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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 Rsb,

The verb is intransitive so there's no reason to think of it as an action on anything. I think the verb separate here describes a change in state rather than an action performed, though it's really a question of interpretation and I don't think the actual description is particularly important to understanding the phrase and its use.

 

I have two requests for future questions you might have. First, can you please post them as individual questions rather than replies to replies. Long threads of questions like this drive all other questions from the page and mean that other users cannot see other parts of the comments section. Second, please try to post questions on relevant pages. This page deals with will and would, not transitive and intransitive verbs.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Right sir!

I would keep it on my mind.

Hello teachers. I have two questions.
1- In this phrase :
Why don't you invite jack ? I'm sure he would come.
The speaker seems quite certain that jack will come because he uses “Sure“ . so why the word “would“ is used instead of “will“ ? Isn't will for certainty and would for imagination and Hypothesis?
2- If i want to ask someone out of curiosity whether he is willing to do something in future (Not to order) which phrase would be more appropriate or is correct :
a - Will you play with him someday ?
b - Would you play with him someday ?
c - do you play with him someday ?
Thank you

Hello Ashkan0_0

1) It's not really a question of the speaker's certainty about Jack coming or not, but rather of whether Jack will be invited. The speaker has chosen to speak about a hypothetical future (a future in which 'you' has invited Jack). The complete thought is 'I'm sure he would come if you invited him'. The speaker could have chosen to say what you suggest, but here did not. 

2) A or B are possible for the situation you describe; which one would be better depends on details about the situation and the relationship between the speakers that I don't know, but in general you could use either one.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. There is a point that I didn’t understand. When we tell about past as a negative, we use “didn’t”
Ex: My car didn’t start.
Can we use “wouldn’t” instead of “didn’t” in all conditions ? Ex: My car wouldn’t start.
Do they mean the same thing? Thanks in advance.

Hello Baki,

The negative for past simple verbs is formed with didn't, as you say.

 

Wouldn't suggests refual in the past. We use it sometimes when we want to talk about an inanimate object as if it were a person (anthropomorphism) and could make decisions. Thus, we sometimes say sentences like these:

My car wouldn't start this morning.

I wanted to send an email but my computer wouldn't turn on.

These really mean 'my car refused to start' and 'my computer didn't want to turn on'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

I would like to know if this is a sentence of present conditional in simple form. If so, why is it used. Could you please explain.

"If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases."

Thank you.

Nina

Hello Nina

That's what is called a second conditional structure. The verb 'didn't do' is a past subjunctive (though most teachers call it a past simple form, because it is identical in form to the past simple). This kind of conditional speaks about an imaginary situation. In other words, if you say this, it means that testing is in fact being done and it suggests that there are many cases.

You can read more about this on our Conditionals 1 page.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir,
Am I correct?

'Would' is also used to express imaginory situation (unreal/hypothetical) related to past and present.
Example - 1. Sachin would be playing.(imagination related to present)
2. She would have gone.(imagination related to past)
3. Sachin would play now.(imagination related to present)

Above situations are imaginory related to past and present so we used "would".

If situation is imaginory(unreal/hypothetical) and related to future, do we use 'will' instead of 'would' right?

Example 1. Sachin will play.(imagination related to future)
2. He will be watching movie.(imagination related to future)
3. Sachin will have played.(imagination related to future)

Hello Sir, I want to know what's the difference between these two sentences.
1 He will sleep.
2 He would sleep.

Is the last one past habitual action or present probability.

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