The context is in a manual for reference.

Note that variable is the name of a variable, not a reference to that variable. Therefore you would not normally use a ‘$’ or parentheses when writing it. (You can, however, use a variable reference in the name if you want the name not to be a constant.)

I find myself hard to understand why would not is used here. Because I think that the author is talking about a rule here which tells you can not use a dolly sign or parentheses blah blah.

Would, according to the American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, has these meanings:

  1. Used to express desire or intent
  2. Used to express a wish.
  3. Used after a statement of desire, request, or advice
  4. Used to make a polite request
  5. Used in the main clause of a conditional statement to express a possibility or likelihood
  6. Used to express presumption or expectation
  7. Used to indicate uncertainty
  8. Used to express repeated or habitual action in the past: Every morning we would walk in the garden.

I just can't align the use of would not to any entry in the list.

But my best guess is the 6th, expectation. The sentence would (oh wait, why would just come out of brain, I don't even know how that happens) be you are not expected to use a '$' or parentheses when writing it. Are they equivalent?

  • 1
    '[Y]ou would not normally use a ‘$’ or parentheses when writing it' = 'It is not the usual practice to use a ‘$’ or parentheses when writing it'. I don't think any of the 8 senses quite fits, looking at the examples given. Sep 22, 2023 at 16:26
  • Yes, either (5) or (6). If you would not normally do something, you are unlikely to do it, or the writer doesn't expect you to do it. Sep 22, 2023 at 16:27
  • 1
    Dictionaries can't necessarily itemize every single way a term might be used. But I'd say You wouldn't normally do that matches item #6: Used to express presumption or expectation. The clue is in the word normally (that's what we'd normally expect you to do). Sep 22, 2023 at 16:30
  • 2
    M-W has a broader 'used in auxiliary function to express custom or habitual action', not restricting this to the past. I'd add the example 'You would normally use a calculator to multiply two three-digit numbers.' Sep 22, 2023 at 16:37
  • [ I find it hard to understand]
    – Lambie
    Sep 22, 2023 at 17:05

1 Answer 1


I would normally use x to do y. I would not normally use x to do y.

"Used to express presumption or expectation"

can be used with a negative verb: or no presumption or expectation as in the text cited in the question.

  • Can we add: "You would not normally use" = You are expected not to use X. It is not equal to "You are not expected to use." If you are not expected to do it, surprise, you might do it. Here, we are instructing you ... Don't do it. Sep 22, 2023 at 22:31
  • @YosefBaskin I followed the question and gave the answer. Your idea is different.
    – Lambie
    Sep 22, 2023 at 22:52
  • Accept my apologies. Sep 24, 2023 at 0:37

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