A student of mine showed me the following example questions (sorry if they offend anyone...but i want to post them exactly as he showed them to me). I have a question about the use of "would" and "will":

1. Are there any exercises that would help me lose weight from just my thighs?

2. Is there any way his voice will change and he will stop looking feminine?

In the first question, either 'would' or 'will' sounds fine to me, but in the second one, only 'will' sounds correct. In both questions, the speaker seems to be talking about imaginary situations, so why does 'would' sound strange in the second question? Perhaps the word 'way' conveys a more definite and specific feeling?

Thanks!

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Original Post
Here's my take on the matter. Let's look at each sentence in turn.

1. Are there any exercises that would help me lose weight from just my thighs?

This question is really a covert conditional, which can be either a "real" conditional or an "unreal" one. The full forms of this question are:

1a) Are there any exercises that will help me lost weight...[if I do them]?

1b) Are there any exercises that would help me lose weight...[if I did them]?

If the speaker has at least a 50/50 expectation of a positive outcome, the modal will be will. If ,however, the speaker has a less confident attitude about the outcome, or sees the idea as hypothetical, the modal will be would. This is why either modal is appropriate, as Kathryn says, but the choice depends on the speaker's degree of confidence in the outcome.

2. Is there any way his voice will change and he will stop looking feminine?

This question is not a covert conditional. It's really about a possible future event, and could be paraphrased as

Will his voice change in any way and will he in any way stop looking feminine?

In 2) there is no implied condition to be fulfilled.

An interesting and challenging query!

Marilyn Martin

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