It's from a entry of Wikipedia:


It says:

As Clark and DiFrancesco entered the floor, Clark turned around to look at his coworkers still in the stairwell and watched as they had decided to go up the stairs to the roof instead of down. The group would all go on to lose their lives that day as access to the roof was locked. There were also no plans for helicopter rescues from the roof as the NYPD deemed it to unsafe to attempt.

I am wondering what does would mean here. Is that a past form of will or a subjunctives indicating that those people didn't do that.


3 Answers 3


It's probably used as a modal verb.

would (m.v.) - used as the past form of will when reporting what somebody has said or thought.

This sentence structure is common while describing a story. If you read the entire paragraph, would is used that way.

Additional reading here.


Would is the past form of will.

In this context, even if “would + bare infinitive” seems to be the pattern of conditional, at a thorough look, as the action happens in the past “that day”, it should be regarded as a “future in the past”.

  • @Stoney B, thank you, I didn’t pay enough attention, I will re edit my answer. Mar 14, 2014 at 17:54

Would is the past tense of will. In this case, will is taking on the tense of the sentence (since the rest of the passage is in past tense, it is safe to make that assumption). If this were being read as a past conditional, it would still need the verb have.

For example:

The group would have all gone on to lose their lives that day as access to the roof was locked.

This example sounds a little strange out of context, since I don't know what stopped them from losing their lives. Typically, when you see past conditional, it will be embedded in a a sentence like:

Molly and Tom would have gone to the movies, but Tom lost his wallet.

When you come across constructions like this in the future, I would look to see if you can find a reason why the event didn't happen. If not, it's probably indicating future in the past.

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