Could anybody explain what the difference between these two sentences:

  1. Why did she leave her car there?
  2. Why would she leave her car there?

I fairly cannot understand what's going on in the last one, but both of them are translated the same to me (at least by google =)).

3 Answers 3


"Why did she leave her car there?"

This is a loaded question. It says something is true, and then asks a question about it. It doesn't just ask why, it' also says that "She left her car there."

"Why would she leave her car there?"

This question is hypothetical. It asks us to imagine a situation that may or may not be true. This question still makes sense even if she doesn't have a car.

We can still use the "would" question even everyone agrees that she left her car theree. In which case as other answers have said, this means the question is allowing free speculation rather than asking for a certain answer and this is a subtle distinction that many people would not make.

If her leaving her car there is not accepted by everyone involved in the conversation then the distinction between a loaded question and a hypothetical question is very significant.


Why did she leave her car there?

This is asking for a definitive statement. (She was drunk and didn't want to drive.) One that indicates the actual reason for her having left the car there.

Why would she leave her car there?

This is asking for speculation. (Somebody paid her to leave it there. Aliens made her forget about it.) There could be any number of possible reasons for her having left her car there. (Although the aliens one is highly unlikely and I only used it as an example.) All of these could be an answer to the question.

Once she (or somebody who actually knows) is asked, speculative answers can be confirmed or denied.


There is no practical difference

Use either! Isn't English silly?

Jason's great answer is correct. But in day to day usage, an average listener would not distinguish between the two.

  • I would not be so cavalier if the question was, say, why did/would she kill your favourite pet. I would say would when I'm trying to use proof-by-contradiction to show that she did not kill your pet. Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 4:09

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