I hear the following sentence structure a lot from native speakers:

  • I would take a different approach.
  • I would recommend going to the store in person and talking to the manager.
  • I would disagree.

All the above sentences have the phrase "would plus an infinitive without to" in them. The structure resembles that of the future in the past tense. But I doubt that is the case here because I do not see any clear incident in the past to serve as the reference for the future in the past tense.

An alternative explanation I can think of is that all these sentences have an implicit if-clause behind them. For example, one can add "If you asked my opinion" at the beginning of all the examples above. In that sense, we would be dealing with the second conditional, which requires "would + infinitive without to" in the main clause. Is this what is really happening here?

PS. Fun fact: "We would be dealing with" in the above paragraph is another example!

1 Answer 1


These are "conditional" sentences, however the condition has been omitted - either for tactful ambiguity, or because the condition can be inferred from context. The condition could be express in an "if" clause

I would take a different approach, if I was the person to make this decision.

If you asked me, I would recommend ...

I would disagree, if you asked me my opinion.

Using a conditional can make the sentence more tactful. For example by saying "I would disagree" you avoid saying "I disagree" directly. It is often used to make suggestions or inform someone of a fact that you think they don't want to hear.

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