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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.

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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

Sir,
I'd like to ask you that is it possible to use "would" as an opinion here?

If yes, then is this sentence correct?

Hello Sandeep Gupta,

Would does express an opinion, in the context of a hypothetical situation, and the sentence is correct.

You can think of it as having an implied if-clause:

Being quiet and showing appropriate gestures in a discussion would give you enough time to listen to one's views and all with great attention if you did it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teachers,

I would like to ask two questions:

1. What is the purpose of “should” in the following sentence: If I should run into Daniel, I will tell him to call you.

2. We would be able to go sailing if the wind were blowing. - Can I replace "would be able to" with “could”? Is there any difference in meaning?

Thanks.

Hello patph0510,

In British English, 'should' is sometimes used in conditional clauses to express possibility. It is never necessary though, and means the same thing as 'If I run into Daniel'.

Yes, you could just say 'could' there and it would mean the same thing.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi teacher,

I would like to ask two questions:

1. If a plan, proposal, or policy etc is under discussion and has not been formally approved, should we use would (instead of will) when talking about the benefits/impact of the plan etc?

2. When a company unveils a new product at a product launch event, the chairman may say the product will bring numerous benefits to the company and will increase the company’s profits. Does the use of will in this context refer to predictions based on personal opinion rather than present evidence? Would it be more appropriate to use "would" or "be going to"?

Thanks!

Hi brian1010,

We use will when we think something is likely to happen. It implies that we consider the event a real possibility. We use would when we think something is unlikely or impossible and we are thinking of it in purely hypothetical terms.

For example:

The visit of a UFO will change the world. [I think a visit is possible/likely]

The visit of a UFO would change the world. [I think a visit is impossible/unlikely]

 

As far as your second question goes, it really is hard to say without knowing the precise context. It may well come down to a rhetorical choice on the part of the speaker rather than a question of fact. Will can imply a strong belief or certainty, so it can be very effective in a sales presentation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teachers,

I would like to ask what is the difference between "It would be very expensive to stay in a hotel." and "It is very expensive to stay in a hotel."

Thank you.

Pat

Hello patph0510,

The second sentence (with is) tells us something which is generally true. It does not refer to any particular stay. This sentences tells us something about hotels in general.

The first sentence (with would) describes a potential particular stay. You might use this if you were planning a holiday and trying to decide whether or not to stay in a hotel.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your reply!

I would like to ask one more question: What is the difference between "It will be very expensive to stay in a hotel." and "It would be very expensive to stay in a hotel."?

Hello again patph0510,

Will suggests that the situation is a real future. In other words, we understand that you are not only speaking in hypothetical terms, but are really considering staying in a hotel.

Would suggests that you do not really expect to stay in a hotel. It tells us that you are speaking hypothetically, but have no real intention of choosing a hotel.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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