This question is from the Harry Potter movie, when Harry received an invitation to join Hogwarts for the very first time. When Vernon Dursley (the Fat Muggle guy who adopted Harry) took the letter, Harry said to him "It's mine", he then replied:

Yours? Who'd be writing to you?

Although the meaning of that statement seems quite straightforward and sounds simple, I struggle to grasp the grammar aspect of it. Why use would be + v-ing construction?

Image of Vernon Dursley with captions of: Yours? Who'd be writing to you?

2 Answers 2


The "would" is a development of its sense as a conditional verb modal.

In "I would play tennis", there is an implied "... if ...", and it suggests that the "if" condition will fail, so it suggest "I will not play tennis".

So in a question, "Who would play tennis with you?" It implies "Nobody will play tennis with you". And, by expressing it in this way it mocks the person: "You are so bad at tennis that even if someone really wants to play tennis, they would not play tennis with you".

The "be writing" is a continuous form. Durstly could have said "Who'd write to you?" and the meaning would be quite similar. The use of "be writing" is idiomatic when referring to a letter as it is being opened and read.

So the overall impression is to mock Harry, and suggest that he is unimportant because nobody is ever writing to him.


Conditional progressive is used for imaginary situations that might take place if the present circumstances were different. It puts emphasis on the course of an action. It is used in the main clause of conditional sentences type II.
If he had a lot of money, he would be traveling around the world.
If I were free, I would be watching the movie.
If the music were better, everybody would be dancing.
I would be having a good time if I met my friends.

conditional progressive

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