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

hello,
could we use of 'would' in promise situation in past. for example: ' he promised he would send a postcard from Egypt.'
and second question is can we use 'was going to' instead of 'would'

Thanks

Hello akhi,

Yes, both of those forms are possible and the meaning is the same: in both sentences we do not know if the promise was kept or not.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hello,
thanks for your swift reply, my another question is could we use 'was going to' instead of 'would' in all situations which has mentioned on above.

In my last question 'he promised he would send the postcard from Egypt', it is the example of 'future from past' so my according in this sentence promise has not fulfill yet, and it will happen or not in near future. Is it correct or not?

Thanks

Hello
Could you please tell me why "would" is used in "There's not a thing that I would change" in the song "Just the way you are" instead of "will"? Thank you!

Hello Stephen,

The first point to make is that songs are a form of poetry, and so do not always follow normal grammar rules.  However, here I would say that the singer uses 'would' because the sentence is hypothetical in meaning - the singer cannot change anything, but even if it were possible, they would not.

I hope that clarifies it for you.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi sir,
its written above that "will" is used for future and "would" for past, but i saw some sentences where peoples are using would for future tense, how ? for example,
(our teacher would go Lahore after one day) , this is future tense then how would is used here

Hi Baloch Faisal,

I would guess that the sentence you quote has a hypothetical meaning but it is hard for me to comment more without seeing a fuller context.  If you would like us to comment more fully then please reply including the context of the sentence - what comes just before and just after.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi again Mr.Peter,

could you explain the rule of would and will because our teacher in the British council explained that on this way :
The choice of will or would sometimes depends on how we see a situation.
The speaker thinks it's a real possibility that he will get the job .

Ex1:If I get the job , we will go out to celebrate.

The speaker doesn't think he get the job, He is imaging it.

Ex: If I got the job, I would make a lot of change .

I hope to get your feedback from you as soon as possible.

Ex:

Hello Rami Reath Diab,

Your teacher's explanation is correct, as you can see from the section on this page headed 'Conditionals'.

You can find more information on conditional sentences on this page and this page.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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