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

Hi, in Rudyard Kipling's short story The Man Who Would Be King, "would be" is used as a verb but all dictionaries list it only as an adjective spelt with a hyphen. Is this perhaps an old form, which has become obsolete?

Hello DominikR,

'would-be' as an adjective has a hyphen ('-') in it. When they are verbs, 'would' and 'be' do not have a hyphen between them. Does that make sense? Feel free to quote a specific sentence if we can help you understand it better.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, My friend got a call from somewhere and she said to me "The boy on the phoneline had a French accent, He would be Ronald" Ronald is our old French friend. Now she said He would be Ronald but I think she could have said 'He would have been Ronald' because the incident was in past why didn't she and what is difference between would be or would have been in terms of probability in the past, And keeping the same incident in view what is the difference between could be or could have been like she said he could be Ronald but couldn't it be 'Could have been' in terms of possibility in the past ?

Hi sir Peter. I see you use "would" in the sentence "other examples would be", what's the meaning of would sir?
Answer: It is possible to use to use 'would like' with a future meaning, but not in the way you do. The sentence could be made as follows:
I would like you to guess who he is.
Other examples [b]would[/b] be:
I'd like them to arrive early tomorrow.
The boss would like to have a meeting on Friday.
She'd like them to be finished before the weekend.

Hello Crokong,

This is really a certain convention of politeness. We could say 'other examples are...' but it is a little more polite to say 'other examples would be...' with an implied 'if you wanted to see them'.

'Would like' refers to a future event but really it has a present meaning as it describes what the speaker wants (now) to happen in the future. In other words, it describes the speaker's current hope or desire. In that sense it is similar to 'I hope that...' or 'I worry that...'

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, I thought that you would be sleeping yesterday afternoon. This sentence shows that I supposed or imagined or speculated that he was sleeping, but actually He was not, but If I'm still not sure, So Could I say to him using 'would' like this "You would have been sleeping yesterday afternoon" ?

Sir, Actually here, I used ''probably" with would because I was not sure about king's going to a slum area like this- He died because He probably would not eat properly. So Could I use ''would with probably" here like this for past probability ?
And please pay attention here the same for present probability, There's a king who probably would go to a slum area. Now Could I use would with probability for present like this or should I only write this- There is a king who probably goes to a slum area ?

Sir, There was a king who would probably go to a slum area. Bow my question is CouId we use 'would' this way or should we write only like 'who probably used to go to a slum area' ?

Hello SonuKumar,

You can use either 'used to' or 'would' to describe past habitual actions (but remember that only 'used to' is used for past states). It's a little unusual to use 'probably' here as generally past habitual actions are known rather than speculated about, but in certain contexts it would be fine.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

when we use would to talk about being stubborn do we use it in the same form'would' in past,future and present as u used it for the present and in the example by vinod040 in the past??

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