would: ✓ would do something ✗ would have done something

By | January 30, 2017
would do something
would have done something
Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
Anche se sapessi che domani il mondo sarebbe andato in pezzi, pianterei lo stesso il mio melo.
- Martin Luther
✓ Thanks! I knew you would understand.
✗ Thanks! I knew you would *have understood*.
Grazie! Sapevo che avresti capito.
Notice that in English, unlike Italian, we don't use would + perfect infinitive (for example would have done) in sentences like this, because they aren't conditional sentences.
Perhaps the easiest way to think about this is to compare similar sentences in the present and past, and consider would the past form of will. Look at the following examples:

PRESENT SENTENCE

I'm sure (that) she will understand.
Sono sicuro che lei capirà.

TENSE CHANGE

am --> was / will --> would

PAST SENTENCE

I knew (that) she would understand.
Sapevo che lei avrebbe capito.

PRESENT SENTENCE

I know we'll win.

TENSE CHANGE

know --> knew / will --> would

PAST SENTENCE

I knew (that) we would win.
Sapevo che avremmo vinto.

Notice the difference in meaning between would + simple infinitive (for example would do) and would + perfect infinitive (for example would have done).
✓ I knew we would win. (And we won!)
Sapevo che avremmo vinto.
✓ If you had played, we would have won. (But we didn't win!)
Se tu avessi giocato, avremmo vinto.
The first sentence is factual; it reports what actually happened. The second sentence is hypothetical; it imagines the opposite of what happened.

Now try the quiz below! There are TEN answers. The pass mark is 90% (9 out of 10). Click on the blue arrows to go to the next or previous question. You can check your answers immediately or when you've finished the quiz.

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