I was so stunned by her sudden change of mood that I couldn’t process her words. I just stood there staring at her. She swung her schoolbag as if she were about to hit me on the head with it, but changed her mind and ran off toward her entrance. I went home, crying. I cried on and off for the rest of the day. My grandmother and then my mother kept asking me what was wrong, but I wouldn’t say. I didn’t really understand it myself. Perhaps what I was feeling was shame -- not just the mortification of having made the wrong assumption about Tania’s father but the deeper, sickening humiliation of being excluded from the élite group of children.

Why did the writer use the word would here? When she says but I wouldn't say, does it mean that she was reluctant and not eager to say? or does it mean that it was her habit not to say why she would cry on different occasions?

  • 2
    Sometimes would is just the past tense of will. If that is the case--and you can discover this by looking would up in a dictionary--which option do you think it means?
    – user6951
    Nov 16, 2014 at 23:53

2 Answers 2


It's hard to tell from context if it was also the narrator's habit not to say why she was crying, but it definitely sounds like the narrator is saying she was reluctant to tell her family what happened.


I was not willing or able to tell my grandmother and my mother about the event that I did not really understand myself.

When we talk about something in the past about the future, we use the past form of will i.e. "would". We also use "would" when someone/something refused/was not able or willing to do something. For example, my car wouldn't start this morning, he wouldn't tell me about his plan, etc.

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