One of the main problems of translation (especially when considering Machine Translation) is that short sentences have no context, and context is mandatory for proper comprehension. This is an important aspect when dealing with translation; for instance, international dubbing of audio/video content usually has two steps that happen prior practical dubbing with voice actors: translation and "adaptation" (localization); the original script is translated, then adapted in order to ensure that people speaking the "target" language are able to understand what's being told, considering social and cultural references. Adaptation may even change the original meaning in ways that can significantly alter the phrases.
The following phrase probably has a wider extent of translation:
Le truppe speciali avrebbero assaltato l'edificio
This phrase can have at least two meanings in Italian:
- The troops might have assaulted the building [if something else didn't happen];
- The troops have allegedly assaulted the building [but there's no proof of that];
The condizionale presente makes it a bit narrower:
"Le truppe speciali assalterebbero l'edificio"
In most cases this will probably mean that the troops are willing to assault the building, as long as they can. Or, at least, that we can assume that they will ("Le truppe assalterebbero [at a certain time]"): we cannot be sure, but we are confident that they will.
Dealing with the opposite translation makes things even more difficult, as the meaning of the modal verb can change depending on the context, since it can be used to show "basic" willingness, to form condition clauses or even for courtesy; consider a simple sentence like "I would leave" which might mean "I would leave [if I can]" (I might not be able to leave) or "I would leave [if you please]" (I'm just being kind, but I'll certainly leave even if you don't want to).
Consider the basic phrase:
Special troops would assault the building
I can see at least three possible meanings (and this doesn't even deal with the Italian translation), and that's because we're lacking context:
- Troops are probably going to assault ("Le truppe attaccherebbero l'edificio", sooner or later);
- Troops are willing to assault ("Le truppe vorrebbero attaccare l'edificio");
- Troops might be put in the position to assault [if something makes them] ("Le truppe potrebbero dover attaccare l'edificio", even if that's not a proper translation);
Consider that if you change the "assault" verb to a more common one, the result of machine translation is more direct, using the "condizionale presente". That depends on various aspects, including modern technologies dealing with Machine Learning, statistics and user input (Google Translate usually shows when a translation is provided by user intervention).
Depending on the verb, you can have different results:
- "fire up" results in "darebbero fuoco";
- "blow up" gives "avrebbero fatto esplodere" (instead of "esploderebbero");
And what about ambiguous verbs, like "fly"? Should the troops try to make the building fly, or are they just willing to escape it?
The only certainty we have is the uncertainty of the verb ;-)