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.





sir i have a problem.....the light would(past of will) be seen again...is it passive or what....as far as i know that.....the light would(future) be seen....if i want to tell it as past......the light would have been seen.......pls explain me all in details

Hi maxmamun,

I'm afraid we're not able to explain all the details of large topics such as modal verbs, but here are a few pointers to help you.

Yes, 'the light would be seen again' contains a passive construction: it has the modal verb 'would' + 'be' and the past participle 'seen'. Past forms do not always refer to the past; for example, in the sentence, 'If we turned it on, the light would be seen again', which is often called a second conditional, 'would' is referring to an unreal present or future condition - not the past.

'the light would have been seen' refers to an unreal past situation, i.e. to something that didn't happen. See the explanation of third conditionals for more on this.

Best regards,
The LearnEnglish Team


Hi,sir, I saw this sentence in a movie."If you want to take down klaus without your friends dying,then you (would) be a fool not to listen to me" . I want to ask why (would)is used here and would it be different if (will) is used? .....if my grammar is wrong ,please do tell me, thanks sir:)

Hi Danielyong96,

That is a non-standard form, as you suggest. Remember that the language in films, just like the language on the street, is not always grammatically 'correct', and often uses non-standard forms. As you suggest, the 'correct' form would be 'want... will' or 'wanted... would', but real language is often different from that which we find in grammar books!

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

Can it not be taken as the speakers opinion(you would be dead) and say usage of would is right(although if should be followed by 'want...will' or 'wanted..would' forms)?. Can 'wanted..would' form be used to express opinion or give suggestions?

Thank you

Hello Andhrite,

It does express an opinion, but it is also part of a larger structure (a conditional sentence with 'if') which has its own rules of formation. In these structures the standard forms would be:

if + present... (then) + will (should/might etc.) - for conditions which we think are likely or true

If you want to take down..., then you will be...

if + past... (then) + would - for conditions which we think are unlikely or untrue

If you wanted to take down... then you would be...

The reason the sentence as stated orginially is non-standard is that is mixed real/likely and unreal/unlikely clauses. You can find more information on these forms here.

Please remember that in the film, the character is not English and so his English may not be perfect!

Best wishes,



The LearnEnglish Team

in use of will you said we use will to tell about what people want to do. In your explanation of 'phrases with would' you explained "I would like..." is used to express what we want to do.

My question is, what is actual difference between
1. I will like to go home.
2. I would like to go home.

Hello eArsalan,

'will' is used to express what we want in mostly interpersonal ways, e.g. when we are asking someone to do something or making a promise. For example, if I say 'Will you please call me tomorrow?', I'm asking you to do this thing I want; or, 'I'll call you tomorrow' is a promise that expresses my desire to call you. But 'will' is not used in sentences like your sentence 1, which is a simple declaration. Instead, you should use 'want' or 'would like' if you want to be polite.

'would like' is used as a polite version of 'want' when we ask for something. For example, in a restaurant I can say 'I'd like an order of samosas and palak paneer' - this is a polite way of saying 'I want an order of...', but essentially means the same thing. Or, as in your second sentence, it can be used to express a wish: 'I would like to go home'.

Learning how these forms are used takes some time and practice, so please keep studying and notice how they are used when you see them. It will slowly make more and more sense.

Best wishes,
The LearnEnglish Team