'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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Submitted by Sumith Jay on Sat, 13/08/2022 - 06:10

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Why we do not consider about arbitrariness of language? Will and would mostly used in arbitrary statements like - , Father will definitely give his car! and Perhaps, father would give his car! These two statements depend on the speaker's intention, and presumably outsiders cannot make suggestions!

Hello Sumith Jay,

I'm not sure exactly what you mean by 'arbitrary' statements, but it's certainly true that this page doesn't cover all the possible uses of 'will' and 'would'. Our grammar reference focuses on explaining what we believe to be the most essential aspects of English grammar, but there is of course much more.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Selet on Thu, 04/08/2022 - 06:59

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Is it correct that "would" is used to give an opinion with a hypothetical situation?

Hello Selet,

Yes, it's possible to use 'would' to give an opinion about a hypothetical situation. I'd encourage you to come up with an example so that we can be sure we're talking about the same thing.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir. For example. This is what I would call annoying. Here is the speaker giving an opining with a hypothetical?

Hello Selet,

Yes, I'd say you are right. The speaker is explaining what they think by explaining what they'd say if someone asked them their opinion of the situation. In this way they express their opinion in a less direct way (though really it's not very indirect!).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk and Jonathan,
The guy on the phone has a Southern accent. " That would be Tom".
Is this hypothetical? Or is this same as
"That may/might/could be Tom" as we say
for Possibility?

Hi  jitu_jaga,

'Would' here is used to mean 'I expect...'. In other words, it's a little different from may/might/could, which express possibility.

When a person says 'that would be...' (or, more strongly, 'that will be...') they are telling you that they are quite sure about the situation, and will be surprised if they are wrong.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi peter,
Still i don't understand. Can i think it as a
2nd conditional sentence? How to differentiate if it is a 2nd conditional or expectation as you said above when there is
no if clause.
Eg. How about going for a picnic? It would be fine.
Here, i should understand it as an expectaion or 2nd conditional sentence as
no if clause is given.

Hello again jitu_jaga,

Like all modals, would has more than one use/meaning. It can describe hypothetical situations in the present or future, for example, which is what I think you mean by 'second conditional' (it's not a term I use).

 

To understand the meaning used in a particular example, you need to look at the context in which it is used. Is the speaker expressing a belief or conviction, or are they describing a potential result of a particular trigger? In your example I would see it as the latter with an implied if-clause: It would be fine if you came/agreed/joined us.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter,
Thank you very much for your effort to make me understand.
One last question- when we use would to expess our belief or conviction, does it give a sense of politeness to the listener? As we often use would to make things less direct to get that politeness effect.

Hello again jitu_jaga,

Yes, would generally sounds a little more tentative than, for example, will, and thus can be more polite or diplomatic. That's not to say that will is in any way rude; rather it is a little more direct and certain.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Plokonyo on Mon, 01/08/2022 - 09:57

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My friend, non native speaker, says Would' often simply means 'is'. Is that right?

Customer: Who's the manager of this store?
Manager: That would be me.

Jeff: Which of the following answers are correct to the question?
Dan: Option two would be the correct answer.

Hi Plokonyo,

That's the approximate meaning, but it's not exactly the same. In the first example, it may be used to give the conversation a more formal tone than if the manager had said "That's me" (perhaps the customer is angry and "That's me" would sound too casual, for example). In the second example, Dan seems to be trying to be polite by giving advice to Jeff less directly.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, Jonathan. I notice you use "would" in the sentence "That's me" would sound too casual", is "would" in your sentence hypothetical?

Second, you said "Dan seems to be trying to be polite by giving advice to Jeff less directly", my question: is "give advise less directly" the same as "hypothetical?"

Hello Plokonyo,

Your understanding regarding that first 'would' is correct. As for the second one, if I've understood the context and speakers' intentions correctly, I wouldn't call it hypothetical. I agree with Jonathan -- it appears to be a suggestion that uses 'would' to be more polite by providing a sense of distance from present reality. I'm pretty sure I've made a similar explanation in response to some of your other comments about 'would', so I won't go into more detail here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Faii on Wed, 13/07/2022 - 09:59

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How to answer questions beginning with would?
For example-
Would you like to eat with us tonight?
Should I reply "Of course I would" or "I will" or sth else ?

Hi Faii,

It depends on the particular structure and function of the "would" question. For example, here are some ways of responding positively to the question you mentioned.

  • Yes, I would.
  • Yes, I'd love to.
  • Yes! That would be great.

That question contains "would you like", and is offering something. But if somebody asks "If you had the money, would you buy a new car?", you could answer "Yes, I would" but not the other two answers above. That's because in this question, "would" is part of a conditional structure and it's indicating a hypothetical situation, rather than offering something.

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks.It helps.
Bur I have another question,it says on this page "using would make sth more polite"
For instance-Dan would help you if you asked him (Example that is used here)
But doesn't it mean sth unlikely ?I mean we use 2nd conditional for sth that seems impossible .So does it mean there is less chance that Dan will ask him for help ?

Hi Faii,

Yes. Actually, it is the indirectness (i.e. presenting the situation as unreal or hypothetical, not real) that creates the politeness effect, because it places less pressure on the listener to actually ask Dan. We can use this structure even when something is likely, if we want to achieve that politeness effect.

Jonathan

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Faii on Wed, 13/07/2022 - 09:08

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Can I use "will" instead of "would" in the following sentence ?
I'm not going to invite them to the party.They wouldn't come anyway.

Hello Faii,

Yes, you could say 'They won't come anyway'. If you say 'won't', it feels like a prediction. If you say 'wouldn't', it's more of an imaginary situation.

Both work equally well in many situations.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

So it means using will here doesn't change the meaning?
Another question-
The car wouldn't start .is would the past form of will in this sentence?

Hello Faii,

Although both as possible, as Kirk said, I think would is more likely. Won't is a prediction about a real event and since you have already decided not to invite them their coming or not coming becomes an imaginary situation. Thus, I think the most likely options are:

I'm going to invite them to the party but they won't come. [they get the invitation so coming or not is a real option]

I'm not going to invite them to the party. They wouldn't come anyway. [they're not going to get an invitation so their choice to come or not is hypothetical]

 

As far as your other question goes, I would say yes, though it's hard to be sure without any other context. The most likely meaning here is 'refused (to start)'. We often use 'will' or 'would' in this way as if a machine (especially cars and computers) were being stubborn or uncooperative:

My car won't start! [it refuses to start]

Yesterday my car wouldn't start!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gendeng on Sat, 25/06/2022 - 12:39

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What is the difference between "is" and "would" in the following?

The conditional "would" is used in many, many situations, and it's impossible for me to list them all.

The conditional "would" is used in many, many situations, and it would be impossible for me to list them all.

Hello Gendeng,

In the first, the speaker sees the listing as something they could attempt now, whereas in the second they see it as something they won't attempt now. They mean pretty much the same thing.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gendeng on Tue, 21/06/2022 - 01:55

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One way to get a good answer would be to ask the question in the English forum.

Why does the speaker use "would" instead of "is?"

Hello Gendeng,

The speaker has chosen to speak about it as a hypothetical or imaginary situation. 'is' is another possible choice.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks kirk. What is the difference between "I would think that's the right answer" and "I think that's the right answer?" I'm perplexed because the two sentences provide an opinion.

Hello Gendeng,

'I think ...' is the best option in the vast majority of situations.

Saying 'I would think ...' would make the situation more hypothetical. [Do you see how I also used 'would' there? I'm speaking about a situation that I'm not familiar with; I'm guessing what the situation could be for a sentence you've asked about, but I don't know the context. This is why I use 'would', which could be the same reason the person who says 'I would think ...' uses 'would'.] I can't really say why the speaker might see the situation as being more hypothetical, but it could be that the question is very difficult and so which answer is correct isn't very clear. By being more hypothetical, the speaker could be showing this hesitance. But again, it's not possible for me to say definitely without knowing more.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by pckudahetti on Tue, 14/06/2022 - 19:49

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I would like to know the correctness of the following dialogues.
"G" recently joined a company and "B" is a coworker.
1. G: I will be late to catch the last train.
B: I would drop you If I didn't have to pick my wife now. (B means here, "I'm unable to drop you)
2. G: I will be late to catch the last train.
B: I would drop you If you didn't mind. (B means here," I can drop you If you don't mind)
3. B: Would you stay extra time to complete this task?
G: I wouldn't stay If that task were very urgent. I have to leave at 5.00 pm today.

Kindly let me know whether the above dialogues are appropriate to use.

Hello pckudahetti,

I'm afraid we aren't able to provide corrections of our users' texts; we can usually help with a specific question about a specific sentence, but correcting texts requires a lot of time that we simply don't have.

I can tell you that all of these are intelligible, though there are some minor errors. If you'd like to ask us about a specific part of one of them, please feel free to do so.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for the reply.
Could I perhaps know whether "wouldn't" could be used in the following sentence instead of "won't" as a polite refusal?
B: Would you stay a little longer to complete this task?
G: I won't stay. I have to leave at 5.00 pm today.

Hello pckudahetti,

'wouldn't' is not typically used in polite refusals. Instead, we typically say 'I'm sorry, but I can't' or 'I'm afraid I can't'. If it were me in this situation, I'd probably say 'I'm sorry, but I can't. I have to leave at 5 today'.

Note that although we use 'will' to make requests, we don't typically use it (including the negative 'won't') to refuse a request.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by Plokonyo on Fri, 10/06/2022 - 07:01

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Why does speaker B use "would" here? Why not say "I will call" or "I call?"

A: This text comes from Game of Thrones. What is grammatically "the taking" called?
The enemy has gone south with the entirety of the northern army at his back. The north is ripe for the taking.

B: I would call it a verbal noun The form is the same as the present participle/gerund, but it has an article and functions as a noun.

Hello Plokonyo,

In this case, 'would' makes the statement sound less definite. This is an example of distancing, that is, using a verb form to make a statement or request less direct and thus more polite. 

This use of would is very common after the verb 'say' when we use it to give our opinion or assessment of something. If a colleague of mine wrote a short text and asked me to give them feedback on it, one way I could do that would be to begin by saying 'I'd say' (e.g. 'I'd say it's very clear, but a little wordy').

In this case, of course, the verb is 'call' but B is using it to give their assessment of the grammar involved.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Kirk. "Would" makes a statement sound less definite/less direct. So, does it mean less definite/less direct? I'm still perplexed about the point of "less definite/less direct.

I would call it a verbal noun. = I'm less definite/less direct it's a verbal noun.

Hello Plokonyo,

In some languages, we show politeness by using different words. For example, in Tibetan, 'cha' is the normal word for tea. But when you ask an honoured guest if they would like some tea, you don't ask them if they would like 'cha', you ask if they would like 'sölcha' because that is the word for tea that you use when you want to be polite. There are other ways to be polite, but this is an important one.

Although there are certainly some words that are more polite than others in English, in general we pretend to be less certain and less demanding to the people we want to be polite to by using different verb forms. So instead of saying 'It's a verbal noun' we can say 'I'd call it a verbal noun'. When we say the polite version, this doesn't mean we're less certain or definite, it just means we're being polite.

The same is true of 'want' vs 'would like'. 'I want some tea' means the same as 'I would like some tea', but the latter is more polite because it sounds less forceful/direct. But in both cases we are asking for some tea.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Gendeng on Thu, 02/06/2022 - 08:14

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I would have to disagree with you. What is the meaning of "would?" I usually say "I have to disagree with you".

Hello Gendeng,

This is an example of using 'would' for politeness. By saying 'would', the speaker is being less direct -- it's as if they're saying they would disagree with you if you proposed a certain idea.

In many situations, it's OK to be more direct and just say 'I have to disagree with you'.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Selet on Mon, 30/05/2022 - 04:19

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Look at the following converstation.

A: I am writing this comment to ask you about 'the'. When I search 'function of skin' on the google website, many websites say it like this, 'the function of the skin'.
1. Why do they use 'the function' ? Is the function only one in the context?
2. Why do they use 'the skin'? Does it mean all skins?

B: The use of articles is very much context dependent, so you would need to look at the sentence in it's broader context. Was the function or the skin mentioned earlier, for example? Is there a reference to define it? Simply seeing the phrase in isolation isn't enough to judge why the article is used.

Speaker B uses "would need" rather than "need", how does "would" function?

Hello Selet,

In this case, B is being polite. They are telling A what they need to do, and, as I recently explained to you on this page, 'would' makes a request or command more indirect and thus more polite.

It's also correct to just say 'need' here.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Selet,

It really amounts to the same thing. 'would need' is less direct than 'need' because it's hypothetical. Something less real is less direct.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Selet on Thu, 26/05/2022 - 23:51

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Hello, Jonathan. Could you tell me how "would" works in this sentence?

A: When shall I ring you?
B: After six would be best.

Hello Selet,

You could also say 'After six is best', but saying 'would be' is perceived as less demanding (and therefore more polite in most contexts).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Selet,

Perhaps I should have said 'less direct' instead of 'less demanding'. One of the main ways of being polite in English is to not expect other people to agree to our requests. Imposing our wishes on someone else, i.e. demanding that they do what we ask, is considered not polite.

Of course we still need to ask people to do things for us! So one way we can more politely ask them to do things is to be less direct. Using past tense forms or 'would' instead of 'will' is one very common way of doing this.

Hope that helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Plokonyo on Fri, 11/03/2022 - 23:28

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It would be very expensive to stay in a hotel.

Do we just imagine here if we doen't stay in a hotel?

If using "will" it means there is a plan to stay in a hotel?