1

What is the semantic difference between the following examples:

1. I liked to laugh, but I didn't dare.

2. I would like to laugh, but I didn't dare.

3. I would have liked to laugh, but I didn't dare.

Here's an example; two friends find each other after 15 years and 'A' begins to relate a story to 'B':

Person A) Do you remember that day in the high school when we were playing the final football match in the yard; I passed to that bully guy Andrei who was playing in your team? The goalkeeper wasn't in the goal and the goal was empty, but Andrei couldn't score the goal (and person 'A' laughs.)

Person B) laughs, then says:

1. Yea, heh, you see, I liked to laugh, but I didn't dare.

2. Yea, heh, you see, I would like to laugh, but I didn't dare.

3. Yea, heh, you see, I would have liked to laugh, but I didn't dare.

  • Could you please exemplify it to me? – A-friend Oct 29 '14 at 15:23
  • These are too vague to do anything more than guess at a meaning without any further context. – J.R. Oct 30 '14 at 22:54
4

I liked to laugh, but I didn't dare.

Something has happened in the past. At the time of this event, you liked to laugh, but you didn't dare laugh in response to whatever is happening.

You are implying that you probably don't "like to laugh" now.

I would like to laugh, but I didn’t dare.

This doesn't make sense, you are mixing a present tense (like) and a past tense (did not dare) incorrectly. I think "would" here is a conditional sense, meaning X happens if Y does. But you can't have a conditional sense talking about a past event, because it's already happened and you had your chance to make the decision.

I would have liked to laugh, but I didn't dare.

This is the correct way to say the second sentence above.

Something has happened in the past. At the time of this event, you wanted to laugh, but you didn't dare go through with what you wanted in response to whatever is happening.

You aren't saying anything with regard to whether or not you are one who laughs currently, unlike the first sentence.

  • Thank you very much for your detailed comment. Just would you please tell me more about the difference of the sentences #1 and #3? According to what you mentioned above, I see nothing different between these two sentences. :( – A-friend Oct 29 '14 at 17:21
  • Second sentence is not incorrect. Would can be used to describe a past habit. – Sandeep D Oct 29 '14 at 17:43
  • Any other comment? :-/ – A-friend Oct 29 '14 at 18:38
  • 1
    @A-friend: The main difference in meaning between 1 and 3 is for 1, you are implying that you probably don't like to laugh anymore - for 3, there is no such implication. – LawrenceC Oct 29 '14 at 18:54
  • 3
    The first doesn't pertain to "something happened in the past is refers to an habitual action- something you did on a consistent basis over some period in the past: *When I was younger I liked to laugh, but my teachers were so strict, I didn't dare." The first doesn't necessarily imply that you don't like to laugh now. Consider two people watching a home movie about one of them when they were younger: "Wow, what your dad did was really funny; but you didn't laugh. Didn't you like to laugh?" "No, I liked to laugh- still do. I just didn't dare laugh because my dad would have killed me." – Jim Oct 30 '14 at 1:53
3

Like to VERB and would like to VERB are not used in the context I believe you have in mind.

While it is true that I would like to VERB implies that you want to do it, this is not the primary significance of the expression. These expressions signify that you enjoy the activity, or would enjoy it if you had the opportunity; your desire to do it is inferred from what you have said.

In fact, it is precisely because the expression does not signify want that we employ it in making requests. To say "I want a piece of pie" or "I want to go swimming" has the 'feel' of a demand on the people you are talking to: "Give me a piece of pie", "Take me swimming". To soften that demanding sense we say merely that we would like what we want: this puts our hearers in the position of doing us a favour rather than giving in to our demand.

But I don't believe that that is what you intend in your examples. The situation appears to imply that you felt an impulse to laugh which you repressed. The idiomatic way of expressing that is with want:

I wanted to laugh, but I didn't dare.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.