I have been reading these two posts on would: Why "that would be me"? (part 1) & Why "that would be me"? (part 2)

If you want a domestic SUV, then the best choice would be the Ford Escape Hybrid.

If you want functional air filters, the best choice would have to be K&N Air Filter.

If you really want to use WMA, the best choice would be 2-pass encoding.

If you really need a fighter bay, the best choice by far would be a manta bay.

Very similar examples exist with present-tense forms of "to be":

If you want real wood, the best choice is engineered flooring.

If you want to stay in colonial Quito, the best choice is the Hotel Real Audiencia.

If you want HD programming, Dish Network is the best choice.

The post and its comments say that with respect to perceived speaker (un)certainty, perhaps the preterite makes the speaker seem more rather than less certain, by emphasizing that the logic of the hypothetical situation is being carefully evaluated.

But I don't fully understand what on earth the logic here is. The auther mentioned this usage of would is quite fashionable. If so, it will account for the majority of would usages. Is it true?

  • 3
    This question appears to be off-topic because it deals with an extremely subtle nuance of English language. I would suggest EL&U or linguistics. Also, there's a plethora of information within the references given in the question itself. Or perhaps the question could be rephrased specifically for an ell.se perspective and reposted to one of the other sites for a more in-depth discussion. – CoolHandLouis Mar 30 '14 at 0:22
  • If so, plz help me migrate this post. @CoolHandLouis – Kinzle B Mar 30 '14 at 1:17

At bottom, there is no real difference between is and would be in conditionals of this sort. You could switch the two constructions from one set to the other and the meanings would be fundamentally the same.

  • OR: You can switch the two constructions from one set to the other and the meanings will be fundamentally the same. :)

On the other hand, there may occasionally be something in context which pushes a speaker toward the would be construction. For instance, the speaker may want to ’hedge‘ a recommendation: make it a little less absolute. Or the speaker may want to qualify his recommendation by suggesting that he regards the preceding condition as in some way implausible or inadvisable:

If you want a domestic SUV, then the best choice would be the Ford Escape Hybrid. But I suspect that you don’t really care whether you buy a domestic SUV or an import.

If you insist on using WMA, the best approach would be two-pass encoding. But WMA is a lossy format, and WMA Lossless is not widely supported; I’d stick with WAV/AIF.

  • You really have wide interests! So saying that would-be is more certain is not right? How did the original author propose such seemingly plausible theory? – Kinzle B Mar 29 '14 at 17:29
  • @ZhanlongZheng In some cases the theory may be correct, but there's no way that I know of predicting when! English modals are really a mess: they overlap, they vary both randomly and idiolectally, they've been shifting for centuries. A detailed corpus study could perhaps give you statistical probabilities; but nobody except a linguist is interested in statistical patterns, what matters is what does this utterance mean? And the answer will always depend on the surrounding context. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 29 '14 at 17:45

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