'will' and 'would'

Learn about the modal verbs will and would and do the exercises to practise using them.

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?

will and would 1

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will and would 2

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will and would 3

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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.

Expressions with would 1

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Expressions with would 2

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Hi brian1010,

We use will when we think something is likely to happen. It implies that we consider the event a real possibility. We use would when we think something is unlikely or impossible and we are thinking of it in purely hypothetical terms.

For example:

The visit of a UFO will change the world. [I think a visit is possible/likely]

The visit of a UFO would change the world. [I think a visit is impossible/unlikely]

 

As far as your second question goes, it really is hard to say without knowing the precise context. It may well come down to a rhetorical choice on the part of the speaker rather than a question of fact. Will can imply a strong belief or certainty, so it can be very effective in a sales presentation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by patph0510 on Fri, 19/06/2020 - 17:12

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Hello teachers, I would like to ask what is the difference between "It would be very expensive to stay in a hotel." and "It is very expensive to stay in a hotel." Thank you. Pat

Hello patph0510,

The second sentence (with is) tells us something which is generally true. It does not refer to any particular stay. This sentences tells us something about hotels in general.

The first sentence (with would) describes a potential particular stay. You might use this if you were planning a holiday and trying to decide whether or not to stay in a hotel.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your reply! I would like to ask one more question: What is the difference between "It will be very expensive to stay in a hotel." and "It would be very expensive to stay in a hotel."?

Hello again patph0510,

Will suggests that the situation is a real future. In other words, we understand that you are not only speaking in hypothetical terms, but are really considering staying in a hotel.

Would suggests that you do not really expect to stay in a hotel. It tells us that you are speaking hypothetically, but have no real intention of choosing a hotel.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by saadkhan on Sat, 13/06/2020 - 16:43

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hello native buddies! i have got a little confusion. we all are aware about adjective clause and how we use it, :however there are some things that i am writing down below make me confuse so far here are the sentences the more i practice, the more i become good all i have are negative thoughts. the girls,who lives with me is my girlfriend. i know that the girl in 3rd sentence is a noun and we are decsribing it. but i dont know about 1 and 2 which have subject all and the more above! what are these? are these nouns or something else? given info would be appreciable please guide

Hello saadkhan,

Adjective clause is another name for relative clause, which is a clause (like this one) using a relative pronoun (that, who, which, whose) or a relative adverb (where, when) to reference a noun or noun phrases (the referent).

 

Your examples do not contain relative pronouns or relative adverbs so it is hard to explain what the referent is in each case. Of course, sometimes it is possible to omit the relative pronoun, but in terms of the grammar structure it is still implied.

 

Your third example does include a relative pronoun but the sentence has some errors. The correct sentence would be this:

The girl who lives with me is my girlfriend.

The relative clause begins with who and the referent is the girl.

 

As far as the first two examples go, try to rewrite them so that they include relative pronouns. That should make it clear what they refer to, but if you are still confused we'll be happy to explain.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Mon, 08/06/2020 - 16:42

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Hi sir, 1. I will start the car. - transitive verb 2. The car will not start. - intransitive verb In both sentences "start" is the main verb. Now my question is - 1. what kind a verb "start" in both sentences. 2. Are they also transitive and intransitive Verb too??
Sir I will suspend you. You will suspend. Is "suspend" here labile verb?
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 11/06/2020 - 12:06

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb

No, 'suspend' is not an ergative verb -- it is only transitive. In your first sentence, it is clearly active. I'm afraid that the second sentence is not correct in standard British English.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir , If I say "you will be suspended" (passive) here suspend is not an intransitive verb????
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 14/06/2020 - 07:14

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

If suspended is a verb then it is being used as part of a passive construction (be + past participle) and so it cannot be an intransitive verb. Intransitive verbs have no object and so cannot be used to form passives.

 

You could also see suspended as an adjective complement (be + adjective).

 

As it stands, without any other context, it is ambiguous whether this is a passive construction or an adjective complement. It's also unimportant. Nothing changes in terms of the meaning, however you choose to label the item.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Overall, since passive form always begins with the "direct object" so verb (3rd form) in the passive construction can't be intransitive as intransitive verbs have no objects.

Submitted by Rsb on Sat, 20/06/2020 - 15:22

In reply to by Rsb

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Hi sir, Die, sit, laugh, cry, go, etc. These are the verbs which are only intransitive. Do we have some example of verbs which are only transitive??
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 21/06/2020 - 07:22

In reply to by Rsb

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Hi Rsb,

The majority of verbs in English are transitive. You can use any dictionary to check a verb, as this is one of the pieces of information included in each entry.

We don't have a list of transitive verbs on the site but you should be able to find such lists quickly with an internet search.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Tue, 23/06/2020 - 15:39

In reply to by Peter M.

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Ok sir! Sir, please let me know Separate and undress are both labile verbs here and also represent an adjective??? Suppose, 1. He separated the car from the tunnel. (Transitive) 2. The couple separated after 25 years of marriage.(intransitive) 3. The couple got separated after 25 years of marriage.(separate an adjective compliment) 3. He undressed me in a minute.(transitive) 4. He undressed with in a minute. (intransitive) 5. He got undressed with in a minute.(undress an adjective)

Submitted by Rsb on Sat, 27/06/2020 - 07:52

In reply to by Rsb

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Sir, The couple separated after 25years of marriage.(intransitive verb) Is subject 'the couple' performing an action on itself ? Could u explain me pls
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Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 27/06/2020 - 08:45

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

The verb is intransitive so there's no reason to think of it as an action on anything. I think the verb separate here describes a change in state rather than an action performed, though it's really a question of interpretation and I don't think the actual description is particularly important to understanding the phrase and its use.

 

I have two requests for future questions you might have. First, can you please post them as individual questions rather than replies to replies. Long threads of questions like this drive all other questions from the page and mean that other users cannot see other parts of the comments section. Second, please try to post questions on relevant pages. This page deals with will and would, not transitive and intransitive verbs.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Right sir! I would keep it on my mind.

Submitted by Ashkan0_0 on Mon, 01/06/2020 - 11:16

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Hello teachers. I have two questions. 1- In this phrase : Why don't you invite jack ? I'm sure he would come. The speaker seems quite certain that jack will come because he uses “Sure“ . so why the word “would“ is used instead of “will“ ? Isn't will for certainty and would for imagination and Hypothesis? 2- If i want to ask someone out of curiosity whether he is willing to do something in future (Not to order) which phrase would be more appropriate or is correct : a - Will you play with him someday ? b - Would you play with him someday ? c - do you play with him someday ? Thank you

Hello Ashkan0_0

1) It's not really a question of the speaker's certainty about Jack coming or not, but rather of whether Jack will be invited. The speaker has chosen to speak about a hypothetical future (a future in which 'you' has invited Jack). The complete thought is 'I'm sure he would come if you invited him'. The speaker could have chosen to say what you suggest, but here did not. 

2) A or B are possible for the situation you describe; which one would be better depends on details about the situation and the relationship between the speakers that I don't know, but in general you could use either one.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Baki on Tue, 26/05/2020 - 15:01

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Hello. There is a point that I didn’t understand. When we tell about past as a negative, we use “didn’t” Ex: My car didn’t start. Can we use “wouldn’t” instead of “didn’t” in all conditions ? Ex: My car wouldn’t start. Do they mean the same thing? Thanks in advance.

Hello Baki,

The negative for past simple verbs is formed with didn't, as you say.

 

Wouldn't suggests refual in the past. We use it sometimes when we want to talk about an inanimate object as if it were a person (anthropomorphism) and could make decisions. Thus, we sometimes say sentences like these:

My car wouldn't start this morning.

I wanted to send an email but my computer wouldn't turn on.

These really mean 'my car refused to start' and 'my computer didn't want to turn on'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by NinaZ on Fri, 15/05/2020 - 10:50

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Hello, I would like to know if this is a sentence of present conditional in simple form. If so, why is it used. Could you please explain. "If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases." Thank you. Nina
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Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 15/05/2020 - 13:27

In reply to by NinaZ

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Hello Nina

That's what is called a second conditional structure. The verb 'didn't do' is a past subjunctive (though most teachers call it a past simple form, because it is identical in form to the past simple). This kind of conditional speaks about an imaginary situation. In other words, if you say this, it means that testing is in fact being done and it suggests that there are many cases.

You can read more about this on our Conditionals 1 page.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Sun, 10/05/2020 - 06:10

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Hi Sir, Am I correct? 'Would' is also used to express imaginory situation (unreal/hypothetical) related to past and present. Example - 1. Sachin would be playing.(imagination related to present) 2. She would have gone.(imagination related to past) 3. Sachin would play now.(imagination related to present) Above situations are imaginory related to past and present so we used "would". If situation is imaginory(unreal/hypothetical) and related to future, do we use 'will' instead of 'would' right? Example 1. Sachin will play.(imagination related to future) 2. He will be watching movie.(imagination related to future) 3. Sachin will have played.(imagination related to future)

Submitted by Amit shukla on Sat, 09/05/2020 - 11:30

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Hello Sir, I want to know what's the difference between these two sentences. 1 He will sleep. 2 He would sleep. Is the last one past habitual action or present probability.

Hello Amit shukla

Could you please provide some context for the sentences? Verb forms can mean different things depending on the context they are used in.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team 

Submitted by CareBears07 on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 10:42

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Hi, is it possible to use "will" in the main clause when the if-clause contains "If you were to be ...." ? For eg: If you were to be my tutor, I will work doubly hard. Using "will" here is to show high possibility instead of would, which indicates imagined events.

Hello CareBears07

No, I'm afraid that's not correct -- I would recommend you say 'I would work doubly hard' instead. Using 'were' clearly sets up a hypothetical situation, and so it's not correct to use 'will' here.

You might find our Conditionals 1 page helpful.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi CareBears07,

No, that does not work.

If you were to... is used for unlikely events. It is an alternative to a past form in the if-clause. Thus would is needed in the main clause, not will.

 

Note that there is a difference between the past form and the were to form.

We can use a past verb to describe unlikely or impossible events/states:

If I moved to Australia, I would need to get used to the climate. [OK]

If I had three heads, I would need more hats. [OK]

However, we can only use were to to describe unlikely events/states, not impossible ones.

If I were to move to Australia, I would need to get used to the climate. [OK]

If I were to have three heads, I would need more hats. [NOT OK]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, thanks for the added examples to distinguish the difference in using "past form" and "were to" in conditionals. Is it possible to add this information under the conditionals page? Guess it's very useful to many of us here. :D

Hello CareBears07

Thanks for the suggestion! We'll take that into consideration.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Thu, 23/04/2020 - 08:51

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Respected sir, As we know, Action verb describe physical or mental activity. 1. Watching tv- watch is an action verb but can u tell me is it physical or mental? 2. I am sleeping - sleep physical or mental?? 3. I am smelling the cake- here smell physical or mental? 4. Listening lecture- listen physical or mental action 5. Read and study is it physical or mental?? Pls help me to categorised it sir.

Hello Rsb,

I'm afraid I don't understand your distinction here. All of these actions have both physical and mental aspects.

To be honest, I don't think this question is about language at all. It's a biological or philosophical question.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Action verb can be a combination of both physical or mental activity?? Suppose u say, 1. "I am going to market" it shows ur physical movement hence "going" is an action verb defining physical action. 2. "I am listening the lecture" it shows your mental action so it is action verb defining mental activity. 3. "I am studying" here it shows mental action
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Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 25/04/2020 - 07:45

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb

As Peter said, this is not really a grammatical category. You might find that some teachers or grammars use it, but you'd have to ask them this question. It's not a category that I would use while teaching.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Thu, 23/04/2020 - 04:17

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Hi , What should be used when we imagine the situation in present and future? As we know "would" is used for past hypothetical. Can we use it for present or future hypothetical too??
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Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 23/04/2020 - 07:35

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb

In most cases, 'would have' + past participle is the form we use to speak about a past hypothetical action, and 'would' + base form is used to speak about a present or future hypothetical.

I'd suggest you have a look at our Conditionals 1 and 2 pages, where you can see more examples of 'would' and 'would have' used in this way.

Hope this helps.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by atya on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 09:25

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Hi "I would blame it partly on the fact that he's not very reliable." please could you tell me the usage of "would" in this sentence? why is it used here? thanks a lot
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Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 22/04/2020 - 08:56

In reply to by atya

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Hi atya

I'm afraid I can't really say without knowing the context, but it could be, for example, that I'm giving someone a recommendation, or making a hypothesis about an imaginary situation (e.g. if someone asked me why customers are complaining about service).

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Aditya Nair on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 07:50

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hi, is would always used to denote past tense or can it also be used to denote present in some sentences
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Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 13:01

In reply to by Aditya Nair

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Hello Aditya Nair

As is explained above, 'would' has many different uses and can be used to refer to different times or even times that, in a sense, don't exist -- for example, hypothetical or imaginary times. It is also often used to make requests (e.g. 'I would like a coffee, please'), which refers to your wishes in the present.

As you can see, modals verbs can be used to mean many different things.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anna from germany on Mon, 20/04/2020 - 11:16

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Dear teachers, recently I read this sentence and I wonder the use of "would" in it: I would you to start our lesson with a speech. Usually "would" is followed by a verb, e.g. would like. Is this way of using "would" common and if yes, when do I use expressions like this?

Hello anna from germany

It looks to me as if the writer left out the word 'like' ('would like you to start'). As it is, the sentence is not correct, so please don't take it as an example!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amit on Sun, 19/04/2020 - 12:17

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Can "Would" may use as a possibility? like in this sentence" Beetoven displayed flashes of the creative imagination that would eventually reached further than any composer's before or since." how would is used? please clarify me.

Hello Amit

In this sentence, 'would' refers to a future time from the perspective of the past. It is used in the same way as the example sentence 'I thought we would be late, so we would have to take the train' (above on this page, in the Beliefs section).

In general, I wouldn't recommend using the idea of 'possibility' as a way of thinking about the modal verb 'would'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by kiranpn on Sat, 18/04/2020 - 03:57

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Last time a year ago, I had asked on this forum about would meaning as a probability, and it was suggested I was wrong. But I checked some of the resources from Cambridge and Mariam webster, and it said we can use this as a likely incident or Instead of could, for example,” His accent was Irish, he would be John” and ”It could be 20 ltr/It would be 20 ltr”. I am a bit confused here, and it would be great if someone could help me with this confusion.

Hello kiranpn,

I don't know the context in which those sentences appear so it's hard for me to comment. However, the first example looks like a prediction to me. We can use would just as we can use will to make predictions about the present. Will expresses more certainty.

His accent was Irish? Then he'll be John. [will]

His accent was Irish? Then he'd be John. [would]

 

The second example is likely to be similar, but without any context I can't say more.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team