Someday, I _____ give anything… future optative? (asking for the dog)


Apparently, when a human pets a dog it produces a particular reaction in the brain akin to solace or well-being. I have a theory that when a dog licks a human, there is a reciprocal effect for the dog. My dog likes to lick me–even holding my hand down with his paw so he can lick it. I would never tell him this, but I don't like it when he licks me. I just don't like the way it feels.

Fair is fair, however, and he lets me pet him as long as I want, so, to make myself relax and let him lick, I tell myself, "Someday, I ______ give anything to feel that warm, wet, disgusting tongue licking my hand, again." In other words, when he is dead and gone, I will at that time say to myself, "I would give anything to…"

As far as I can tell, the correct word to use in the blank is "would." But it feels awkward. "Someday, I would give anything to feel…"

It feels like the verb is subjunctive, but maybe it feels awkward because it is really a conditional (if my dog is dead, then I will give anything…).

Not the most important question in the world, but I find myself mulling it over a lot because I use the sentence a lot (because it works) and then while I'm waiting for my dog to get his licks in, that's what I end up thinking about.

Also, I can't resist (you know it's coming) including a pic of my dog, and you tell me how I could say no.

Hey! Wanna get licked?

Best Answer

So the issue may be that you are using the common expression I would give anything in an unusual way to refer to a future wish, rather than a wish right now. (See Cambridge Dictionary for an example of how dictionaries deal with the idiom.)

So in your expression, you have two tendencies bumping elbows:

Someday, I will ... (future tense expression with an implied conditional: [someday, when the dog dies, I will ...])

I would do anything to ... (idiomatic expression for wishing to do something very much)

Going with would, as the idiom demands, the combination thus starts out in a jarring way:

Someday, I would ... (sounds like a possible contrafactual, or at least something not sure to happen: [someday, I would miss my dog, but ...])

When the idiom comes into play, the elbows bump; the idiomatic meaning makes sense, but the future sense implied by someday may be causing bother:

Someday, I would do anything to ...

You might be tempted to adjust the idiom to get rid of that initial reading and help the expression work with someday:

Someday, I will do anything to ...

But that goes against the common usage of the idiom (NGram):

enter image description here

What should you do? You could decide the unease of the expression emphasizes how you don't want your dog to die and don't fully believe he'll die. If so, use "Someday, I would ...":

Someday I would give anything to have these reminders. (example: Krystal Seiben, "This is the Good Part, Don't Wish it Away")

You could embrace the certainty of "Someday, I will," idiom be darned. (It still makes sense!):

Someday I will give anything to be right where I am. (example: Full of the Dickens)

You could try dodging the idiom entirely ("Someday, I will miss that warm, wet, disgusting tongue licking my hand again.") In any case, and in both the linguistic and pet-loving sense, you're not alone.

Related Topic