I find it very confusing to use 'would' in sentences like:

That's why they give beginner employers introductory tasks that would not overwhelm them.

Why is "would" used here?

  • which implies: if they were asked to do so. There is always an implied if in that usage.
    – Lambie
    Commented Apr 16, 2021 at 21:57
  • Some auxiliary is necessary for the negative to follow. Would is as good as any modal to indicate irrealis -- to show that the speaker is being hypothetical. The only other possibility is do, which indicates that the speaker knows something about how easy they are to overwhelm, so it's a present generic, referring to multiple experiences Commented May 3, 2023 at 18:43

1 Answer 1


This is a sentence that uses would to refer to hypothetical situations.

We use would to make hypotheses:

  1. When we imagine a situation:
  • It would be very expensive to stay in a hotel.
  • I would give you a lift, but my wife has the car today.
  1. In conditionals:
  • I would give her a call if I could find her number.
  • If I had the money, I'd buy a new car.
  • You would lose weight if you took more exercise.
  • If he got a new job, he would probably make more money.

You could also write: They give them tasks that will not overwhelm them, which is more immediate.

The use of would fits better when talking about situations that are imagined, conditional or very general rather than specific.

Source of examples

  • No, it's not a sentence about things that happened in the past. They give... is present - and the sentence embraces actions in the past, present and future. Commented Sep 17, 2020 at 18:02
  • Okay. I understand. But it will be great help if you could modify my answer to improve it, like I don't know the exact words to re-frame the sentence as such. Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 20:45
  • @RonaldSole Thank you so much. I am grateful. Commented Sep 20, 2020 at 21:15

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