I’m watching a show, Community, and I have a question about a line of it.

Please watch it: Community.

The guy says “I had a dream it would end this way”. What does it mean?

Does “a dream” mean a dream in the night? or a hope?

And why did he use “would” here?


According to the Cambridge dictionary, dream as two meanings:

SLEEP: a series of events or images that happen in your mind when you are sleeping

HOPE: something that you want to happen very much but that is not very likely

What happens next in the clip is certainly not something that Troy, the speaker, would "want to happen very much", so the HOPE option is not likely. If the script writers stuck to the dictionary definition, the SLEEP option is the only possibility. Merriam-Webster does not offer any other useful possibilities.

As Peter suggested, it may be a misquote of a standard expression, and the script writers are using the word dream incorrectly.

The word would is used because, at some time in the past, Troy dreamed

It will end this way

When he later reported what he dreamt, he backshifted the tense, so will became would.

I had a dream [that] it would end this way

  • Thanks. Then what does dream mean here? Does it mean a feeling as Peter said? Oct 1 '18 at 3:16
  • Oh, and can’t “would” mean “an imagined situation” here? Oct 1 '18 at 3:18
  • @MangoGummy If you describe something that you imagine now but you can reasonably expect it to happen, you say "I will be a famous singer one day", If you describe now something that you imagine hypothetically happening in the future, then you use would because it's a hypothetical situation. "I would hate to miss the show" In Troy's sentence, he is talking about something he dreamed in the past that is really is happening now. The past form would is used because he dreamed it in the past, not because it's hypothetical.
    – JavaLatte
    Oct 1 '18 at 3:49
  • @MangoGummy As I have demonstrated, you can look up the meanings of the word in the dictionary, and only one meaning of dream is valid in this context- something you do when you sleep. I cannot tell you whether the script writers intended that meaning, or whether they were abusing the word in an incorrectly quoted expression. You would have to ask the script writers about that.
    – JavaLatte
    Oct 1 '18 at 3:57
  • Thank you very much. Can I ask about “I would hate to miss the show”? Then does it mean the speaker doesn’t miss the show but it might happen in the future? Oct 1 '18 at 4:00

The usual saying is

I had a feeling it would end this way.

It is a premonition that something will happen in the future.
To use "dream" is just a variation.
It means he had a strong feeling that whatever happened was going to happen.

  • Thanks. Then would is the past tense of will here? Oct 1 '18 at 3:14

It's meaning is quite plain:

He tells us that he once had a dream that it (his life) would end in the way that was about to happen (being shot by a band of Stormtroopers).

Dream is likely used to mean fantasy, whether he is meant to say it was literally a dream that occurred during sleep, a hope, or a hope expressed through a dream during sleep. (Or a dream during sleep that was expressed as a hope!)

Why did the writer of the show have the character say this? That is for us to understand or speculate about.

What I get is the idea that in the past he imagined himself dying in glory, fighting for good against evil.

Would is a modal used to mark tense: the future of the past, as it's called here:


(See Usage of Specific Verbs > Will and Would.)

To say, as in another answer, that it is an example of backshifting, seems to me a stretch, at best, or incorrect.

He is not reporting speech indirectly. That would require something like I once said that I had a dream ... ".

Consider: *The house looked ugly then, but it would get a new coat of paint a few years later.*

That is a declaration, not involving what anyone once said, (or thought, if we want to conceptualize knew in the instant sentence an act of "inner speech" that is being reported).

The reason for using would is the same. It was something that occurred in the past that was about the future at that time.

You must log in to answer this question.

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