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See your Emperor! He fears these arrows and spears no more than would an anvil!

My guess is that this means: "an anvil does not fear arrows and spears, because anvil is so strong that beating arrows and spears on an anvil does not hurt the anvil in any way, your emperor also does not fear this arrows and spears, because he is so strong too (in the same way)".

Is that right? Please explain the structure of the sentence a bit.

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    @KinzleB I put back the comparison and inversion tags (which you deleted) because the OP's example is a comparative construction that uses subject-auxiliary inversion. -- If you disagree with my grammatical evaluation of the OP's example, please explain where you think I went wrong. – F.E. Nov 2 '14 at 0:52
  • I think that's not relevant to what OP was asking. @F.E. – Kinzle B Nov 2 '14 at 1:36
  • @KinzleB How is what not relevant? – F.E. Nov 2 '14 at 3:38
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    I thought OP wasn't asking about inversion or comparison, but the particular usage of 'would'. Seems I'm wrong about it. @F.E. – Kinzle B Nov 2 '14 at 5:20
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You have the basic sense right.

Grammatically, that would is the past-tense form of will used not to designate remoteness in time but remoteness in probability. An anvil of course cannot feel fear; but even if we imagine that an anvil could feel fear, we have to acknowledge that it would not fear spears and arrows, for the reasons you have given.

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  • Well said. It's also an old fashioned sounding construction. If it were written today it would more likely read, "See your Emperor! He fears these arrows and spears no more than an anvil would!" (fear the spears and anvils.) – Jason Patterson Nov 1 '14 at 23:26

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