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

Comments

Hi Kirk,
I would like to ask if i am making a general statement, should i use "will" or other modal verbs instead of "would" to indicate the meaning of present (for certain period) and fact. The sentence below describes the huge difference in temperature between day and night.
e.g.
During the day, one would sweat buckets in thin clothing, but during the night, one would tremble under even a thick blanket.

Many thanks.

Hi lhy0706206,

Both 'will' and 'would' could work here -- which form is best depends on the context in which this statement would be made. If you can describe this to us, then we'll do our best to help you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,
Thanks for the reply. The sentence displayed is the introducing paragraph of a novel. It just states the general environment where the main character lives. So i should use 'will' if the novel is written in present tense, or 'would' if it is in past tense, right?

Hi lhy0706206,

Although it's difficult to be certain without knowing the larger context, that sounds correct.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank u Kirk. Now I understand this but if I in the above sentence replace 'would' with 'will' then the sentence will be correct or not. I am a little bit confused because the sentence starts with past tense verb 'thought'.

Hi jitu_jaga,

It's possible to say 'will' instead of 'would' and for the sentence to be correct, though it has a different meaning in that case. With 'will', the speaker is thinking that someone will indeed read the book and become a millionaire because of what they read in it. 'would' talks about a hypothetical situation -- it could come to pass or it might not.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter & Kirk,
" I thought to myself, "why would someone read this book and become a millionaire-because of what they read in it?""
In the above sentence would is used as the past of will or would has a different meaning like 2nd conditional sentences.
I always get difficulty in finding which would is uesd as past of will . Is there any trick to identify this. Please explain it clearly.

Hi jitu_jaga,

In this case, 'would' seems to be referring to a hypothetical, unreal time; as you suggest, this is the way it is used in second conditionals.

'would' has so many uses, it can indeed be difficult to figure out which one is deployed in any given case. In this case, you could perhaps ask yourself if the speaker seems to be referring to a person ('someone') who read the book in the past, or if the person seems to be in the speaker's mind or imagination. Here it looks to be the latter.

I hope this helps you.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Team!

I have a question about this topic.

When we have strong reasons about the situation we can use “would” in present.For example we are expecting John to come with his car and we hear the some car noise outside.Then,we can say “This would be John.”

I think this sentence is the same but for past situation.”You used a few words that are specific to the field, but you always explained what they meant,so the audience wouldn’t have had any difficulty understanding.”

What do you think?

Thank you!

Hello Gokung123,

That is almost correct. The correct form is 'so the audience wouldn't have any difficulty understanding'.

We would use 'wouldn't have had' if we were describing a hypothetical situation in the past – something which did not happen, as in a third conditional sentence: if you had done x then the audience would not have understood.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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