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I’m a passionate English-learner from Korea, and I have a question.

Why is would used in this sentence?

A true friend would not say such a thing.

I can think that the speaker is probably not saying that a true friend in general “doesn’t” say such a thing. So, I think maybe the sentence means this sentence:

If you were a true friend of mine, you wouldn’t say such a thing.

My point is that I think the “a true friend” doesn’t actually indicate a true friend in general. I think the “a true friend” indicates the listener. And so I think that’s why would is used to refer a simple, imaginary situation. Is this why would is used instead of does here?

I would really appreciate your help.

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    When you say I think maybe the sentence means this sentence. : If you were a true friend of mine, you wouldn't say such a thing that's exactly it - but this does not mean that " "A true friend" doesn't actually indicates a true friend in general. I think the "A true friend" indicates the listener." It indicates a hypothetical person and the point is that the listener has not behaved like that hypothetical person i.e. a true friend would not say X, but you did - you are not a true friend.
    – JD2000
    Jan 13, 2020 at 7:20
  • it's similar to a "rhetorical question".
    – Hot Licks
    Jan 13, 2020 at 13:05

2 Answers 2

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I am going to expand on JD2000 comment

When you say I think maybe the sentence means this sentence. : If you were a true friend of mine, you wouldn't say such a thing that's exactly it - but this does not mean that " "A true friend" doesn't actually indicates a true friend in general. I think the "A true friend" indicates the listener." It indicates a hypothetical person and the point is that the listener has not behaved like that hypothetical person i.e. a true friend would not say X, but you did - you are not a true friend. – JD2000

with an example conversation

Pretend Friend 1: You are a miserable cow, who needs to get over your father's death, it was hours ago.
Friend 2: A true friend would not say such a thing.

Friend 2 is saying that friend 1 is not a true friend, as no true friend would say such a mean horrible thing.

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The difference is in a sense - would means conditional, but does means present simple - that it is already happening.

Since the original sentence is rhetorical - it is not happening right now, it is more appropriate to use conditional sense, IMO.

I am not an english native, but I think that "a true friend" could actually indicate a true friend in general. But more imaginary one.

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  • The question is about the use of would, not about true friend. This is a comment on another answer.
    – Chenmunka
    Mar 3 at 17:33
  • I've already answered on this as well. I read the question as a whole, maybe you should too?
    – Jerry
    Mar 3 at 18:22

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