I've been learning English for some time now, but have a huge problems with all constructions with 'would'. For example today I found that out in one of the NYT articles:

[...]He wouldn’t learn anything. He was making no effort to learn.[...]

Could you guys help me to understand what construction is this? Is this something like reported speech or one of the conditionals? How to think about it?

1 Answer 1


Searching for the phrase gives a more complete quotation:
NYT.com article
"But as time went on, it became clear that he wasn’t learning. He wasn’t doing the things that were important for a candidate for president of the United States. He wouldn’t learn anything. He was making no effort to learn. When you talked to him, there was no depth."

It is what Mark Cuban said about his experience with Donald Trump.

The word "would" in that passage corresponds to this meaning:

American Heritage Dictionary "would"
"8. Used to express repeated or habitual action in the past: Every morning we would walk in the garden."

The meaning of the passage, then, is that Mark Cuban thought that Trump habitually did not learn anything. In fact, he made no effort to learn.

It's not reported speech or a conditional, just a past tense use of "will".

You could compare it to this:
The baby was crying. I tried to feed him, but he would not eat.

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