'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 histhisismy on Mon, 17/10/2022 - 06:38

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What's the difference between " Why would you say that ?" and " Why did you say that?"
An example from the movie "Friends"
Chandler: You're turning into a woman
Joey: No I'm not. Why would you say that?
Thank you.

Hello histhisismy,

'Why did you say that?' would focus on a past statement. It could work here, though I think Joey would be more likely to say 'Why do you say that?' or 'Why would you say that?'.

The question with 'would' makes it sound as if Joey can't believe Chandler made this statement. It's kind of like a second conditional structure where the 'if' clause is omitted: 'If you were my friend, why would you say that?'

Hope this helps you make sense of it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi there
Can u help me with that
Cross out one incorrect option
Those bags look heavy...........help u with it
A.Would I
B.Shall I
C.Will I
D.Can I

Hi Katerush,

I'm afraid we don't provide answers for tasks like this from elsewhere. If we did then we'd end up doing users' homework for them!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

U got me wrong honestly
We were discussing this test with my friends
Based on some sourses in this tast there are 2 correct options
Soo we are so confused and wanted to ask from natives who knows better than us
It is not hometask by the way

Hello Katerush,

OK, thanks for letting us know. The two answers that work here are B and D. We can use 'shall' to offer to help and 'can' to ask for permission (though really here we're offering to help).

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

 

Submitted by Kata911 on Mon, 03/10/2022 - 11:46

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Hi,
I would like to know if there is a difference between the following two sentences? And if there is, what is it?
Many animal species will mate for life. OR
Many animal species mate for life.

The first sentence is an example from English File advanced book. And second sentence is how I would say it.

All the best,
Kata

Hello Kata911,

There's a slight difference in meaning. In the first sentence, 'will' expresses certainty about the statement, whereas the present simple form expresses a simple general fact. In the end, the animal species behave the same; 'will' adds information about the speaker's attitude.

Another example of this use of 'will' is when we make a statement about something that we don't have direct evidence for, but are fairly certain about. For example, imagine that I was recently in the kitchen and saw my wife mixing ingredients for a cake and setting the oven to warm up. An hour later, I hear the oven timer ring. I could say 'That will mean the cake is done'. In this case, I haven't actually seen the cake in the oven, but given what I've observed, it seems to be a very likely explanation.

Hope that helps you make sense of it.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by disconzi on Mon, 26/09/2022 - 19:20

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Hello,

Regarding the use of rather in: I'd rather (I would rather), to express preferences.
Is it wrong using: I´ll rather?

Thanks in advance

Hello disconzi,

Only 'would rather' is correct. 'will rather' is not correct.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Plokonyo on Mon, 19/09/2022 - 22:58

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I'm confused which one should I say to my friend?

Man Utd will do well in the Champions league next season.
Man Utd would do well in the Champions league next season.

Hello Plokonyo,

Both sentences are grammatically possible so it depends what you want to say. If you are convinced Man Utd will qualify for the CL then the first sentence is the best choice. If you think it unlikely that Man Utd will qualify then the second is more likely.

Sentences like these often have an implied if-clause: if they qualify (first sentence) and if they qualified (second sentence).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, Peter. If I'm convinced Man Utd will qualify for the CL, where can we see the certainty from? We can't know what will in the future, they could not qualify. Their perfomance has gone off the boil.

Man Utd will do well in the Champions league (if you qualify)

Hello again Plokonyo,

I'm afraid I can't give you much insight as far as Man Utd's sporting chances go! As far as the grammar goes, it's all about how we see it, not necessarily how it really is. In sport, hope springs eternal, so fans will always have belief.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

How do you see/describe the situation of the possible outcome of a game that’s currently in progress? Do you use "will" or "would?"

46 mins: The game is back underway at Anfield. It will/would be a surprise if the game stays/stayed at 2-1, with both sides desperate for the three point.

Hello Plokonyo,

It depends on the speaker's point of view, but in the context of a sports commentator narrating a match, there's very little difference in meaning because half of the match remains to be played and it could go either way. A commentator would be more likely to use first conditional form when the outcome seems more certain and the other form when not, or when they want to remain a bit more detached. But objectively speaking, there's of course no difference as many things can still happen in a match at 46 minutes.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks, Kirk. So the second conditional is used to make the situation sound more detaiched from the commentator's view, right? If yes, it would be better to use the second conditional for a situation the outcome could change before the end of the game. Is my understanding right?

Hi Plokonyo,

Between the second and first conditional, the second conditional generally suggests more detachment. I'm not sure I'd say it's better to use a second conditional form given that the outcome could change, because a commentator isn't necessarily a detached observer. Their narrative needs to be objective, but that doesn't mean they don't have a preferred outcome.

Anyway, that's more a question of psychology than language, but I hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

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

Hello Basanta Pradhan,

It's not really correct use 'early morning' this way. It's possible to use 'early morning' as a noun modifier (e.g. 'I really enjoy early morning runs'), but here an adverbial phrase such as 'early in the morning' is needed. There's also normally a comma between clauses in sentences beginning with 'if': 'If you wake up early in the morning, I would like to prepare breakfast for us.'

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