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We certainly wouldn't advise you to approach the site yourself.
(Source: BBC, The Archers, 2013-04-19 Friday, 5’40”.)

What's the meaning of would when it follows certainly? Would might produce uncertainty, I guess; then, why does it follow certainly?

1 Answer 1

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Would is employed as it is in conditional constructions, to imply unreality. There is no explicit condition expressed, but sentences like this imply either a condition which is supplied by the context or what you might call a "universal condition" (don't quote that, it's a term I just made up):

EXPLICIT CONDITIONAL: Under these circumstances we would do such-and-such.
IMPLICIT CONDITIONAL: [Under the circumstances previously mentioned] we would do such-and-such.
UNIVERSAL CONDITIONAL: [Under any circumstances] we would do such-and-such.

Certainly modifies the entire sentence, thus emphasizing the negation which is its core. It might equally be written:

Certainly, we would not advise you to approach the site yourself.
We would certainly not advise you to approach the site yourself.

So what the sentence amounts to is either:

IMPLICIT CONDITIONAL: It is certain that [under the present circumstances] we would not advise you to approach the site yourself.
OR
UNIVERSAL CONDITIONAL: It is certain that there is no circumstance under which we would advise you to approach the site yourself.

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  • Isn't it perfectly reasonable to assume that the "implied circumstances" simply amount to if you were to ask our advice? Apr 21, 2013 at 21:47

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