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I'm reading a book and I've come across an use would that I cannot figure out what the author meant. In "The Lord would be found in his chambers", take note that before anything we know a character is heading towards the Lord, what is would telling me, is it that the Lord is about to be found in the a past's future? Other than that I think it might be telling me it is a past action that he, the Lord, would (always) do. If it is the letter how can express a past's future when narrating something about to happen?

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    Can you provide a larger quote for context or a link to the book if the passage is publicly available? (For an habitual action, it would read something like "he knew the Lord could always to be found in his chambers after dining.") Without more context, this seems like it's saying "he knew the Lord would be found in his chamber [when the character got there]." Nov 12, 2018 at 10:13
  • @JasonBassford It's from the early pages of A Clash of King's prologue, I adapted it to what I thought would summarize the context best. The paragraph starts as follows: "Casles are not friendly places for the frail, Cressen was reminded as he descended the turnpike stairs of the Sea Dragon Tower. Lord Stannis would be found in the Chamber of the Painted Table, atop the Stone Drum, Dragonstone's Central Keep..." Nov 12, 2018 at 11:17
  • Cressen is just heading to where Lord Stannis is and at that paragraph we learn where he "would be found", so in mind what I'm reading is that the near future for Cressen is to find Stannis in the Chamber of the Painted Table Nov 12, 2018 at 11:23
  • An example of typical context: "[At four o'clock] the Lord would be found in his chambers". It is not past action. This usage is about probable situations. If you were looking for him,that is where he would be.
    – Lambie
    Jan 21, 2019 at 21:15

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Note that “would” can be used to indicate repetitive behavior in the past.

He and Jack would meet for drinks most Friday nights.

In this passage, which is indirect thought in the past, the meaning could be

Cressen thought, “Lord X will be in room Y”

for some unexplained reason. That gets properly translated into indirect thought as

Cressen thought that Lord X would be in room Y

for some unexplained reason. That gets shortened by ellipsis to

Lord X would be in room Y

Notice that Lambie’s truncated hypothetical also uses ellipsis.

But I do not think that the author intended to refer to something unexplained. He is building a character and a situation. The author is trying to give a lot of information in a few words. The castle is so huge that it has multiple keeps. Cressen is old and frail but fully familiar with this huge castle. Moreover, he is fully familiar with the habits of Lord X. Here is what the author is trying to convey

Cressen thought, “Lord X will likely be in room Y,” because Cressen knew that room Y is where Lord X habitually would be at this time of day and at this season if he were resident in the castle.

So, indirect thought in the past, hypothetical, and habitual action in the past all call for “would.” But that is quite verbose and screams to be condensed. A native speaker would perceive subconsciously all of those potentialities (and a good writer would feel them) just from the word “would.” I strongly suspect, however, that the main thought to be conveyed was

Cressen expected that Lord X would be in room Y

That is perfectly grammatical, but by shortening it to

Lord X would be in room Y

the other potential meanings are subtly evoked.

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The future-tense "would" is used for hypotheticals. It's saying that he is expected to be in his chambers, but not outright stating that he definitely will be.

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  • Actually, this is true though not well expressed.
    – Lambie
    Jan 21, 2019 at 21:17
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We lack the full context, but it seems to be a reported-speech version of

I will be found in my chambers.

That is, the lord makes clear to his servants where he intends to be.

This is reported as

The lord would be found in his chambers.

Alternatively it is a reference to standard practice:

The lord would be found in his chambers.

That's where he usually is to be found.

But without the full context we cannot say. We don't know who is speaking or under what circumstances.

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  • Reported speech must carry the subject and verb referring to the fact of reporting it: "I will be found in my chambers", the Lord said. //reported speech: The Lord said he would be found in his chambers. Without that, it can be some other thing...such as some truncated conditional. There is no enough context to know.
    – Lambie
    Jan 21, 2019 at 22:13
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A conditional that is not fully expressed.

"Castles are not friendly places for the frail, Cressen was reminded as he descended the turnpike stairs of the Sea Dragon Tower. Lord Stannis would be found in the Chamber of the Painted Table, atop the Stone Drum, Dragonstone's Central Keep..."

Cressen is thinking about where he is. He thinks castles are not friendly places. He is also imagining where Lord Stannis might be.

This use of would be is a kind of conditional where the conditional is not fully stated or expressed. Native readers would understand this to be something like:

[If he were anywhere in the castle,] Lord Stannis would be found in the Chamber of the Painted Table.

This is very typical in novels and articles describing situations in which hypotheticals are mentioned without their being fully expressed as something you would see in a grammar book.

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