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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

Would you carry this for me please?

In this sentence, would there be any difference between "would" and "could?

Thanks a lot.

Hello cms10,

Would expresses a request. It means the speaker wants to be carried and wants the other person to do it.

Could expresses ability. It means the speaker wants to know if the other person is capable of carrying him or her. Of course, requests can be oblique rather than direct, so a question with could may also be a request, depending on the context.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. There are two questions that I find confusing.

Question 1 - "The meeting must be over by now." - Could I say the meeting will be over by now?

Question 2 - "It is in the nature of things that bureaucrats will measure success in terms of the numbers." Would it also be acceptable to say "...bureaucrats measure...."?

Hello MarciaBT,

1. You could use will or must here. Will expresses a belief or prediction. Must expresses a conviction based on what you already know. Must has a sense of 'I can't believe this would not be true'.

 

2. Yes, both will and the present simple are possible here. Will is a prediction; it expresses what the speaker believes. The present simple is used to describe typical or normal actions or states.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello teachers,

I understand that this may not be the most appropriate platform for me to ask questions about sentences that I got from newspaper articles, but I really have great difficulty in understanding the grammar structure of the following sentences. I would be very grateful if you could offer me some help.

1. "Brussels’ planned “gateway” is designed to ensure that member states’ apps can share information about people who have tested positive and are travelling to other parts of the bloc. It will work by connecting national apps to a server in Luxembourg which would then distribute the anonymised data to the relevant member states."

Why is “will” used in the first part of the sentence ("It will work by connecting...") and “would” in the relative clause ("which would then distribute...")?

2. France’s “StopCovid” app was launched in June and works by using Bluetooth to log contacts when people stand less than one metre from each other for 15 minutes or more. If a positive Covid-19 case is recorded by the app, people who have been in contact with the anonymised person are sent a warning.

Could I say "....will be sent a warning." instead?

Hello Santiago0227,

1. I have no idea why the author switches between will and would in this way. It does not seem a well-constructed sentence, and may well have been the result of a lack of proofreading.

2. Grammatically, you could use either form, but there is a difference in meaning. If you say are sent then you describing a system which is already functioning. If you say will be sent then you are describing a possible future event. It sounds as if the system has not yet been used. Given that the earlier part of the paragraph makes it clear that the system is already up and running, are sent seems much more consistent here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir,

Thank you for answering my question with such a detailed explanation! I understand that simple future tense, as well as the simple present tense, can be used to describe habits/characteristics. For example: The Olympic stadium in Sydney will/holds 110,000.

Could I say that "will be sent a warning" can be used to describe the characteristic of the system and also conveys the meaning that the system is already in place?

Thanks.

hi,

Can I say "typically pays" instead of "will pay" in this sentence?

Under a subscription model, consumers will typically pay a monthly fee to access the online library.

Secondly, I saw this sentence from a website on the use of conditionals. Could I say "will be inappropriate" or "is inappropriate" instead of "would be inappropriate"?

There are occasions where a remote conditional would be inappropriate even though I know that the event is actually false.

Thank you so much.

Hello anurat227,

You could say 'typically pay' (not 'pays') and that would be correct and mean the same thing.

I agree with you: 'is inappropriate' works better there.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir,

Hope you are doing well.

1. It's not likely to happen but I wouldn't rule out the possibility. - Could I say "won't" instead?

2. Taking action without knowing all the facts would not be a prudent course. - Could I say "is not" instead?

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