Could you explain how "would" works in the following sentence? Speaker asks a question, then speaker B uses "would" when replying to the question. I'd really like to understand its use.

A: Which questions are more natural to express the period of time 'an hour and a half' in the answer? I am with all of them.

  1. How long will you spend at the gym?
  2. How much time will you spend at the gym? I will spend an hour and a half. Is it 'for' optional in the answer?
  3. How long will you be at the gym? I'll be there (for) an hour and a half

​B: To me, the most natural is #3. Another natural question would be: 'How long are you going to be at the gym?' And the most natural answer, in my opinion, would be simply, 'An hour and a half'.

1 Answer 1


Would can be used when suggesting a possibility. B suggests a way of asking the question that they think is as natural as the three alternatives given by A. It's a form of the conditional tense - "If you were to say it that way, it would sound natural."

  • Thanks. What is the difference between a sentence that uses "would" and one that with not "would?" I've quite often seen native speakers say that. For example: I would interpret that as... / I interpret that as..., I would take it to mean as... / I take it to mean as...
    – Nyenok
    Jun 3, 2023 at 9:22
  • Using the conditional tense makes the statement a little more 'tentative' and therefore more polite - the speaker is suggesting an interpretation rather than stating that their interpretation is the right one. Jun 3, 2023 at 9:31
  • But there is no conditional in those sentences. The speaker only uses "would."
    – Nyenok
    Jun 3, 2023 at 10:00
  • 1
    Well, it's a sort of implied conditional - "[If you were to ask me] I would say that..." Jun 3, 2023 at 10:43
  • Well, that doesn't quite make sense, because the speaker does ask a question.
    – Nyenok
    Jun 3, 2023 at 11:11

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