Usage of would in place of did

Imran   Tuesday, February 10, 2004, 17:16 GMT
Can 'would' be used in place of 'did' or simple past tense?
For instance
1. I had $ 100,but I did not buy the microwave.
2. I had $ 100, but I would not buy the microwave.
3. After overthrowing Bhutto's regime, Gen Zia took over the country's administration.
4. After overthrowing Bhutto's regime, Gen Zia would take over the country's administration.

I saw similar sentences several times that cause a little bit confusion for non native speakers.
Imran   Saturday, February 14, 2004, 13:52 GMT
I need to know the answer to this question very badly, but unfortunately nobody responded to my posting. Please help me !
Lavoisel   Saturday, February 14, 2004, 14:42 GMT
I am not a native speaker, but I can only think of three uses of 'would' in a past context:

1/ an habit you had in the past:
'When I lived there, I would admire the view each morning from my balcony'.
Here, 'would' is equivalent to 'used to'.

2/ the past of 'will':
'He told me he would be there at nine o'clock'.
Compare this sentence to 'I will be there at nine o'clock'.

3/ refering to something you would rather have done if you could:
'I would rather have gone to the theatre, but I was short of money. Thus, I stayed at home.'
Tom   Saturday, February 14, 2004, 14:43 GMT
No, you have to use "did".
Jacob   Saturday, February 14, 2004, 16:31 GMT
Both #2 and #4 are correct sentences, but they don't mean the same as #1 and #3.
Imran   Sunday, February 15, 2004, 10:37 GMT
If #2 and #4 don't mean the same as #1 and #3 then what do they mean?
I'm aware of all the usages of 'would' and 'did' except this one. Please explain it in detail if you don't mind.
Jacob   Sunday, February 15, 2004, 12:08 GMT
#2 and #1 are only a shade of meaning apart. #1 emphasizes your failure to buy the microwave; #2 emphasizes your willful REFUSAL to buy the microwave. Perhaps someone else can elaborate on this, or refute it entirely.

Consider this pair:
A. He wanted me to do it, but I didn't do it.
B. He wanted me to do it, but I wouldn't do it.

In A, it's possible that I also wanted to but just didn't get around to doing it; it's possible that I wasn't able to do it; it's possible that I chose not to do it.

In part B, the only possible interpretations is that I chose not to do it.

So, "wouldn't" and "didn't" can be very similar in meaning.

Your #3 and #4 are easier. #3 refers to two events that actually happened: from the sentence I can conclude that sometime in the past Zia overthrew Bhutto's regime and Zia took over the country's administration.

#4 refers to a hypothetical situation; it can be paraphrased as "IF Gen Zia overthrew Bhutto's regime, THEN [afterwards] he would take over the country's administration." So this is not a past tense at all. "Would" and "Did" always have this clear distinction. "Did" for something that actually happened in the past; "would" for something hypothetical or potential.

Here's another pair for you.

Boris and Natasha planned every detail of the heist.
After incapacitating the moose, they would kidnap the flying squirrel.
Jim   Sunday, February 15, 2004, 23:52 GMT
I agree with Jabob except that sometimes you might find sentences like 4. used to mean what is meant by 3. Lavoisel's three examples are fine.


Your responce is puzzling. In which sentence do you mean?
Tom   Monday, February 16, 2004, 01:39 GMT
Well, the question was "Can 'would' be used in place of 'did' or simple past tense?"

The simple past should be used in Imran's sentences, except in rare contexts, such as those described by Jacob (which are very advanced grammar from a learner's perspective). Anyway, I found Jacob's explanations very good. Jacob, ever think of writing an English usage reference for learners? :)
Jacob   Monday, February 16, 2004, 12:11 GMT
Thanks for the compliment, Tom.

I really enjoy having the Antimoon forum and contributing what I can for questions like this one. It's probably a much better resource than another usage manual sitting around gathering dust.
Imran   Monday, February 16, 2004, 19:32 GMT
Thanks a lot! Jacob, you've sorted out my problem. I wish you'd continue helping me this way with my English. In fact, these kinds of explanations are not sometimes found in grammar books whereas I have to convince my pupils at school by answering in detail as I teach English.