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.

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

Comments

will you come today?
this sentence is in a question form which refer to things in future

is this explanation correct?

Hello quicklytextme,

It could be, but it could also be a question about a decision in the present. It really depends on the context. I'd suggest you also take a look at part 2 of our Talking about the future page.

Best wishes,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Context:
He stood disqualified as a minister. He WOULD now be barred from contesting elections....

- This is some part of a news report in a national daily after a verdict came.
Why was would used here though it is
1) Not an opinion - since its in the verdict; therefore for sure he will be
2) Not indirect speech
3) No use of 'if' conditional(not even indirectly) ?

Thankyou for your time.

Hello Andhrite,

I would say that this is an example of future in the past: looking ahead from a point in the past to a point in the future, but still (as part of a narrative) in the past from our point of view. Just as we would say:

He stands disqualified as a minister (present time reference). He will now be barred... (future time reference)

so we use 'stood' and 'would' when making the same references in the context of a past time narrative or context.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir could you please tell me about exact uses of would,its so confusing for me to understand it's uses.

Hello,

This page describes many uses of 'would'. Can you be more specific about what additional information you would like?

Best wishes,

Adam
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir,

I can understand that how exasperating this has been to cope up with my each meaningless questions but you helped me improve my English a lot..I'm really grateful for your constant guidance..
I just want to ask a last question -
As you said that hypothetical doesn't mean unlikely..then what does it mean actually??? i think hypothetical means unreal (which cant happen in real life) , and to which i can say which is very unlikely to happen..So by this hypothetical means unlikely..Example - if i won a lottery, i would buy a car..It means that chances of winning a lottery is very unlikely to happen, so if the chances of winning a lottery is very less then the chances of buying a car will also be very less..So by this would is used for hypothetical/unlikely situations..(and ofcourse its an imaginative situation) So why would cant be used for unlikely situations ??

P.S.- I promise this is my last question

Sir,
As you mentioned in your previous comments that
"I would guess that...
I would say that...
I wouldn't be too sure of that.
I wouldn't expect that..." is used for giving opinions/conjecture..So can i assume that when one has to state any opinion/conjecture then the sentence should start with i would say that/i would imagine that/i would guess that..??? if not, then could you cite an example expressing a conjecture but the sentence should not start with i would say/ i would imagine..

One more question sir,
In your above example "it would be expensive to stay in a hotel", you have mentioned that it expresses a possible situation but unreal. Right ?? So does that mean that the chances for the person to stay in a hotel is very less since "would" expresses a hypothetical situation..??

And as you said that hypothetical doesn't mean unlikely..then what does it mean actually??? i think hypothetical means unreal (which cant happen in real life) , and to which i can say unlikely to happen..So by this hypothetical means unlikely..Correct me if I'm wrong.

Thanks a lot for your constant assistance..i really appreciate your help

Dear Orton,

As Kirk explained to you in his last comment, we're not able to give you any more personal help with your difficulties in this area.

I hope you understand that we have millions of users on LearnEnglish and we need to prioritise our time towards helping the largest number of people. We try to answer as many questions as we can, but getting into a protracted discussion of language with one user simply isn't possible.

Best wishes,

Adam
The LearnEnglish Team

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