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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

Hi

The reason my prior reply was deleted seems well to explain the identity of this site and your unethical writing. Very disappointing. Please educate right.

Hello Stonehead1,

Your comment was read and considered. It was not published in the comments section because it was not a language-related comment, but rather a message to the team who run the site.

 

As I said, we are a small team here at LearnEnglish providing a service free of charge for many users around the world. It sometimes takes a few days to answer questions and we ask only for patience from our users.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,
Is the reply being delayed, discussed or else?

Hello StoneHead1,

No, the reply is not being discussed or delayed. We are a small team here and it sometimes takes us some time to reply. Please be patient - we will get around to replying but there are other comments ahead in the queue. Posting reminders to us only delays the process.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi everyone. What does "would" mean in the sentence "...would mean"?

A: If I had superpowers, I "could" or "can" teleport to different places in a second, and I "could" or "can" save the world.

So, should I use “could” or “can”?

B: Good question.
Use could: “ … or in the result clause, where it means would be able to.”

“If I had superpowers, I could teleport to different places in a second, and I could save the world!”

You are imagining an unreal situation. "Can" in this sentence would mean “be able to,” and you aren’t able to do the things in your sentences!

Hello Crokong,

I'm afraid I'm not sure I understand all of your questions. I'll answer what I can, but please ask again if I've missed something.

In A, 'could' is correct and 'can' is not. This is because you are clearly talking about an imaginary or hypothetical situation ('If I had ...' shows this), and in such a situation, you need to use 'would' or 'could' in the other clause.

As I stated earlier, 'can' is not correct when speaking about an unreal situation.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk, I'm sorry for the confusion. In the sentence "Can" in this sentence would mean “be able to", why is the word "would" used here?

Hello Crokong,

I'm sorry, but I don't understand your question. Could you please first write out the complete the sentence you are asking about, then tell me which word or phrase you are asking about, and then ask the question about it.

Sorry for the inconvenience.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello. I'm wondering why the if-clause in the following doesn't use a past form as a second condtional? And how does "would" work?

It would help if you give an axample sentence.

It’ll be many decades before we see a Premier League title race with such a dramatic finish, though the quality wasn’t always that high. Both sides did a Devon Loch at different stages. I’d be surprised if that happens this year.

Shouldn't the sentence be:
It would help if you gave an example sentence.
I would be surprised if that happened this year.

Hello Gendeng,

I'm not sure where these sentences are from, but if they are things you heard native speakers say, they're probably just mistakes -- when we speak, we often change our thinking as we speak and so we sometimes use non-standard forms. You can even find non-standard forms such as these in writing, but I wouldn't take them as models.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

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