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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

Good evening teachers, recently watching an interview , i noticed any strange sentences shown as it follows:
1) If sonny would have lost one of sit-downs i would have got killed; it seems to me it to be incorrect then again i listened to it carefully.
Can you explain this odd use of would in american english? they may use it in "spoken english"

2) If he did not use the media as a shield he wolud have got killed ;
noticed still in the interview ;

may this work ?

Thanks in advance

Hello rosario70,

It's not standard English (whether in the US or elsewhere) to use would have after if, so the first example you provide is not one I would draw conclusions from in terms of grammar. Remember that language is often used in non-standard ways. People makes mistakes or may have a particular dialect which is non-standard outside of their region or community.

Your second sentence is also non-standard. Since the killing was in the past you would need to use If he had not used... for the condition here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Dear LearnEnglish Team,

I have a question about this example sentence:
'You would lose weight if you took more exercise.'
Can I use say it this way:
You will loose weight if you take more exercise.
To me, it sounds like a future conditional more than hypothesis. Because you bound to loose some weight if you work hard. Unless you don't take it seriously, or you're talking about the past. In that case, wouldn't it be better if I said it as "You would've lost weight if you took more exercise?"

Meanwhile, I'd like to point out an error in the quiz section, If I may.
In "Expression with would 2," the 9th question has the same second half as the 8th question, and that makes no sense for the question.

Hi Harry de ZHANG,

Interesting question!

What you suggested makes sense: you will lose weight if you take more exercise / you're bound to lose some weight if you work hard. These are both first conditionals, meaning that the speaker thinks the situation is a realistic possibility. 

But the sentence in the 'Hypotheses' section above has a different meaning. It means we think the whole situation is unlikely to happen, including the cause (working hard). Will this person actually take more exercise and work hard? The verb forms (You would lose weight if you took more exercise) show that the speaker doubts that this person will work hard in the first place. It's not just commenting on what the result of working hard may be.

So, both versions of the sentence are correct and meaningful. Which one a speaker uses depends on how likely they think the whole situation is. Does that make sense?

You're right, question 9 in the exercise wasn't right. I'll edit the exercise now. Thanks a lot :)

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hiii sir... please clarify this doubt..
"If I won the lottery i would buy a car."
In the above sentence I know that I am not going to win the lottery so it is an imagination.now suppose If I feel that I am going to win the lottery even there is very less chance to win in reality, and I am not sure to buy a car...(I mean my preference may be changed after winning the lottery) In this situation can i say like " If I win the lottery I would buy a car"..plz explain it sir

Hi pathi,

Yes, using If I win ... (first conditional) shows that you see this as a realistic possibility. But if you are not sure about buying a car, I would use might here. Might shows uncertainty.

  • If I win the lottery, I might buy a car.

If you say ..I would buy a car, it means that you are sure about doing this (if the condition, i.e. winning the lottery, is fulfilled).

Best wishes,

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello all. How does "would" work here?

It would be nice to have barbecue.
Your help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks

Hello Gendeng,

It's hard to say without knowing the context in which the sentence appears. It could be a suggestion about the future or a statement of regret about something which is not possible, for example.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello English Team

1) [Knock on door] That will be the plumber [Could I say must?]

2) There is somebody coming up the stairs. That will be Mary. [Could I say must?]

3) Rachel is in Turkey at the moment. I hope she has taken some winter clothes because it won't be warm at this time of year. [Could I say ...it is not warm...?]

Appreciate your help.

Dear Team,

First of all, I appreciate this site and team that are helpful to English learners and your effort for all these. I read most of threads here, and am leaving this for clarifications. The word, "would" must be tricky -- every dictionary explains it in all different ways and here we see another way judging it as "hypothetical." If my understanding is correct, your definition of hypercritical is "likely less than 50%," never greater than 50% in all your explanations (I am not mentioning when it is used as politeness or requests). And my questions are:

1) Does the rule applies to both UK and US?
2) Will all natives in UK and US agree or be innate to the usage?
3) Suppose that English natives in general may not use under that rule, like natives in any languges don't have a perfect command in their own in grammatical sense or else. Does all the writers in UK or US newpapers correctly write under the rule?
4) What will be a word to express, say, about "51% to 70%" likely? I think that you aggreed that "will" is somehow too strong when I read threads, so I guest it will be, say, "70% to 90%(or 100%)." Will "should" be the word, or what would you sugggest?

The reason for all these questions is that if "would" is "less than 50% likely," I must have misunderstood all the readings and spoken or written all the wrongs to make my audiences confused for all those years - I understood and used "would" as "51% to 70%," which has convinced me from dictionaies usually havong more that ten meanings, so I am now pretty much baffled. If you ask for context to explain all those,I would suggest Collins dictionary that will be good context basis to discuss. I am sorry for these long questions but I feel like all those years of studying English looks futile now when I found this new kind of approach to "would." Please help me.

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