No, no one would/was going to abandon me this time.

I wouldn't/wasn't going to get lost this time.

Is the meaning the same? Why or why not?

  • 2
    You can use both for each example, however, there is a subtle difference. In the first e.g would suggests that the people are free to choose not to abandon you and that you are sure they won't. was going to has an ominous nuance that you will stop anyone who tries to abandon you. I wasn't going to get lost this time. Sounds like an unequivocal statement of fact, whereas, wouldn't sounds more hopeful than sure.
    – Joe Dark
    Commented Oct 9, 2015 at 12:37

1 Answer 1


They're almost but not quite interchangeable. The differences are subtle.

No one would abandon me this time.

This hazily evokes two senses of "would" simultaneously: its grammatical sense of indicating the consequence of a condition, and its older, psychological sense of volition. "This time" suggests some new condition, which "would" reinforces to create the meaning "Because the new situation is different, I expect that no one will/would abandon me." Talking of abandonment suggests that "would" also describes willingness, creating this meaning: "This time, everyone will be very reluctant to abandon me."

Also, the word "would" allows both a past-tense and a present-tense interpretation. Understood in the past tense, the sentence describes the speaker's past expectation that, in a past "this time", he or she would not be abandoned. Understood in the present tense, the sentence describes the speaker's present expectation that, in a future "this time", he or she will not be abandoned. These two interpretations are possible because "would" is both the past tense of "will" and the (tenseless) modal verb for the conditional mood.

No one was going to abandon me this time.

"Was" and "going to" carry none of the senses of conditionality or volition of "would". Consequently they carry a much stronger sense of certainty. There are two possible interpretations: (1) The speaker had an expectation in the past of not being abandoned "this time". (2) The speaker is writing from the perspective of the present that he or she was not abandoned "this time", which has already occurred in the past, so the speaker knows what really happened. In other words, the second interpretation describes fact rather than expectation.

Even the "would" version of the sentence can express this present perspective on the past. It would need more context to make that interpretation likely. The "was" version suggests it without additional context.

I wouldn't get lost this time.

As above, "would" evokes both the conditional mood and its sense of volition as the past tense of "will". So, the sentence can mean that the speaker expected that because "this time" was different, he or she would not get lost; or the sentence can mean that "this time", the speaker resolved more strongly to keep from getting lost; or the speaker could be writing about the past from a present perspective: "In fact, I did not get lost this time, although I did not know that beforehand."

The "I would" construction also allows the sentence to be understood as a short form of this idiom: "I wouldn't get lost this time, if I were you." This idiom means that the speaker is strongly advising the listener to take care to avoid getting lost this time, where "this time" has not yet happened.

I wasn't going to get lost this time.

As above, these tenses convey a stronger sense of certainty. Either the speaker's expectation in the past was nearly certain, or the speaker is writing factually about the past from the perspective of the present.

If this all seems hopelessly confusing, well, this is how English modal verbs work. English makes many more grammatical distinctions than it has words and inflections to distinguish them. The modal verbs are usually old verbs that meant something else (will for volition, shall for owing a debt, etc.), which have been pressed into serving many roles. It's not unusual for multiple roles of the same grammatical word to be evoked in a single sentence. To be clear, you must provide context or reinforce one of the grammatical roles with other words in the sentence, like "this time". Or you can simply exploit the multiple roles by using the grammatical words as a concise way of suggesting two or more things at once.

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