I was reading an article on mirror football. Then I came across the following sentences where would is used which I think should be in past simple. Even so, there should be the reason why they used "would" but I couldn’t figure out the rule applied for it.

His Old Trafford stint would last just 18 months before he was eventually deemed surplus to requirements and shipped out on loan to Serie A outfit Inter Milan.

over his year and a half in Manchester, Sanchez would make just 32 Premier League appearances - scoring three times.

I have given the link to the source so that you can understand the context. This is a very recent post. Sanchez has already played in Manchester and now everything is past. So why It should be "a past referring to the future"

2 Answers 2


This is "future in the past".

Historically, various modals were originally in pairs, present and past:

will - would can - could may - might shall - should

All the historically past forms have their own separate meanings now, but they are also used as past tense forms in some contexts.

The most common context is reported speech:

He said "I can do it for you" -> He said he could do it for me.

but this use also occurs in narratives to set a temporal focus.

His Old Trafford stint would last just 18 months

is setting the temporal focus at the time he started, and saying "His Old Trafford stint will last just 18 months". (The fact that nobody actually knew what the future would hold doesn't take away from this narrative device).

  • But this a very recent post taking about Sanchez who once played for Manchester United and made 32 primer league appearances. It is still unclear to me why would is used. Why referring to the future when he already played for 32 match. Sep 20, 2021 at 21:22
  • 1
    Because this is not just reporting facts, but telling a story. It is inviting the reader to imagine themselves back at the beginning of the contract, and travelling through time with Sanchez. The simple past would have been a perfectly good choice; but this "future in the past" draws the reader into the narrative.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 20, 2021 at 21:41

This is "future in the past"

The story is being told in the past tense. It is a past tense narrative. Then there is an event that is in the future of that past time. For this we use "would" instead of "will".

Compare a present tense narrative

John has a guitar. He practices every day. He will be a famous pop star when he grows up, but now he is just a boy with a dream.

Now if I tell the story in the past tense.

John had a guitar. He practiced every day. He would be a famous pop star when he grew up, but then he was just a boy with a dream.

When you tell a story in the past tense and you refer to the future in the past, you use "would".

  • over his year and a half in Manchester, Sanchez made just 32 Premier League appearances - scoring three times. My point is "made" would be more correct than "would make". Because Sanchez has already played for Manchester United. Telling a story about someone in the past should be in the past tense. Refereeing to the future in the past which already happened makes less sense to me. Pardon me if I am wrong. I'm telling this based on context. Sep 20, 2021 at 21:36

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