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 Peter,

Thank you very much for your reply.

Both two sentences described situations in the past. If I wanna express "If I had a new project, I would still schedule a meeting (repeat what I did because of my habit)." to my listener, I should use the "scheduled" case instead of "would schedule". Am I correct?

Regards,

Hello Felix W,

As I said, both sentences are correct and both can refer to your normal behaviour in the past. You can use either form.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,

Would it be right to assume that the sentence "We will then cancel..." is conditional? as in the contract or whatnot will be cancelled in the near future under the condition that the person does what has been asked of him? i.e. If you are not happy with...call to cancel...and we will then...

Hi emgrace,

There is certainly an implied condition here but that does not make the sentence a conditonal in the grammatical sense. It could simply be a normal future reference. For example:

If you send us a formal request, we will then cancel the order. [a conditonal]

Here's the plan: you will send a formal letter and we will then cancel the order. [two actions in the future in sequence]

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir. I want to ask that this sentence "the chief's son would inherit all his dominions" so it means he will be inherited so why do we use would in a future tense?

Hello aseel aftab,

It's not really possible to say without knowing the broader context in which the sentence appears. The most likely explanation is that it is an example of the future in the past but it could also be a hypothetical form, for example.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

What's the "would" usage in this sentence?

How much would that cost?
That'd be $115.

Hello sarab2009,

This is a polite way of asking the price. It's effectively a conditional sentence with an unstated if-clause:

How much would that cost (if I wanted to buy it)?

The conditional form makes the request more tentative and therefore more polite.

 

Best wishes,

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, why do you use "would" in this sentence?

Question: my friends says that it's also correct to say "I'm going to a cinema", then what's the difference with "I'm going to the cinema"?

Answer: it really depends on what the speaker means. If you're speaking of a cinema that's already been mentioned or is clear from the context in some way, or if there is only one cinema in town, then 'the' WOULD be the correct form. Otherwise, 'a' is possible.

Second, why doesn't the main clause use the simple past (if there was only one cinema)?, instead use the present simple.

Hello Crokong,

I suppose you mean 'the cinema' instead of 'a cinema' (and not 'would'). Briefly speaking, your friend is right in saying that it is possible, but most of the time we would say 'the' because when we're thinking more of the activity of seeing a film than the actual physical location, we usually use 'the'. If you read through the comments on our definite and indefinite articles pages, you'll see we've answered similar questions many times and you might find our answers useful there.

In 'I'm going to a cinema', the verb is in the present continuous, not the present simple. Any verb tense could be used there, depending on what you want to say. You'll have to explain the context for us to make sense of which tense is best.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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