The Spacemen 3's song "walking with Jesus" begins

I walked with Jesus and he would say
"Oh you poor child, you ain't coming to me, no way
You found heaven on Earth, gonna burn for your sin"
But I think I'll be in good company down there with all my friends

(Genius Lyrics)

Would is obviously used as a conditional, so it should be "if I walked with Jesus". So why "if" was it omitted?

  • What is surprising me is that "walked" refers to a specific moment may be it happened only one time, and if I understand your answer correctly say refers to numerous occasions. Does it mean that these occasions when Jesus told this refers to this only moment – user5577 Jul 7 '18 at 17:46
  • "walked" refers to a specific moment may be it happened only one time - no, walked does not refer to a specific moment or any specific number of times. It can mean any number of times in the past. – stangdon Jul 7 '18 at 18:01
  • so why does he did not write would walk if it happened a lot of time – user5577 Jul 7 '18 at 18:56
  • 1
    It's a song lyric. Lyricists don't necessarily follow strict grammatical rules; they are generally more interested in maintaining rhythm and meter. – J.R. Jul 7 '18 at 20:31
  • 1
    @user5577 Because "I walked" already means "I walked one or more times." – David Richerby Jul 7 '18 at 22:25

From the Cambridge Dictionary

would modal verb (ALWAYS)
used to suggest that in the past something happened often or always:
In summer my dad would sit on the back porch after supper and read the newspaper.

There is no conditional here. The singer is reporting something Jesus often did in the past:

I walked with Jesus and he often said

  • Except this seems to be talking about a single event, not a repeated conversation. – Barmar Jul 7 '18 at 21:53
  • Wouldn't be "When I walked with Jesus and he used to say" a better match than your example? – quetzalcoatl Jul 7 '18 at 22:04
  • @quetzalcoatl I was just explaining the would part, not the surrounding text. Your option is possible. I read it as "I would walk with Jesus and he would say". I say either one makes a clumsy lyric. – Em. Jul 8 '18 at 6:46

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