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 tomorrow?
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

Hello,

I will go to the beach tomorrow.

In my understanding, this sentence above means I have a clear intention to go to the beach tomorrow.

However, when
: 80 percent of me wants to go to the beach,
: at the same time, 20 percent of me doesn't want to go to the beach,
: so, it is likely to go to the beach,
: but, not 100 percent sure,
should I use "might" or "would" or "could"?

A: I might go to the beach tomorrow.
B: I would go to the beach tomorrow.
C: I could go to the beach tomorrow.

Which sentence does suggest what I feel?

Hello nine_tails,

A and C can both be used to speak about you possibly going to the beach tomorrow, but most of the time would imply less certainty than you describe. I'd say the most appropriate form to use here is either the present continuous or 'going to', i.e. 'I'm going to the beach tomorrow' or 'I'm going to go to the beach tomorrow', or perhaps 'I'm planning on going to the beach tomorrow'. 

The forms we most often use to talk about the future are explained on our talking about the future and Future plans pages. I'd recommend you take a look at these two pages. Then if you have any other specific questions, please let us know.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Could you explain why is the sentence B inappropriate? Is this sentence interpreted as a conditional sentence? So, implying "I won't go to the beach"?

The pages you introduced to me are very useful, in which there are lots of things I have to learn.It is difficult to understand instantly, but I will try it.Thank you!

Hello nine_tails,

B doesn't communicate the idea of possibility in the way you described the situation. B is not incorrect, it's just that, out of context, it's a bit odd because there is no reference to the past (so it doesn't seem to be a past form of 'will') and there is nothing that indicates it's a conditional.

You're absolutely right when you say that it takes some time to learn to use these different forms to talk about the future. I think these pages will help you, and it's always good to try to make sense of grammar explanations, but I'd also encourage you to read texts and listen to people speaking as well -- our Listen & Watch section is full of materials for this -- where you'll see examples of this in context. It takes some work, but if you analyse how people use these forms in meaningful context, I think they will become even clearer to you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Maybe, I still have some difficulties understanding how to use "would" to express my expectation or possibility.My English teacher, he is not a native English speaker, said: "would is often used to express a little weaker intention, possibility, assumption than will, so that if you are not 100 percent sure, you should use would instead of will." This explanation might be a reason why I am confused how to use "would." Thank you, Kirk.I think I should learn modal auxiliary verbs again.What you introduced to me will help me.

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.
"The baby wouldn't go to sleep" is kind of indicating a possibility in the past, and then in the next sentence it's been confirmed by using past "He kept waking up and crying." So it is bit confusing to me!

Hello Darbdar37,

Here I'd say 'wouldn't go to sleep' is used to express willingness. It's perhaps a bit unfair to attribute unwillingness to a baby who is ill or uncomfortable, but we often use 'would' in this way in English, even with inanimate objects (e.g. 'The car wouldn't start').

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

1. I would not go to the party.
2. I would not advice you to do that.
3. I would say you are gonna get this.
please, tell me the meaning of would in above sentences.

Thank you

Hello jodu23,

In 1, you're talking about an imaginary situation, which is why 'would' is appropriate. It's as if the sentence were a second conditional: 'I would not go to the party if I were you'.

In 2 and 3, 'would' is being used to be less direct, which makes a statement more polite in English in general.

If you'd like to see more examples of these different uses of 'would', the Cambridge Dictionary's page on 'would' -- especially the part on Uses, which is further down the page.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

How does would work here?

In American English, the phrase "go to hospital" WOULD not be correct. One of the Articles "a" or "the" WOULD be necessary.
In British English, the comma WOULD go after the closing quotation mark.

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