressions in question take place.

For the first case:

I had never been married and I was sure that I would never find anyone who would love and accept me, especially...

Reference point in time: the time of "having found someone", hypothetically

Time frame of phrase in question: "who would..." then refers to anytime in the future after that hypothetical reference point.

For the second case:

This amendment cannot be accepted as it would exclude from the Directive anyone who had taken a distance-learning course...

Reference point in time: the time "the amendment had excluded", hypothetically

Time frame of phrase in question: "who had taken..." then refers to anytime in the past before that hypothetical reference point.

  • What about this sentence that I heard the other day on tv: " I know you wouldn't have a staffer who wouldn't have resigned" Meaning If you were Trump you wouldn't keep someone in your staff who in that case wouldn't have (or had not) resigned. Why "wouldn't have" instead of "had not?" I'd say the reference point is "If you were Trump (now)" and the time frame of the phrase in question is earlier than now "the staffer had not resigned" so she should have said "who had not resigned" Where am I wrong? – user298966 May 19 '18 at 15:32
  • Or maybe I am wrong about the meaning of the sentence. What do you think? – user298966 May 19 '18 at 18:30
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I looked up the word would in the wiktionary and it gave me the solution. There it says that would can be, besides the conditional, the subjunctive of will. This means it is the subjunctive future and it can be translated directly into spanish and fits still better than the subjunctive past. I had not realized this because in spanish that tense is used only in the bible.

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