Should we use will or would in the following context where the show in question is supposed to start on a date much latter than when the message is sent?

I wanted to know when the show in Paris will/would commence.

  • On a side note, can someone tell me if it's '[..] on a date [..]' or '[..] at a date [..]'? I have always used on but have noticed the use of at too. (Asking this in the comments as I didn't want to ask two different questions in a single post.)
    – tenses-giving-tension
    Commented Jun 30 at 17:36
  • Side note: On vs At with date and time. Commented Jun 30 at 17:41
  • 4
    It depends on the time frame. Use 'would' if the show was in the past, and 'will' if it's in the future. Commented Jun 30 at 17:43
  • If the event is in the future, but tentative, would is appropriate: "In your letter you mentioned the possibility of hosting a convention this summer. When would it begin?"
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Jun 30 at 18:50
  • @DjinTonic Would sounds more more natural to me for some reason. However, is the use of will incorrect? (@WeatherVane, above, suggests using will is a case such as mine.)
    – tenses-giving-tension
    Commented Jun 30 at 19:05

1 Answer 1


Backshifting won’t be wrong but is not always necessary; if the show has not commenced, backshifting is optional; if the show is over, we must backshift.

Let’s say you queried earlier ‘When is the show commencing?’

A few days later, still before the show, you told someone about that earlier query. Both tenses are fine:

I wanted to know when the show in Paris would (or will) commence.

If you want to recount this after the show, you would say

I wanted to know when the show in Paris would commence.

  • The sentence "I wanted to know when the show will commence" can be used as an inquiry about the show's commencement. It can also suggest that while the show is in the future, my interest is in the past.
    – Peter
    Commented Jul 1 at 13:06

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