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'will' and 'would'

Level: beginner

We use will:

  • to express beliefs about the present or future
  • to talk about what people want to do or are willing to do
  • to make promises, offers and requests.

would is the past tense form of will. Because it is a past tense, it is used:

  • to talk about the past
  • to talk about hypotheses (when we imagine something)
  • for politeness.

Beliefs

We use will to express beliefs about the present or future:

John will be in his office. (present)
We'll be late. (future)
We will have to take the train. (future)

We use would as the past of will, to describe past beliefs about the future:

I thought we would be late, so we would have to take the train.

Willingness

We use will:

  • to talk about what people want to do or are willing to do:

We'll see you tomorrow.
Perhaps Dad will lend me the car.

  • to talk about typical behaviour, things that we often do (because we are willing to do them):

We always spend our holidays at our favourite hotel at the seaside. We'll get up early every morning and have a quick breakfast then we'll go across the road to the beach.

We use would as the past tense of will:

  • to talk about what people wanted to do or were willing to do in the past:

We had a terrible night. The baby wouldn't go to sleep.
Dad wouldn't lend me the car, so we had to take the train.

  • to talk about typical behaviour, things that we often did (because we were willing to do them) in the past:

When they were children they used to spend their holidays at their grandmother's at the seaside. They'd get up early every morning and have a quick breakfast. Then they'd run across the road to the beach.

Promises, offers and requests

We use I will or We will to make promises and offers:

I'll give you a lift home after the party.
We'll come and see you next week.

We use Will you … ? or Would you … ? to make requests:

Will you carry this for me, please?
Would you please be quiet?

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Level: intermediate

Hypotheses and conditionals

We use will in conditionals to say what we think will happen in the present or future:

I'll give her a call if I can find her number.
You won't get in unless you have a ticket.

We use would to make hypotheses:

  • when we imagine a situation:

It would be very expensive to stay in a hotel.
I would give you a lift, but my wife has the car today.

  • in conditionals:

I would give her a call if I could find her number.
If I had the money, I'd buy a new car.
You would lose weight if you took more exercise.
If he got a new job, he would probably make more money.
What if he lost his job? What would happen then?

We also use conditionals to give advice :

Dan will help you if you ask him.

Past tenses are more polite:

Dan would help you if you asked him.

will and would: hypotheses and conditionals

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See also: Verbs in time clauses and conditionals

Level: beginner

Expressions with would

We use:

  • would you…, would you mind (not) -ing for requests:

Would you carry this for me, please?
Would you mind carrying this?
Would you mind not telling him until tomorrow?

  • would you like ..., would you like to ...  for offers and invitations:

Would you like another drink?
Would you like to come round tomorrow?

  • I would like …, I'd like … (you)(to) ... to say what we want or what we want to do:

I'd like that one, please.
I'd like to go home now.

  • I'd rather… (= I would rather) to say what we prefer:

I'd rather have the new one, not the old one.
I don't want another drink. I'd rather go home.

  • I would thinkI would imagine, I'd guess to give an opinion when we are not sure or when we want to be polite:

It's very difficult, I would imagine.
I would think that's the right answer.

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Comments

Hello team,
The conditionals and hypotheses are confusing.
How to differentiate conditionals and hypothesis?
I also noticed that 'would' could be used in both hypotheses and conditionals, when should I use 'will' and 'would'?
Thanks a lot.

Sir, I could not find a relevant section for my question - so it is here : This is regarding the case of first letter after a colon. Sometimes I see capital letter after a colon , many times it is a small case letter. What is the correct grammar for this - please guide. Regards

Hi dipakrgandhi,

In British English we use a lower case letter after a colon. This changes, of course, if the first word after the colon is a proper noun (e.g. London).

In American English, a capital letter is often used after a colon when the part after the colon is a complete sentence.

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Sir !

Hello..
recently I've got confused on this word order i found on website...

"Right, I said, shivering at this recital as a man would who gets hysterical while taking a shower if a bit of soap stings his eye"

Here i wondered why "adjective clause come after Would at sentence above?"

for this time i have been thinking it is just wrong order of sentence... or that is maybe part of style in english?

thank you

Hi LitteBlueGreat,

It's an interesting example! Would refers to the verb earlier in the sentence (i.e. would shiver). 

 

The position of would is a bit unusual. But, other ways to phrase the sentence may not be better. For example, we could write it like this:

  1. ... shivering at this recital as a man who gets hysterical while taking a shower would if a bit of soap stings his eye.
  2. ... shivering at this recital as a man who gets hysterical while taking a shower if a bit of soap stings his eye would.

 

Both these options are more standard grammatical usage. But, the first one isn't ideal because would interrupts the description of taking a shower and getting soap on one's eye. It makes sense to avoid this interruption.

 

The second one is also not perfect, since the relative clause (who gets hysterical ... stings his eye) is very long and separates the subject (a man) far from the verb (would). The reader has to keep a lot of information in mind in order to understand the sentence.

 

So, although the original sentence may not follow standard grammar, readers can still make sense of it, so it could be the best option for the writer's purpose. For a writer, communicating the meaning may be more important than grammatical accuracy - especially in fiction writing. (Does this sentence come from fiction?)

 

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

I am not sure because i found it on Japanese-English Dictionary

1. Could i please get the rewriting of where is "Would" commonly placed if we use standar conditional grammar?

2. then again, did "shivering at the recital" take role as main clause of conditional "if a bit of soap stings his eye"?
or on the contrary, the main clause related to "if" is "man who gets hysterical"?

Hi LitteBlueGreat,

Actually, it's not a conditional meaning. There's no condition (if clause) stated or implied, and would doesn't have the hypothetical meaning that it has in conditional sentences (see "Hypotheses and conditionals" section above).

So, what's the meaning of would here? It shows typical behaviour in the past (see the "Willingness" section above). The sentence means that a man usually or typically shivered when soap stung his eye, and the speaker shivered in the same way.

It's quite a complicated sentence! Does it make sense?

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Just about, there is just any little problem i need time to understand however it is big help... thank you very much

Good afternoon i noticed another strange sentence :
If not having i could not have got that achievement, is there any part implied at beginning , isn't it?
and what is it?
I would not to like to make a profit of your kindness but i do hope you 'll be able to make it clear to me.
Thanks in advance.

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