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ex) I can't think why he was willing to say that it was my fault.

Now, for the purpose of making a sentence to have the same meaning of the example sentence, I would like to use modal auxiliary verb 'will'.

I can't think why he will have said that it was my fault.

Is this sentence a grammatically correct equivalet of the example sentence?

Again, for the same purpose above, I would like to use modal auxiliary verb 'would'.

I can't think why he would say that it was my fault.

Is this sentence a grammatically correct equivalet of the example sentence?

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  • I'm not going to close-hammer this question, but to my mind, "Is this sentence I made up a correct equivalent to this other sentence?" falls under "proof-reading". CV only if you agree
    – gotube
    Aug 1, 2023 at 16:39
  • @gotube: I think IF a question presents us with a good opportunity to examine a feature of English that often perplexes learners, we shouldn't be too keen to close it just because it has aspects of proofreading. I'm pretty sure the OP here has conflated modal would with the state of being "willing = agreeable, with consent". Aug 1, 2023 at 17:00
  • @gotube: I don't know the meanings of the verb "close-hammer" and the abbreviated word "CV" . Please tell me the meanings of them.
    – gonju yi
    Aug 1, 2023 at 19:35
  • @gonjuyi "CV" means "close vote". Normally, if five people vote to close a question, it is closed, but because I'm a Moderator on this site (I have the little "♦" next to my name), if I close vote a question, it closes immediately. I'm informally calling this power a "close hammer".
    – gotube
    Aug 8, 2023 at 0:42
  • @gotube: Thank you for your helpful comment.
    – gonju yi
    Aug 10, 2023 at 8:55

3 Answers 3

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It's better to use "understand" instead of "think" here.

The second example above is incorrect, "will have" is an auxiliary verb that changes the tense of the sentence, and is unrelated to "willing."

But you can say:

I can't understand why he was willing to say that it was my fault.

or

I can't understand why he would say that it was my fault.

Those are both fine.

"Don't know" is very common here as well, as in:

I don't know why he would say that it was my fault.

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I think OP is confusing "being willing" with the modal would (used to reference a hypothetical situation).

1: I can't think why he will have said that it was my fault <=== INVALID

2: I can't think why he was willing to accuse me
3: I can't think why he would have been willing to accuse me
4: I can't think why he would be willing to accuse me

Note that both #3 and #4 can be used to mean exactly the same as #2, but #4 can also be used to refer to a possible future accusation1...

3a: I can't think why he would have been willing to accuse me in court yesterday
4a: I can't think why he would be willing to accuse me in court tomorrow

Also note that he might be forced to unwillingly accuse me, so we might not want to mention "willingness" at all...

3b: I can't think why he would have accused me in court yesterday
4b: I can't think why he would accuse me in court tomorrow

Note that 3b above would often imply that he didn't accuse me, but it can also be used even if he did accuse me - OR if I don't actually know whether he accused me or not (same as with 4b, where I can't know for certain whether he will or won't accuse me tomorrow).


1 Note that #4 (without "tomorrow") could also be used as a "timeless" reference to the possibility of him accusing me in the past OR the future (or indeed, in any hypothetical scenario unrelated to past / present / future).

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  • In my post, I used 'will' to show that sb is willing to do sth. According to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary sixth edtion, 'will' can be used for showing that sb is willing to do sth. For example, "I'll check this letter for you, if you want.", "They won't lend us any more money.", "He wouldn't come-he said he was too busy.", "We said we would keep them." Further, In my post, I used 'would' simply as the past form of 'will'.
    – gonju yi
    Aug 1, 2023 at 20:54
  • So, in my post, 'would' has the same meaning with 'would' in the following example. "He was very ill at that time, but he would go."
    – gonju yi
    Aug 1, 2023 at 20:54
  • Frankly speaking, I don't know the meaning of 'would' in your post. Why is "I can't think why he was willing to accuse me." equal to either "I can't think why he would have been willing to accuse me." or "I can't think why he would be willing to accuse me."? Please tell me the dictionary meaning of 'would' in your post.
    – gonju yi
    Aug 1, 2023 at 21:04
  • @gonjuyi: Like I said, you're confusing modal would with to be willing. But can you not see that I can't think why he was willing to accuse me effectively entails the fact that he did accuse me, whereas neither version of I can't think why he would have been willing / would be willing to accuse me forces that interpretation. And as previously pointed out, the ...why he would be willing... version can refer to a [possible] future accusation as well as a [possible] past or hypothetical accusation. Plus he might accuse me unwillingly. Aug 2, 2023 at 10:53
  • Note that He was very ill at that time, but he would go (he insisted on going) is barely English. Avoid it. Aug 2, 2023 at 10:55
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I can't think why he will have said that it was my fault.

You could say this but it sounds clunky. Meaning, you're confused but know the definite event will happen.

I can't think why he would say that it was my fault.

This is much better. 'would' brings an ambiguity in tense that matches the state of 'can't think'.

The example and two alternatives don't really mean the same thing. 'willing' means he was amiable or convinced to blame you while 'will' and 'would' mean he just did it.

He will testify against you.

vs

He's willing to testify against you if we offer him a deal.

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  • I don't think will can ever truly be "valid" in this context, regardless of whether the possible accusation is in the past (why he would have accused me [in court yesterday]) OR the future (why he would accuse me [in court tomorrow]). Aug 1, 2023 at 16:05
  • @FumbleFingers Which is why I point out specifically the two different meanings because OP's question is actually about 'will'. I hope you didn't downvote because you'd be wrong to do so.
    – DTRT
    Aug 1, 2023 at 17:46
  • But you say You could say this but it sounds clunky. I don't think you can say that! And even if you could, it would have nothing to do with being "willing". Aug 1, 2023 at 19:04
  • @Johns-305: In my post, I used 'will' to show that sb is willing to do sth. According to Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary sixth edtion, 'will' can be used for showing that sb is willing to do sth. For example, "I'll check this letter for you, if you want.", "They won't lend us any more money.", "He wouldn't come-he said he was too busy.", "We said we would keep them." Further, In my post, I used 'would' simply as the past form of 'will'.
    – gonju yi
    Aug 1, 2023 at 21:15
  • So, in my post, 'would' has the same meaning with 'would' in the following example. "He was very ill at that time, but he would go."
    – gonju yi
    Aug 1, 2023 at 21:16

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