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 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.





I want to know the reason why my answer was incorrect? Is there any special formation technique to be used for "maybe"? What I understood was that "maybe" is used for a probability sense so I used "would" but the answer says "will' is correct to use here.
Could you please explain the reason?

Maybe I ______ speak to her. (will or would)

Hi parbodh,

Actually, you could use 'would' or 'will' in this sentence -- which is correct depends on the context. 'will' would be something you'd say to speak about the present or future; 'would' would be used to speak about a hypothetical or imaginary situation.

I'll make a note to revise the exercise so that this is clearer. I'm sorry that it confused you!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, what does "would" mean in this sentence? I believe "would" means 'it's possible it will'/ 'will be possibe'.
Man Utd trail West Brom 1-0 with five mins to go. Defeat for United would seal title for Man City.

Hi Crokong,

'would' has a hypothetical meaning here -- it describes an imaginary future that would happen if United lost the match. It might help to rephrase the sentence as a second conditional: 'If United lost (or: 'was defeated'), this would seal the title for Man City.'

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk, thank you. Am I wrong if I say "defeat for United will seal the title for Man City"?

Hi Crokong,

It suggests that you think United is more likely to lose than not, but yes, that is correct.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team


What's the difference between "I would give her a call if I could find her number." and "I’ll give her a call if I can find her number."?

Thank you.

Hi learning,

Both sentences contain two clauses: a condition (with if) and a result clause. The difference is how the speaker sees the condition. We use a present form and will (I'll give... if I can...) when we see the condition as being likely or possible. We use a past form and would (I'd give... if I could) when we see the condition as being unlikely or impossible.

You can read more about these forms on this page and this page.



The LearnEnglish Team

Right on. Thanks so much!

Hello Peter M. I notice you use "would" in your comment. What does it mean? In the sentence "the best choice would be...", does "would" convey less confidence here?

Questioner: Is this sentence correct? 'Finished eating, we went to the zoo'.

Your answer: I'm afraid that is not correct. The phrase 'Finished eating' is a participle phrase with a passive meaning and you need an active meaning here. The best choice WOULD be 'Having finished eating...'.