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I am little bit confused about the usage of would.

Sometimes we use would to describe Past's habit as,

When he was a child then he would like to eat ice cream.

2) We use it in reported speech as,

He told me that he would come the next day.

3) But in this sentence i am not getting the usage of would ,

Since the binary numeral 100 represents the value four, it would be confusing to refer to the numeral as one hundred.

Thanks

  • It's grammatically wrong to use "would" with the past participle "lost". – Khan Dec 7 '14 at 15:52
  • @StoneyB above sentence that you have written is a reported speech because "went" is past tense.it seems to be a conversation which has happened in past.i.e, he told me that if you went from this way,you would lost. – 1010 Dec 7 '14 at 16:27
  • "He told me that if you went from this way,you would get lost" – 1010 Dec 7 '14 at 16:34
  • @StonyB If we use "went through this way". Would it be correct? – 1010 Dec 7 '14 at 17:56
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    We'd ordinarily just say If you went this way = "If you took this path*. – StoneyB on hiatus Dec 7 '14 at 22:12
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Since the binary numeral 100 represents the value four, it would be confusing to refer to the numeral as one hundred.

What you have here is a 'hidden' conditional construction—although there is no express if clause, the infinitive clause serves the same purpose:

It would be confusing to refer to the numeral as one hundred.
It would be confusing if we referred to the numeral as one hundred.

This sentence employs past forms not to move the time reference to the past but to characterize the statement as imaginary, hypothetical or unreal, where present forms characterize the statement as a real-world probability or certainty.

PRESENT: It will be confusing if we refer to the numeral as one hundred.
.... ↓ ↓
PAST: It would be confusing if we referred to the numeral as one hundred.

The author has no intention of referring to the number as 'one hundred', so he employs past forms.

Past forms are used this way with all verbs, not just modals like will/would—note that refer changes tense, too—but it is especially marked with the modals because modals express possibility and probability, and are therefore intimately involved with imaginary, hypothetical and unreal situations.

There are, by the way, yet more uses of will/would; but cataloging those would not help you understand this use, and would make the answer run for pages and pages!

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