from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • auxiliary verb Used to express desire or intent.
  • auxiliary verb Used to express a wish.
  • auxiliary verb Used after a statement of desire, request, or advice.
  • auxiliary verb Used to make a polite request.
  • auxiliary verb Used in the main clause of a conditional statement to express a possibility or likelihood.
  • auxiliary verb Used to express presumption or expectation.
  • auxiliary verb Used to indicate uncertainty.
  • auxiliary verb Used to express repeated or habitual action in the past.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Preterit and past subjunctive of will.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun See 2d weld.
  • imperative Commonly used as an auxiliary verb, either in the past tense or in the conditional or optative present. See 2d & 3d will.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • verb As a past-tense form of will.
  • verb As a modal verb, the subjunctive of will.


Sorry, no etymologies found.


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  • As I was browsing the Interwebs yesterday, I came across a list of advice to young people. It was titled "What I Wish I Would Have Known", and every item on the list began with "I wish I would have known that..."

    After I stopped banging my head against my keyboard, something occurred to me. The reason why this phrasing bothers me so much is that it combines two different indicators of the subjunctive mood: "I wish that I had" and "I would have", which is redundant. You don't need the extra indicator. You can just say "I wish I had known", and that's enough to establish the subjunctive. So, why do so many people feel the need to add "would have"?

    Well, maybe it's a similar phenomenon to the double negative. As I mentioned in another thread, many languages, and some dialects of English, use double negatives as negatives. ("I ain't no fool", for example.) The double negatives don't cancel each other out, and they aren't considered to be redundant. They just emphasize the negativity of the statement.

    By analogy, if "I ain't no fool" is a double negative, then maybe "I wish I would have known..." is a "double subjunctive"? Maybe it's not redundant... maybe the second subjunctive is for emphasis?

    I don't know. It's an interesting theory to think about, though.

    July 11, 2013