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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 Hayder991,

Real in this context means something that we consider possible, likely or plausible.

Unreal means the opposite.

 

Sometimes the choice is clear:

If I were a dog, I'd spend all day in the garden.

I'm not a dog and so this is clearly an unreal situation!

When I finish, I'll give you a call.

I know at some point I'll finish, so it's just a question of time.

 

Sometimes the choice is a question of perspective:

If I win the lottery, I'll buy a new house.

I'm an optimist. I think there's a chance of this.

If I won the lottery, I'd buy a new house,

I don't see this as a realistic possibility.

 

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you Peter,
Here are some situations in which " would " was used instead of "will". would you please clear it up for me?
1- A man with his wife in the shopping Mall doing some shopping and he sees a nice looking vase for sale, so he says to his wife "wow, that would be amazing in the living room.

2- this conversation from a movie:
A- How much longer are you in this motel?
B- 2 weeks.
A-you now the offer still stands, my house doors always open to you and your family.
B- you're very generous but there are five of us, we wouldn't do that to you and your honey.

3- a student asking his teacher to do a lesson in grammar so he says:
It would be great to make a video about embedded clauses.

4- this dialogue between 2 friends:
A : Are you ok? What's going on with you?. Anything I could do to help?
B- you konw what, A cup of coffee would be much appreciate it right now.
A-That's it , you could have mine. it's over there on the table.
5- I don't think Danny would ever steal from the company. I think he's being setup.

Thank you very much in advance for your help...

Hello Hayder991,

In situations 1, 2, 3 and 5, 'would' is used to speak about a hypothetical or unreal situation. In other words, they are situations that the speaker is imagining. Situation 4 is similar and note how 'would' is used to make an indirect (and therefore polite) request here.

In the future, could you please tell us what you think about each of these, and then we can confirm them for you? Think of it as an opportunity for you to try to make sense of the sentences using the explanations on the page.

Thanks in advance for your understanding.

Best wishes,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi,

Sentence 1:It would be wrong to describe society purely in economic terms.

Sentence 2: The slightest sound would break his concentration.

For these two sentences, could I use the simple present tense?

Sentence 3: I think that getting a job would give him his pride back.

For Sentence 3, could I use the simple future tense (will)?

Thanks for your help teachers.

Hello Akihiko520,

You can use the simple present in your first two sentences, but there is a change in meaning. If you say It is wrong... and The slightest sound breaks... then you are talking about generally true situations; if you use would then you are speculating about a possible (but unlikely) concrete situation.

 

In the third sentence, will is grammatically possible but, again, the meaning changes. Would describes an imaginary, unlikely or hypothetical situation; will describes a real, likely or plausible situation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,

Thank you for your prompt reply.

I think that getting a job would give him his pride back. - Could I say that one possible context in which this is said is that the speaker thinks that "him" getting a job is unlikely?

The slightest sound would break his concentration --- For this sentence, I can't think of a possible context. Could you give me one example?

Thanks so much.

Hi again Akihiko520,

Yes, one possible context is that the speaker thinks the person is unlikely to get the job for whatever reason.

 

For the second sentence, it's enough that the speaker thinks that there is little chance of any sound, but that it would break his concentration in the unlikely event of any sound occurring.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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...."?

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