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.

Beliefs

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.

Willingness

  • 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.

Conditionals

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.

 

 

Exercise

Section: 

Comments

When describing a historic fact that impacts on the future, do we use will or would? For example:
"In documents from the third century, we find almost all the vocabulary that will/would be applied to Christians in later centuries".

Thank you.

Hello bernchen,

The correct form here is 'would'. It is an example of what is sometimes called 'future in the past' - an action or state which was in the future from a perspective in the past, but which is not in our future.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much, Peter!

what is difference between
"I would think that’s the right answer" and "I think that’s the right answer"?

Hello Sanour Kabir,

That depends a bit on the context. For example, 'I would think' could indicate the speaker views the situation as a bit more hypothetical. It's difficult to say without knowing the context.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

For Instance,

Nuclear power is a sustainable energy source so we CAN or COULD use it to replace natural resources.

*my teacher said that I can use either even if could is a past tense even I'm talking about present.

* By the way, am I correct to put an article 'a' before sustainable energy source?

And in my sentence if could is A past tense? Thnks

Hello mark roi,

Both 'can' and 'could' describe the present and/or future in your sentence. 'Can' refers to a possible or likely situation, or a real option; 'could' refers to a hypothetical or unlikely situation, or a theoretical possibility.

The indefinite article is correct.

'Could' is a past form, yes. The name is unfortunate, however, as in English what we describe as verb tenses are often not used to describe time - as in this example.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

The same for will and would?

Sir I didn't understand your last sentence.
Thank you

Hello mark roi,

The last sentence means that the form which we call 'past tense' is used to talk about the past, but it also has other uses, such as talking about hypothetical or imaginary future time. And 'will' and 'would' are similar to 'can' and 'could' in this sense.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir, I'm a bit confused with regard to the usage of will-would,can-could,etc. Since my teacher said the these two tenses are the same in this context. Can you give me some advices?
Thank you

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