In this dialogue, why does Donny say "I would agree" rather than "I agree?" How does "would" works in this context?

Telek's #1: Is there any difference between 'He snuck up on me' and 'He snuck up to me'?

Owlman's #2: I think so. "He snuck up on me" implies that he wanted to surprise you, frighten you, or perhaps overcome you after he got close enough to do that.

"He snuck up to me" implies that he was being sneaky to avoid detection by somebody else, not by you. You might even be an accomplice of his who watched him as he was doing the sneaking

Donny's #3: Yes, I would agree with Owlman's analysis of the difference there

  • 1
    Cambridge Dictionary: 'used to refer to a situation that you can imagine happening' Dec 3, 2023 at 11:58
  • 1
    Depending on context, it could be either tentative (polite etc) or conditional "would".
    – BillJ
    Dec 3, 2023 at 12:52
  • @BillJ What do you mean by "tentative?" Does "would" mean not certain?
    – Nyambek
    Dec 3, 2023 at 14:05
  • @FumbleFingers There is no conditional in the sentence above. The speaker only uses "would" directly. Could you explain the use of "would" in this case?
    – Nyambek
    Dec 3, 2023 at 14:43
  • There's no "conditional" in the linked Q, where B says I would paraphrase this as a man who was selfish through and through. To me, the context is identical to Donny here saying I would agree with Telek's analysis. In both cases, the word would effectively means nothing at all, since nothing really changes if it's omitted. Dec 3, 2023 at 17:17

1 Answer 1


"I would agree" is a weaker version of the direct statement "I agree" because it is less direct and imparts less commitment, due to being possibly a future conditional but more likely a polite way of hedging or half-saying something.

It could be conditional or expressing likelihood in the sense "I would X, if Y." If that's the case, the implied Y is unknown here, so X is also just a possibility. (And we don't know what the implied condition is, which arguably makes "I would agree" even weaker than if a certain condition were stated.)

As a way of hedging, or for politeness, "would" can be used to give the assertion a less forceful weight to anyone who doesn't agree, or to avoid responsibility of being held to account. On the other hand, if the line is spoken strongly, delivered confidently, the weakening effect becomes less, as it inherits that asserted strength.

See also:

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  • Cambridge Dictionary (Sense C1:) - content is copied here:

    • used to express an opinion in a polite way without being forceful:

      • "I would think we need to speak to the headteacher about this first."
      • "It's not what we would have expected from a professional service."
    • used to refer to what is very likely:

      • "The guy on the phone had a Southern accent." "That would be Tom."
  • Could you explain what's meant "less direct" and "less committal?"
    – Nyambek
    Dec 4, 2023 at 4:19
  • @Nyambek "I agree" is a simple, direct, straightforward statement. In its simplicity and present tense, it asserts a level of certainty with which the speaker is committing. In literal meaning, it is the same as "I do agree." By contrast, "I would agree" is not equivalent to "I do agree." With "would" in there, it is weakened to fall short of the full measure. "Would" gets in the way of the directness of "I agree," which steps back from its level of commitment.
    – Nate
    Dec 5, 2023 at 23:03
  • @Nyambek (Since I mentioned "I do agree," I'll point out that, while the literal meaning is the same as "I agree," in general use, the "I do X" construct puts emphasis on the present tense, and a built-in confirmation on the whole statement. Thus, in actual use, "I do agree" is a stronger statement than "I agree.") Also edited answer there for clarity
    – Nate
    Dec 5, 2023 at 23:09

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