Is this sentence correct?

He would help you in difficult days.

In this sentence "if" is not used. Instead, it is conditional because of "in". Is it appropriate to use "would" in this sentence?


1 Answer 1


In one sense, it's using would to describe habitual action in the past. In another sense, it's describing the present character trait of somebody. In neither of those senses is it being used as a conditional.

Looking first at the use of will to describe the future, whether it's a conditional or not depends on how you interpret this:

He will help you in difficult days.

That's a statement of fact about what he will do in the future.

The future is unknown and, philosophically, we could say that his help is dependent on the possibility of difficult days. As such, the sentence could be translated in one of these two ways:

1. a) If there is a difficult day, he will help you.
1. b) He will help you should there be a difficult day.

However, in some cases we can be as certain as possible that something will occur in the future. Although there is a theoretical possibility that the sun won't rise tomorrow morning, we treat it as a certainty for practical purposes. Similarly, if you have just been diagnosed with terminal cancer, there is the same level of certainly that you will have difficult days ahead of you.

As such, we can look at it this way:

2. He will help you when there is a difficult day.

In this interpretation, it's not a conditional in any sense. Both his help and the existence of difficult days in the future are a given.

1) But when looking at past events, we already know if something happened or not—there isn't any of the possible uncertainty of the future.

When looking at the past, and knowing that every time you did have a difficult day he did help you, we can use the past-tense of will to indicate habitual behaviour that always occurred.

He would help you in difficult days.


He would help you whenever there was a difficult day.

There is no uncertainty or conditional here about the past behaviour and events that actually occurred.

The use of would as opposed to did puts a subtle emphasis on his internal state and intention; it does more than just describe his outward physical activity. This is because both will and would also have senses that involve desire, whereas do and did simply describe action.

2) It's also possible to interpret the sentence in the question as being an answer to a question about the current qualities of someone—rather about their past or future actions.

"Who would be the type of person to help me in difficult days?"
"He would help you in difficult days."

In this interpretation, there is also no sense of the conditional. It's an absolute statement of fact (at least of somebody's opinion) about the character of some person.

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