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'will' and 'would'

Level: beginner

We use will:

  • to express beliefs about the present or future
  • to talk about what people want to do or are willing to do
  • to make promises, offers and requests.

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 (when we imagine something)
  • for politeness.

Beliefs

We use will to express beliefs about the present or future:

John will be in his office. (present)
We'll be late. (future)
We will have to take the train. (future)

We use would as the past of will, to describe past beliefs about the future:

I thought we would be late, so we would have to take the train.

Willingness

We use will:

  • 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.

  • to talk about typical behaviour, things that we often do (because we are willing to do them):

We always spend our holidays at our favourite hotel at the seaside. We'll get up early every morning and have a quick breakfast then we'll go across the road to the beach.

We use would as the past tense of will:

  • to talk about what people wanted to do or were willing to do in the past:

We had a terrible night. The baby wouldn't go to sleep.
Dad wouldn't lend me the car, so we had to take the train.

  • to talk about typical behaviour, things that we often did (because we were willing to do them) in the past:

When they were children they used to spend their holidays at their grandmother's at the seaside. They'd get up early every morning and have a quick breakfast. Then they'd run across the road to the beach.

Promises, offers and requests

We use I will or We will to make promises and offers:

I'll give you a lift home after the party.
We'll come and see you next week.

We use Will you … ? or Would you … ? to make requests:

Will you carry this for me, please?
Would you please be quiet?

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Level: intermediate

Hypotheses and conditionals

We use will in conditionals to say what we think will happen in the present or future:

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 make hypotheses:

  • when we imagine a situation:

It would be very expensive to stay in a hotel.
I would give you a lift, but my wife has the car today.

  • in conditionals:

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 also 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.

will and would: hypotheses and conditionals

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See also: Verbs in time clauses and conditionals

Level: beginner

Expressions with would

We use:

  • 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 until tomorrow?

  • would you like ..., would you like to ...  for offers and invitations:

Would you like another drink?
Would you like to come round tomorrow?

  • 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 the new one, not the old one.
I don't want another drink. I'd rather go home.

  • 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.

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Comments

Hello sameer

As I understand it, there's a difference between a guess and a presumption. A guess is much less certain than a presumption; a presumption is something we make when we have good reasons for it. Of course people might disagree about how good the reasons for a presumption are, but that's another matter.

'would' can be used to make presumptions, but 'may' or 'might' are better for guesses.

In your first example, 'would' is one possible answer. It expresses presumption and so would be correct if you were expecting it to be John's car. But if I didn't have some reason to think it was his, I would say 'might' or 'may' or 'could'. And if I had good reasons to think it was his, I'd probably say 'must' instead of 'would', but perhaps that's just my way of speaking English.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sameer

No, I'm afraid that's not correct, at least in any variety of English I'm familiar with. Instead, to predict a future that I can see some evidence for, I'd say 'It really looks like it's going to rain' or 'It's going to rain'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sameer

The sentence from the dictionary is without context, but like the other ones before it, is presumably a context in which it's reporting a future from the perspective of the past.

Could you please provide the context for the second sentence? It could be a similar situation, but I'm afraid I can't explain it without the context.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Though this question is irrelevant here, I hope you answer it. It's concerned with the word "really" used as an adverb.
He really is a doctor.
He is really a doctor.
Could you tell me the subtle distinction between the two sentences above in terms of the position of the adverb, "really"? Does it impact on the meaning of both sentences if used just like that? If so, why?
Thank you, teachers.

Hello GIRIKUMAR,

The position of the adverb changes its meaning, though context is obviously very important.

He really is a doctor indicates someone - either the speaker or the listener - did not believe that he was a doctor, but is now forced to accept the fact. The adverb adds emphasis to the statement and is often used when one person is contradicting another:

He's a doctor.

I don't believe that! He looks more like a soldier!

No, he really is a doctor.

 

He is really a doctor suggests that the person ('he') was pretending or assumed to be something else.

I always thought he was a teacher but he's really a doctor.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, teacher.

Sir
According to your below answer , when will you come and when would you come. " would " indicates less possibility as you may not come..
Can I say.
It would rain tomorrow (without If clause) = it may rain tomorrow (would have slightly strong possibility than may) ?

Example :
I know below sentences are correct..
That would have been Della's car. (guess)
john would be calling (guess)

Can I say
It would rain tomorrow (guess )

Hello sameer,

We don't use would just to guess about the future, but rather in certain contexts when we are talking about the result of an unlikely situation (hypothetical conditionals) or an explanation of something we see (speculation about the present). Without knowing the context of the sentences it's not really possible to say if they are appropriate/correct.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir
According you we also use would in explanation of something we see (speculation about the present). If I see cloud at present then possibly I can say it would rain now?

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