This is not a question about the meaning of "could" and "would". This is a question about which word fits the context.

I got conflicting remarks on my paraphrase of a few sentences. I am not sure which is more valid.

Here is the original text (Note that the issue is about a bill that was introduced in 1971):

Regionally extended benefits were introduced on the grounds that the additional costs related to the presence of structural unemployment in some regions should be shared with other regions and taken on by the government ...

This is my paraphrase (I used "could"):

... regionally extended benefits, which were introduced so that the additional costs of structural unemployment in some regions could be subsidized by government contributions and EI revenue from other regions.

Reader A's feedback (emphasis mine):

I think it is a reasonable paraphrase. However, the wording of the original is rather circumspect. It expresses the reason for introducing the benefits more as a hope or aspiration than as an expectation, and it does not say what the actual effect was. Your use of "could" might be too assertive, and "might" might be better.

Reader B's feedback:

Looked at another way, 'could' could be seen as too tentative! 'Could' could imply that this was possible but might not happen (or that a choice was available). The original sentence tells us that the argument in favour of regionally extended benefits was that the additional cost in one region should (for ethical or practical reasons, or both) be shared with other regions and undertaken by the government'; regionally extended benefits were introduced for this reason; it is an inevitable assumption that the purpose of legislation based on a given argument is to make compulsory the action proposed by that argument . To reflect this,use "would":

... which were introduced so that the additional costs of structural unemployment in some regions would be subsidized by government contributions and EI revenue from other regions.

This is not a generalization about the possibility of replacing reason clauses with purpose clauses, and which verb (could,should,might etc.) is appropriate, which in other contexts may involve no ambiguity; but here the context does make a difference; legislation may be permissive ('You may do this') or imperative (You must do this'), and the conventional use in purpose clauses of 'could' or 'might' can, as here, be ambiguous.

I wholeheartedly agree with Reader B's feedback, except on the use of "would". It just doesn't sound right to me. So, I guess my question is, which makes more sense based on my context?

  • I think the use of "should" in the original is deontic. Your paraphrase's "could" sounds as if it means the legislation enables sharing. "Would" sounds as if the legislation tries to bring it about. Why are you paraphrasing the original? What is the purpose? May 19, 2020 at 8:20
  • @JackO'Flaherty It is for my paper. I can't quote the original because my sentence at the start has other information on the benefits (note the [...]). Are you able to write an answer for me? Would be super helpful ...
    – AIQ
    May 19, 2020 at 8:26
  • I'm not confident of understanding all the complexities of the question, so I'll let someone else answer it. May 19, 2020 at 8:34
  • [not a legislation. Either a piece of legislation, a bill, etc. or just **legislation, no determiner.]
    – Lambie
    May 19, 2020 at 15:26
  • This is really about should and could (not would), the main difference in the original and yours is precisely that. The original does not posit a possibility. It straight out supports an ethical interpretation. I should go is not I could go.
    – Lambie
    May 19, 2020 at 15:28

1 Answer 1


"On the grounds that" means "because". It is used to show reason.

e.g., "He objected to my proposal on the grounds that (= because) it would be too costly."

It is meaningless if we use "so that" in this sentence : "He objected to my proposal so that it would be too costly."

"So that" means "in order that". It is used to show "purpose" : "He objected to my proposal so that a costly project could be rejected."

Your paraphrase of the original sentence seems to me to be absolutely okay. It shows the purpose of the introduction of the regionally extended benefits and the purpose has become emphatic with the use of "could" in place of "would".

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .