In Macmillan would has such usage Source

used when you think someone is willing to do something Bruce would lend you the money, I'm sure.

I thought this usage is only for willingness in the past. Now it can refer to the present!

I wonder if this usage is common in everyday speech (both British and American). If I substitute "could", "will" or "might" for "would", will this bring any subtle differences?

  • 1
    The past events, the hypothetical thinking, and being polite are all intertwined because in English unreal (irrealis) mood is expressed in the past tense. Mar 29, 2014 at 7:23
  • Perhaps what I concern about is how such usage is derived from one of the common usages of would.
    – Kinzle B
    Mar 29, 2014 at 8:56
  • Because it's not only about tenses, in this case it's about moods (modality). (which is why "would" is classified as a modal verb.) Mar 29, 2014 at 9:06

1 Answer 1


The usages of "would" are almost endless. Even though one definition of the word is a past tense of "will", in this case it is more like a prediction, almost "future tense". Read Merriam Webster's Definition

"You know Bruce would loan you the money, just ASK for it!"

"Bruce is running for Governor. He would loan you the money if you could get that bill passed."

As to your second question, absolutely. Each of those words could be substituted for "would" and the sentence would have a completely different meaning.

"Could" would say that he has the money, therefore he can lend it to you, but it gives no hint as to whether Bruce would be inclined to do so.

"Will" says that Bruce has the money and will be happy to loan it to you. That Bruce will make the loan is assured.

"Might" is a big question mark. Hmmm, it's worth a shot.

  • "Would" says that it is very likely for him to lend you money, right? I thought the whole picture is If you asked Bruce, he would lend you the money. I have on idea how "I'm sure" is derived from this if-clause. @Jolenealaska
    – Kinzle B
    Mar 29, 2014 at 7:32
  • The speaker says, "Bruce would loan you the money." That means that the speaker predicts both that Bruce has the money and that he will loan it if you ask. He's pretty sure, or he'd use a different word than "would". "Would" in this context also means that something else has to happen. Here, Bruce will loan you the money if you ask. Mar 29, 2014 at 7:39
  • "Bruce would loan you the money if you would just swallow your pride and ask for the loan." @ZhanlongZheng Mar 29, 2014 at 7:42
  • @ZhanlongZheng Consider this: "Bruce would have loaned you the money." Mar 29, 2014 at 7:46
  • I figured out "could" and "might” scenarios, but I don't think it's different from Bruce will lend you the money, I'm sure.
    – Kinzle B
    Mar 29, 2014 at 7:49

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