[00:00.00]Imagine you are watching an action movie, such as Mission: Impossible. You hear the following exchange:
[00:11.96]"Would you like to watch a movie?"
[00:13.53]"Oh. No, thank you."
[00:19.23]"Would you consider the cinema of the Caribbean?"
[00:23.33]You might have noticed that one of the speakers uses the word would not once, but two times.
[00:32.60]Have you ever wondered about the word would?
[00:36.54]Would you like to know more about how native English speakers use it to show different meanings?
[00:45.14]Today on Everyday Grammar, we will explore a difficult area in English grammar: modal auxiliaries.
[00:55.52]By the end of this report, you will understand how modal auxiliaries are used in American English.
[01:04.67]You will also learn about three uses of the word would.
[01:10.58]Language experts say English has two main groups of words: form classes and structure classes.
[01:22.33]Form classes are words such as nouns, adjectives, and verbs that give basic meaning.
[01:31.36]The form classes are open; in other words, they often change as speakers use new or different words.
[01:42.35]The term structure classes means a small group of words that explain the grammatical relationships of words from the form classes.
[01:55.58]Structure class words are generally closed.
[01:59.68]In other words, structure class words, such as prepositions and, you guessed it, modal auxiliaries, usually do not change.
[02:12.44]This definition comes from Martha Kolln, an expert on English grammar.
[02:19.95]She notes that native English speakers do not often think about structure class words, despite their importance.
[02:30.54]Mastering structure class words - such as modal auxiliaries – is one of the difficult parts about learning English.
[02:41.05]We will not test you on the differences between structure and form classes.
[02:48.83]We just want you to know that there are the two main classes of words, and that knowing words from both classes is important.
[03:00.01]Now, let's take a look at one difficult word from the structure class: the modal auxiliary would.
[03:10.02]Modal auxiliaries change the meaning of the verb next to them.
[03:15.79]They show a speaker's opinion. They can express a possibility or necessity.
[03:25.56]Modals such as would have different meanings depending on their context.
[03:32.57]We have discussed modals in other Everyday Grammar programs, which you can find on our website, voalearningenglish.com.
[03:44.49]One common meaning of would is to show a wish about a present condition or a future event.
[03:54.59]Consider the statement, "I wish it would stop snowing."
[04:00.13]Here, the speaker expresses a wish about the weather.
[04:05.38]The speaker means that it is currently snowing; would expresses the speaker's wish that the weather change.
[04:14.72]The meaning of this statement is almost the same as "I hope it stops snowing."
[04:22.66]A second common meaning of would is to express a past or unrealized possibility.
[04:31.35]This past or unrealized possibility did not come true.
[04:37.17]Consider the sentence, "I would have helped you, but I could not get off from work."
[04:45.31]In this statement, the speaker shows regret about not being able to help.
[04:52.57]The speaker is saying that he might have been able to help, if he was not required to work.
[05:01.63]Here is an example from American popular culture. Consider these lines from the 1960 film Elmer Gantry.
[05:13.40]"Jesus would have made the best little All-American quarterback in the history of football.
[05:18.02]Jesus was a real fighter - the best little scrapper, pound for pound, you ever saw.
[05:22.51]And why, gentlemen? Love, gentlemen. Jesus had love in both fists! "
[05:28.56]In this example, the speaker is talking about a past or unrealized possibility.
[05:34.67]He never played American football.
[05:38.01]In fact, he lived long before American football was invented.
[05:44.52]Speakers do not always use would to show a past possibility.
[05:50.72]They might use would to show an unrealized possibility in the present tense.
[05:57.75]Consider this example:
[05:59.80]"I would help you if I could."
[06:03.50]Here the speaker is showing that she is unable to help.
[06:08.90]Whether the speaker is being truthful about her ability to help is a different question!
[06:15.71]One of the most common meanings of the word would is this: to make a polite request.
[06:24.85]This structure is useful in almost any situation – at work, school, a restaurant, and so on.
[06:36.03]Imagine you are at school and you cannot understand a question in mathematics class. You could ask a student:
[06:47.11]"Would you help me with this math problem?"
[06:50.85]Using would in this way is considered polite in American culture.
[06:57.36]You could ask the same question, or give a direct order, by saying "Will you help me with this?" or "Help me with this."
[07:10.37]Although such sentences are grammatically correct, they are not considered polite in American culture.
[07:20.85]Think back to the exchange you heard at the beginning of this report:
[07:26.66]"Would you like to watch a movie?"
[07:29.60]"Oh. No, thank you."
[07:34.28]"Would you consider the cinema of the Caribbean?"
[07:38.80]We have examined three basic meanings of the word would today.
[07:44.09]Can you tell which way the speaker used the word would?
[07:49.57]Do you think would has one or two meanings in the audio?
[07:55.39]Write us your answers in the Comments Section of our website, voalearningenglish.com
[08:03.65]The word would has many other meanings.
[08:07.42]The next time you are watching an American film or listening to American music, try to study how speakers use would.
[08:18.29]Are they using it to express one of the meanings we described today, or do they mean something else?
[08:27.26]Understanding modal auxiliaries is a difficult, but necessary skill if you would like to improve your knowledge of American English.
[08:39.48]I'm John Russell.
[08:41.96]And I'm Dorothy Gundy.