February 7, 2013

Translating “Would”


How do we translate “would”?


It depends on the context. The word “would” is used in many ways in English.

Future from the Perspective of the Past

The auxiliary “would” is used to express the future from the perspective of the past.


Example: I knew that you would come.

Translation: मुझे पता था कि तुम आओगे – “I knew that you would come”

In Hindi, the future tense is used. The future tense is contextual. Since it’s in a subordinate clause and the main clause has a past tense verb, it must be the future from the perspective of the past.


In English, to refuse something, one can say “I will not do X”, etc. Thus, “would” is used for past refusals.

Example: I asked him to go, but he would not go.

Translation: मैंने उसको जाने के लिए पूछा लेकिन उसने जाने से इनकार कियालेकिन वह नहीं गया

In Hindi, one can say “X refused to do Y” or “X did not do Y”, etc.


“Would” is again used as a sort of past form of “will” in indirect quotations.

Example: He said that he would arrive by 9 o’clock.

Translation: उसने कहा कि वह नौ बजे तक पहुंच जाएगा

Again, the future tense is contextual, so it is used.


“Would” is also used to discuss past habitual actions.

Example: When I was a boy, I would play near the river every day.

Translation: जब मैं बच्चा था तो मैं रोज़ नदी के पास खेलता था

Hindi has a past habitual verb form, so the translation is straightforward.

Conditional Sentences

“Would” is used in conditional sentences.

These sentences can be explicit: “If you meet him you would like him”, or implicit: “You would like him”; in Hindi, अगर तुम उससे मिले तो वह तुम्हें पसंद होगा / वह तुम्हें पसंद होगा. Again, the future tense verb form serves this role.

Contrafactual Sentences

“Would” is used in contrafactual sentences.

If I were rich, then I wouldn’t have to work.  – अगर मैं अमीर होता तो मुझे काम नहीं करना पड़ता

If I hadn’t already eaten, then I would eat dinner with you. – अगर मैं खाना नहीं खा चुका होता तो मैं तुम्हारे साथ खाना खाता

Hindi uses the past subjunctive in contrafactual clauses.

Expressing Desire

“Would” is used to express desires in English. For instance, “I would like some tea”. In Hindi, there is no special idiom for doing so. The equivalent sentence is simply “I want some tea” or “I feel like drinking some tea”, i.e. मुझे चाय चाहिए / मेरा चाय पिने का मन कर रहा है.

Polite Requests

“Would” can express a polite request as in: “Would you give me that book, please?”. In Hindi, politeness can be expressed via the various imperative forms, but among peers no special verb form is used.

  • Divija Sampathi

    Hai..In the sentence मेरा चाय पिने का मन कर रहा है. why did u use ‘mera’?? Shouldn’t it be ‘mujhe’ ?? Pls clarify

    • No. “mera” is correct. This idiom is literally something like “my chai-drinking mood is doing”. “mera” goes with “man” (मन) and “man” is masculine. “mera man” means something like “my mood”, “my mind”, “my feeling”, etc.

  • Nida Anwer

    1) He would scold other kids for no reason.

    2) He would get angry when his friend would play with other people besides him.

    3) He would even say hurtful words to his parents.
    what is the meaning of would in above sentences please translate and highlight only would meaing in sentence