'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?

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.

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Expressions with would 2

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Hello MarciaBT,

1. You could use will or must here. Will expresses a belief or prediction. Must expresses a conviction based on what you already know. Must has a sense of 'I can't believe this would not be true'.

 

2. Yes, both will and the present simple are possible here. Will is a prediction; it expresses what the speaker believes. The present simple is used to describe typical or normal actions or states.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Santiago0227 on Fri, 14/08/2020 - 18:44

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Hello teachers, I understand that this may not be the most appropriate platform for me to ask questions about sentences that I got from newspaper articles, but I really have great difficulty in understanding the grammar structure of the following sentences. I would be very grateful if you could offer me some help. 1. "Brussels’ planned “gateway” is designed to ensure that member states’ apps can share information about people who have tested positive and are travelling to other parts of the bloc. It will work by connecting national apps to a server in Luxembourg which would then distribute the anonymised data to the relevant member states." Why is “will” used in the first part of the sentence ("It will work by connecting...") and “would” in the relative clause ("which would then distribute...")? 2. France’s “StopCovid” app was launched in June and works by using Bluetooth to log contacts when people stand less than one metre from each other for 15 minutes or more. If a positive Covid-19 case is recorded by the app, people who have been in contact with the anonymised person are sent a warning. Could I say "....will be sent a warning." instead?

Hello Santiago0227,

1. I have no idea why the author switches between will and would in this way. It does not seem a well-constructed sentence, and may well have been the result of a lack of proofreading.

2. Grammatically, you could use either form, but there is a difference in meaning. If you say are sent then you describing a system which is already functioning. If you say will be sent then you are describing a possible future event. It sounds as if the system has not yet been used. Given that the earlier part of the paragraph makes it clear that the system is already up and running, are sent seems much more consistent here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir, Thank you for answering my question with such a detailed explanation! I understand that simple future tense, as well as the simple present tense, can be used to describe habits/characteristics. For example: The Olympic stadium in Sydney will/holds 110,000. Could I say that "will be sent a warning" can be used to describe the characteristic of the system and also conveys the meaning that the system is already in place? Thanks.

Submitted by anurat227 on Thu, 13/08/2020 - 16:00

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hi, Can I say "typically pays" instead of "will pay" in this sentence? Under a subscription model, consumers will typically pay a monthly fee to access the online library. Secondly, I saw this sentence from a website on the use of conditionals. Could I say "will be inappropriate" or "is inappropriate" instead of "would be inappropriate"? There are occasions where a remote conditional would be inappropriate even though I know that the event is actually false. Thank you so much.

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 14/08/2020 - 15:00

In reply to by anurat227

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Hello anurat227,

You could say 'typically pay' (not 'pays') and that would be correct and mean the same thing.

I agree with you: 'is inappropriate' works better there.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by AsahiYo20 on Sun, 09/08/2020 - 11:49

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Hi Sir, Hope you are doing well. 1. It's not likely to happen but I wouldn't rule out the possibility. - Could I say "won't" instead? 2. Taking action without knowing all the facts would not be a prudent course. - Could I say "is not" instead?

Hello AsahiYo20,

If you replaced 'is not likely to' with 'won't', the sentence wouldn't make a lot of sense because 'won't' suggests you are sure, but the second half suggests that you aren't. It would be better to leave it as is.

It's possible to replace 'wouldn't' with 'won't', but it would only be appropriate in a different context. If you would like to explain the context, we can give you more specific advice on that.

For sentence 2, yes, you could, though as with my second comment above, only in a specific situation that's different from situation you would use 'would not' in.

If you have any other questions similar to these, could you please explain the situation or context more? It's difficult for us to give a quick answer without knowing more.

Thanks in advance.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Actually I saw these sentences when I was looking up the dictionary, so I am not sure about the exact context. But I would be grateful if you could further explain the difference. 1. 1st Sentence - If this is an answer to a question of whether I will do something in the future or a company will adopt some measure, would the use of “wouldn’t rule out” be appropriate in this sentence? Actually I can’t think of any context in which “won’t rule out” would be a better choice, because I think the degree of conviction would be too strong in this sentence. Could you give me some examples of “won’t” in this context? 2. 2nd Sentence - Is “would not” more likely when giving advice to people? Am I correct to say that “is not” would be more likely if the sentence talks more generally about the problems with taking action without knowing all the facts? Thanks teacher.

Hi AsahiYo20,

I'll copy the sentences here for easy reference.

1a. It's not likely to happen but I wouldn't rule out the possibility.

1b. It's not likely to happen but I won't rule out the possibility.

You're right that 1b is more definite than 1a. For example, a politician might say 1b about whether or not they will run for election. 1b sounds like an official declaration of the speaker's intention. 1a, on the other hand, is a hypothetical statement (i.e. without any immediate practical implications). So, as Kirk mentioned, which one we would use is really dependent on the context.

2a. Taking action without knowing all the facts would not be a prudent course.

2b. Taking action without knowing all the facts is not a prudent course.

Yes! Both 2a and 2b may be giving advice to someone about what not to do. Using would makes the advice less direct but more polite. Yes, 2b may be more general. Again, though, it's hard to say without the context :)

I hope that helps.

Best wishes,

Jonathan 

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by PabloTT on Sat, 08/08/2020 - 01:54

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When I was looking up the meaning of "ill afford", I saw this explanation: "If you say that someone can ill afford to do something, or can ill afford something, you mean that they must prevent it from happening because it would be harmful or embarrassing to them" I notice that it uses "...would be harmful...". Could I say "will be harmful" instead? Thanks a lot teachers!

Hello PabloTT,

The author uses would here because the situation they are describing is not a real situation but is hypothetical.

Will would be used if the situation were real. It would not just be describing something in general or theoretical terms, but would be describing an actual situation where there was a possibility of a choice being made.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir, Thanks for your reply. Am I correct to say that it is hypothetical in the sense that when writing this sentence, the author is not referring to any particular situation in the real world?

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 11/08/2020 - 08:06

In reply to by PabloTT

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Hello again PabloTT,

Yes, that's right.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by cms10 on Wed, 05/08/2020 - 11:36

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Hi, I would like to ask two questions. Grateful if you could help. 1. "He wouldn't apologize. He knew he was in the right" - Does the use of "wouldn't" instead of "didn't" convey an extra meaning that he was unwilling to apologize? 2. "With more emphasis on biliteracy, failing to be proficient in English would compromise academic performance and undermine the chance of getting into a post-secondary institution" - Could I use "compromises" or "will compromise" instead of "would compromise"?

Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 05/08/2020 - 15:06

In reply to by cms10

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Hello cms10,

Yes, that's right: 'wouldn't' means he was unwilling in sentence 1. The alternatives you ask about in sentence 2 might work or might not -- it depends on the context. If, for example, the context is one in which you are speaking of a hypothetical situation, 'would' would probably be more appropriate.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for your reply teacher! Regarding Sentence 2, if it is talking about a general social phenomenon, would "compromises" or "will compromise" be better?

Hello cms10,

It depends on how you are talking about the situation in which biliteracy is emphasised more (or not). If you are talking about such a change in a hypothetical way, then 'would' is fine. If you are speaking about it in a more concrete way, as something that happens some places and not so much in others, then the present simple is probably the best choice. If you are speaking about a specific situation in which this is being considered, then 'will compromise' is probably the best choice.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kashvi.la27 on Tue, 04/08/2020 - 05:54

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May I know why "would" instead of the simple present tense is used in the following sentences? 1. It would be convenient to highlight a number of matters which emerged at the hearing. 2. In the normal course of things we would not treat her disappearance as suspicious. Thank you.

Hello Kashvi.la27,

The present simple would be a comment on what is normal in general, not a comment on what should be done at a particular moment. For this, we use will, so you could say this:

It will be convenient to highlight a number of matters which emerged at the hearing.

However, will sounds very direct. Would is often used as a more polite form as it sounds more tentative than will.

 

Your second example uses would because the speaker is talking about a hypothetical situation:

In the normal course of things we would not treat her disappearance as suspicious. However, this situation is not normal, so it will be treated as a possible kidnapping.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Sat, 25/07/2020 - 13:58

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I would think that this site is perfect for English learners! ;)

Submitted by Dwishiren on Sat, 25/07/2020 - 11:07

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Hello everyone. I looked for previous pages/comments of the use "would" here. But why there's no. I just finded 1-11 pages. Please help me, I want to read the anawers one by one so that I can understand.

Hello Dwishiren,

I see what you mean, and I'm sorry for the inconvenience.

I'm afraid this is something that our technical team will have to look into and it could take some time. But once I have any news, I'll respond here.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sandeep Gupta on Thu, 09/07/2020 - 11:06

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Yesterday,I was reading an article : "8 ways to read someone's body language" in which one of 8 ways was "stepping-back is not a good sign." Here It said: When you are talking to a person and if the listener swiftly steps back, then that generally means that what you said at that point has made them uncomfortable, or they are not interested in that topic , and they want to come out of the situation. This behaviour highly demotivates the speaker; they feel rejected sometimes. If the speaker experience this conduct they mostly would not open up themselves in front of that particular person in the future. Could you please tell me what are the grammatical mistakes in it? Thank You!

Hello Sandeep Gupta,

Thanks for your contribution, but I'm afraid we don't provide the service of correcting our users' writing.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sandeep Gupta on Wed, 08/07/2020 - 17:56

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"If the speaker experience this conduct they mostly would not open up themselves in front of that particular person in the future." In this sentence, I am confused that which structure of conditional sentence has been used here. If it is condition 1 then can i use "will" in place of "would"? Sir,please! Clear my doubt.

Hello again Sandeep Gupta,

The sentence has some errors in it. You cannot say 'speaker experience'. 'Speakers experience', 'speaker experiences', 'speakers experienced', 'speaker experienced' are all possible.

'Open up themselves' is also incorrect. The pronoun should be before the particle: 'open themselves up'.

 

I don't know the source of the sentence and whether the errors are in the original or are the result of errors in transcription, but I can't really comment on the grammar of a sentence which is ungrammatical!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sandeep Gupta on Wed, 08/07/2020 - 17:44

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In this sentence "Being quiet and showing appropriate gestures in a discussion would give you enough time to listen to one's views and all with great attention." My question is: how has "would" been used here ?

Hello Sandeep Gupta,

Would is used to show that the situation is hypothetical. The person is not talking about a person who is actually using gestures or who is planning to do so, but rather speaking in hypothetical terms, imagining such a situation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, I'd like to ask you that is it possible to use "would" as an opinion here? If yes, then is this sentence correct?

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 10/07/2020 - 07:49

In reply to by Sandeep Gupta

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Hello Sandeep Gupta,

Would does express an opinion, in the context of a hypothetical situation, and the sentence is correct.

You can think of it as having an implied if-clause:

Being quiet and showing appropriate gestures in a discussion would give you enough time to listen to one's views and all with great attention if you did it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by patph0510 on Tue, 07/07/2020 - 11:05

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Hi teachers, I would like to ask two questions: 1. What is the purpose of “should” in the following sentence: If I should run into Daniel, I will tell him to call you. 2. We would be able to go sailing if the wind were blowing. - Can I replace "would be able to" with “could”? Is there any difference in meaning? Thanks.

Hello patph0510,

In British English, 'should' is sometimes used in conditional clauses to express possibility. It is never necessary though, and means the same thing as 'If I run into Daniel'.

Yes, you could just say 'could' there and it would mean the same thing.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by brian1010 on Tue, 23/06/2020 - 18:05

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Hi teacher, I would like to ask two questions: 1. If a plan, proposal, or policy etc is under discussion and has not been formally approved, should we use would (instead of will) when talking about the benefits/impact of the plan etc? 2. When a company unveils a new product at a product launch event, the chairman may say the product will bring numerous benefits to the company and will increase the company’s profits. Does the use of will in this context refer to predictions based on personal opinion rather than present evidence? Would it be more appropriate to use "would" or "be going to"? Thanks!

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?

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????

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??