will or would


We use will:

  • to talk about the future – to say what we believe will happen
  • to talk about what people want to do or are willing to do
  • to make promises and offers

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 – things that are imagined rather than true.
  • for politeness.


We use will

  • to say what we believe will happen in the future:

We'll be late.
We will have to take the train.

We use would as the past tense of will:

  • to say what we believed would happen:

I thought I would be late …… so I would have to take the train.

Offers and promises

We use I will or We will to make offers and promises:

I’ll give you a lift home after the party.
We will come and see you next week.


  • 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.

We use would as the past tense of will:

  • to talk about what people wanted to do or were willing to do:

We had a terrible night. The baby wouldn’t go to sleep. He kept waking up and crying.
Dad wouldn’t lend me the car, so we had to take the train.

  • to talk about something that we did often in the past because we wanted to do it:

When they were children they used to spend their holidays at their grandmother’s at the seaside. They would get up early every morning and they’d have a quick breakfast then they would run across the road to the beach.


We use will in conditionals with if and unless to say what we think will happen in the future or present:

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 talk about hypotheses, about something which is possible but not real:

  • to talk about the result or effect of a possible situation:

It would be very expensive to stay in a hotel.

  • in conditionals with words like if and what if. In these sentences the main verb is usually in the past tense:

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 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.

Phrases with would:

  • 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 that?

  • would you like ...; would you like to ...,  for offers and invitations:

Would you like to come round to morrow?
Would you like another drink?

  • 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 that one.
I’d rather go home now.

  • 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.





Hi sir, I ask my friend about this: what does "what a...!" mean in the sentence "what a World Cup it's been"? Then he answer it like this: this is what you would have said without "what a": it's been a brilliant World Cup". I'm confused why he uses "would" here? I think it's also correct to say "this is what you say without "what a". I'm wondering why is the "would" there?

Hi akatsuki,

'What a...' is a form used in an exclamation and your friend is correct about its meaning.

Both This is what you say without 'what a' and This is what you would say without 'what a' are correct. The first describes typical behaviour; the second is in the form of a conditional ('...if you wanted to say it without 'what a').

Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

"I would rather jump to the river than love you"-
is the sentence correct?

They would get up early every morning & They used to get up early every morning-whether the meanings of these two sentences are same or different?

Hello sam40,

Both forms indicate that they did this routinely in the past; 'used to' also indictes that they no longer wake up early every morning, whereas 'would' doesn't clearly indicate this.

As for your question above, the preposition 'in' is used instead of 'to', but otherwise your sentence is grammatically correct. Though some of us really enjoying jumping in the river!

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team

Why is "would" here?

1 as for "to whom be praised", I WOULD have to see the surrounding contex.
2 this is what you WOULD have said without "what a".
3. You would want to use the past simple.

How does "would be" function?

I think the best formulation WOULD BE "...without that he would still be crown prince".
2. --------------------- (removed). The literal translation WOULD BE "I like the thing of reading".
3. It would be best to take the train.

Hello akatsuki,

In 2, I removed the words in Malay because we don't generally publish words in other languages, as we simply don't have the time or resources to check text in other languages carefully enough to be able to publish them.

'would' is a modal auxiliary verb, so it nearly always appears with another verb. In the case of 'would be', 'be' is that other verb. 

As for your other comment above, please tell us how you think 'would' is used in those phrases. We're happy to help users understand a phrase or two that don't come from the site, but in general our main purpose is to help you understand what's here on LearnEnglish. Besides, we can help you better if you explain what you're thinking.

Finally, please note that we get dozens of comments every day, so we don't usually answer more than one question from the same person each day. It'd be better if you limit yourself to one question per day.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Dear the LearnEnglish Team members,

1) Would you please tell me if the following sentences have the same meaning and are grammatically correct?

a) Nancy would rather her mother cooked dinner today.
b) Nancy would rather cook dinner by her mother today.

2) Please kindly let me know if I can put “than + a bare infinitive” at the end of a sentence (as below) to make a comparison.

“Nancy would rather her mother cooked dinner tonight than eat out.”

3) Can “would rather” be used to talk about preferences in the past?

Thank you in advance.