'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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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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Average
Average: 4.2 (57 votes)

Hello Gendeng,

Yes, you could use 'will'. I think 'would' is a more common choice but both are grammatically possible.

Multiple modals are often possible in a given context. For example, in the previous sentence 'Yes, you can use...' is also possible. Again, it's a question of style and tone, not grammar rules.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Selet on Sat, 17/06/2023 - 04:09

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There are a number of phrases I have often seen native speakeer use "would".

I would understand that to be...
I would interpret that as...

And each of these can also be said without using the word "would."

I understand that to be...
I interpret that as...

What is the difference between adding "would" and not adding it?

Hello Selet,

Would can add a sense of being a little more tentative in your opinion, so it is a way of being more polite or less aggressive in your opinion. You can imagine an if-clause added to the sentence:

If you asked me, I would say....

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

"If you asked me, I would interpret/understand that ..." Well, that doesn't quite make sense, because the person does ask. For example: I will ask a question.

Me: What does "openings" mean in this context? Or what is the grammatical term for this?

Would you answer "if you asked me, I would interpret that.../ I would call it...?" This doesn't make sense because I do ask here. The speaker only uses "would."

Hello Selet,

When Peter refers to imagining an 'if'-clause, he's explaining how the grammar works. The reason people use this is usually to be 'softer', in a sense, which is an extremely common and widespread strategy for being polite in English. The idea is that if you show a little doubt, this is tantamount to being less aggressive or less authoritative, which will put people at ease. This is part of being polite in English.

So yes, you're right in thinking that because the person has asked the question and so, from a certain perspective, using 'would' doesn't make sense. But I'm afraid that's how English works. I can see how this might seem strange, as there are completely different ways of being polite in other languages. But in English, this is extremely common.

Regarding possible answers to the question 'What does "openings" mean in this context?'), you are right in thinking that no one would say 'If you asked me, I would say it means 'job opportunities''. That's not actually what Peter was saying.

What Peter was saying is that many people would answer 'I would say it means 'job opportunities'', and that if that grammar seems strange to you, then it might help to imagine them saying 'If I had to guess based on what I know, I'd say it means 'job opportunities''. In that case, you can see that the second conditional structure explains the use of 'would'.

I can see how using a second conditional here seems strange, but as I've tried to make clear, this is a very common way of speaking politely in English.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Thanks, Kirk. I have quite often seen native speakers use "would" in a reply to questions.

I would understand that to be...
I would interpret that as..

If I use "will", what is the difference between the two?

I would interpret that as...
I will interptret that as...

Hello Selet,

Most of the time 'would' shows politeness, though it could also show uncertainty.

'will' could be showing a decision on their part, but it's hard to say without knowing more about the context. This use strikes me as a bit unusual.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Here is context. If I substitute "would" for "will", what's the difference? For instance:

Q: What does "a fly-away look" mean here? Round shoulders had Jo, big hands and feet, a flyaway look to her clothes, and the uncomfortable appearance of a girl who was rapidly shooting up into a woman and didn't like it.
Does it only mean "loose clothes"?

A: I would interpret it as meaning "disheveled"

Here, I substitute "would" for "will", what's the difference? "I will interpret it as meaning..."

Hello Selet,

As far as I know, 'I will interpret it ...' is not correct here in standard English.

People would typically say either 'I would interpret it to mean ...' or 'It means' or something similar, but I can't think of a situation in which 'I will interpret it ...' would be correct.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Thanks, Kirk. I'm very confused by the choice between "will" and "would". Why do you use "would" rather than "will" in your sentence?
People would typically say either 'I would interpret it to mean ...' or 'It means' or something similar, but I can't think of a situation in which 'I will interpret it ...' would be correct.

Why not say "people will typically say either"/ ",...but I can't think of a situation in which 'I will interpret it ...' will be correct?"

Hello Selet,

I will interpret it to mean... needs a concrete reference point. In other words, you would need to know that you are going to do this and be describing how you will do it. For example:

Tomorrow in the exam there will almost certainly be a question asking you to interpret Moby Dick as a religious allegory. Do you have an answer ready?

Sure. I'll interpret it like this....

As you can see, it's an unusual context, which is why the use is so rare.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello again Selet,

Our discussion here is hypothetical, in the sense that you are asking what something would mean if you said it, or how you would phrase something if you wanted to say... Therefore would is appropriate.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Plokonyo on Sun, 04/06/2023 - 08:23

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I want to understand the use of "would" in this sentence.Here, B uses "would" when answering the question. Could you explain how "would" works here? I usually just say "I call that..." with no "would." What's the difference?

A: If you are tired, you should go to bed.
Is this the first conditional or zero conditional for you?

B: I would call that a zero conditional.
Conditionals along the lines of 'If it rains, we'll cancel the match' are generally categorised as first conditionals.

Hi Plokonyo,

"I call that ..." is the present simple, which expresses regular actions or things of a factual nature. If you say "I call that a zero conditional", it gives the idea you do this regularly - i.e., you regularly see this particular sentence, and you regularly analyse it. It's not grammatically wrong, but it does seem unlikely for somebody to have analysed this particular sentence regularly or even once before. More likely would be something like this: I call sentences like that a zero conditional ("like this" makes the statement more general, and not just about analysing this particular sentence).

However, "I would call that ..." would be the most commonly used structure, I think. It expresses the opinion politely and gently, and also makes clear that this particular sentence is not something that B has analysed before.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Thanks, Jonathan. I see your sentence use "would" here in "More likely WOULD BE something like this:..." and "However, I would call that..." WOULD BE the most commonly used structure.

Could you explain how "would" works in your sentence?

Hi Plokonyo,

It's because I'm also trying to give my opinion in a polite and non-forceful way.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Thanks, Jonathan. "Would" in your sentence is not a hypothetical, isn't it? Sometimes I'm confused because native speakers usually say it's hypothetical and others say it's used to give my opinion in a polite and non-forceful way. Are both connected into one? I mean "hypothetical" and "give my opinion in a polite and non-forceful way."

Hi Plokonyo,

Yes, it could be interpreted as hypothetical, in the sense of If you asked me ... or If I were in that situation ...

I don't think there's any contradiction in these explanations. "Hypothetical" is describing the what the words mean, while "polite and non-forceful" is describing their effect on the listener/reader. Both are important in social communication.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Thanks, Jonathan. Yes, it does. Does "could" in your sentence mean "be possible to be able to?" Is that right?

Yes, it could be interpreted as hypothetical = Yes, it's possibe to be able to be interpreted as..."

Submitted by snornie on Sat, 03/06/2023 - 22:59

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Thank you for this great article!

I have a question that I'm hoping you could help me clarify:

This lady is talking about events in the past. She first uses past tense: "Our leaders were corrupted and incompetent". Then her next sentence is: "Deep down we'll always have this fear that in the end it'll be the North who won."

The North did win in the end. This person is speaking about the past, but in the second sentence she's using "will" instead of "would". I believe people do this when talking about past events to make it sound like it's happening right now. But the use of "won" at the end of the second sentence, following the use of "will" is what confuses me. Are you able to clarify?

Also, would this be grammatically correct: "Deep down we always had this fear that in the end it would be the North who won".

Thank you

Hi snornie,

I'm not familiar with the context of this, so I can't see clearly what meaning the speaker intends here. Perhaps the speaker wants to give the feeling of events happening now, as you mentioned.

The speaker may have started the sentence using "will", as if the events are in our future, but changed back to the past simple for "won" because she is describing historical events. This use of "won" could be considered a mistake, from a grammatical point of view. However, speakers do not always speak in 100% grammatical ways, especially when the meaning and structure is complicated, as it is here, and especially when it is speaking rather than writing (since in speaking, we often start speaking without having fully determined exactly what we are going to say and how we are going to end the sentence or idea, whereas in writing we have more time to compose what we want to say). 

It seems enough to create the 'happening now' effect, even though the use of tenses isn't completely consistent.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by jitu_jaga on Sat, 29/04/2023 - 07:28

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Hello Teachers,
Who is knocking at the door?-That will be Tom.
Who is knocking at the door?-That would be Tom.
My question is, what is the difference between two replies? Can I understand the second reply as conditional sentence or something else or a simple presumption as first reply?

Hello jitu_jaga,

'will' can be used in this way to express a supposition that we're fairly confident about, especially if the action referred to is typical behaviour. For example, in this case, if Tom often shows up knocking on the door at this particular time of day, this use of 'will' would express that idea. But even if we just expect it to be Tom, 'will' could be used in this way in some varieties of English. In American English, which I know best, it's not used in this way; but as far as I know it's used in different British varieties.

The second sentence, with 'would', doesn't sound correct to me. Perhaps in some specific context it would be OK, but in general people would use 'would' or some other form altogether such as 'I expect it's Tom', 'It's probably Tom', 'It must be Tom', etc.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Kurk on Wed, 26/04/2023 - 08:40

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Hello,
Could you please clarify the usage of “would” in this sentence?
“I was the assistant of my cello teacher at the Music School of Tehran and I would teach the students when he was away performing in other cities, and during the summer when school was not in session.”
I don't filly understand the pair “ I was would”
Thank you,
Kurk

Hello Kurk,

'would' can be used to refer habitual actions in the past.

There's an explanation of this use of 'would' on our Past habits and Talking about the past pages. If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to ask us on one of those two pages!

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by jitu_jaga on Wed, 19/04/2023 - 06:29

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Hello teachers!
You will know, Jack is getting married next month.
You would know, Jack is getting married next month.
In the above sentence how "would" in place of "will" changes the meaning. I mean in the second sentence does "would" is for indirectness with a hidden if clause or it is the same as"will" in the first sentence. Please clarify...

Hi jitu_jaga,

The first one (using "will") is usually used when the speaker wants to recognise the fact that the listener already knows what the speaking is telling him/her. "As you will know ..." is also very common.

The second one (using "would") is a bit unusual in this example and it's harder to see a clear meaning. It could be conditional, e.g. You would know that Jack is getting married next month if you were one of his close friends.

The phrase "you would know" is usually used when the speaker wants to recognise the listener as an expert about a particular topic (i.e., knowledgeable and trustworthy). For example:

  • A: I think Adele's new song is her best one yet.
  • B: You would know. You're her biggest fan.

"You will know", in comparison, is a simple recognition of knowing something more simple and factual. 

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by gcevallos on Sat, 01/04/2023 - 03:13

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The title of an old movie was "The man who would be king" Does it mean that the man really wanted to be a king, or that the man was destined to be king.

Hi gcevallos,

I'm not familiar with this movie, but the title potentiallly has both meanings, which makes the title quite interesting and attractive. Perhaps the author intended this play on words!

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by ravindersolanki1 on Sat, 25/03/2023 - 08:38

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Hello sir,
I have been facing this problem for a long time. What's the difference between will and would in these sentences:-

1) I would go there vs I will go there
2) He would call you vs he will call you
3) where would you meet him vs where will you meet him?
4) why would he lie to you vs why will he lie to you?
5) would you go there vs will you go there?
6) would he miss you vs will he miss you?
Whether would can be used independent of conditional to show politness and indirectness.
I would be happy sir if you would explain it in detail.

Thank you sir

Hello ravinder,

Please choose one or two of these sentences and then tell us what you think the difference is. We'll then be happy to comment on your explanations.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by howtosay_ on Sun, 05/03/2023 - 13:56

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Hello!

Could you please help me with the following:

1. The agreement was that we wouldn't work on Saturday. So, the date of the agreement hasn't expired yet, but it has been broken and they have already worked on Saturday. So, could you please clarify whether it has to be "will" or "would"?

2. In my childhood I would never think that I would admire this film. - Is this sentence correct? I'm a bit confused about the double usage of "would" in one sentence.

Thank you very much for your precious help and I'm very grateful for your answer to these questions beforehand!!!

Hello howtosay_,

1) The sentence is correct with 'would'. There are two ways to look at this, I think. One is that it's a 'future in the past' situation, where an agreement was made in the past regarding the future. Another way is to see it as speaking an unreal situation in the present or future -- it's unreal because the idea was that no work would be done on Saturday, but they've done some work on Saturday. So that workless Saturday is not real.

2) If I understand what is meant here, it should be 'In my childhood, I never would have thought that I would admire this film'. The thinking in the speaker's childhood is situated in an unreal past time, somewhat similar to a third conditional situation. We say 'would admire' because the thinking was in a past (unreal) time that refers to the future (which is now).

That's rather complex but I hope it helps!

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Farislearner on Fri, 03/03/2023 - 14:51

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Hi, which phrase is correct?

I would go if you went or I would go if you go . To express that I may go in the future to an event if someone may go too.
Thanks

Hello Farislearner,

If you don't think that you will really go -- for example, because it's very expensive or very difficult to actually go -- then you could say 'I'd go if you went' (not 'if you go').

But if it's something you can do but just aren't sure, it'd be better to say 'I'll go if you go'. For example, if there's a party but you're not sure you want to go to it, you could say this to your friend who is also invited.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Paramesh09849 on Wed, 15/02/2023 - 09:53

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Can't quite getting it.
Would mind explaining by comparing each sentence in my before comment please?

Hello again Paramesh09849,

Please look read through other users' comments on this page and our responses to them, and be sure to read back past the first page. We have answered essentially the same question many different times and I think you'd benefit from reading them.

After that, if it's still not clear to you, please tell us -- in detail -- what you think the difference is between two different sentences that are otherwise identical (except for the words 'will' or 'would'). Then we can better understand how you understand the forms and so better help you.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Paramesh09849 on Sun, 12/02/2023 - 07:55

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Could you tell me the difference?
I will never do that again or I would never do that again.
Why would I do that?or Why will I do that?.
What is the answer?or What would be the answer?.
I would say I am doing this for you or I will say I am doing this for you

Hello Paramesh09849,

There are many ways in which these sentences could be used. Taking one possible situation as an example, 'I will' could be a promise that you make at the moment of speaking. 'I would' speaks about a more hypothetical future situation; you imagine a situation and then say that in that situation you wouldn't do that again.

In the other sentences, 'would' expresses the idea that you're speaking about an imaginary situation. It doesn't have to be a fantasy, i.e. something very unlikely; it can be a perfectly possible normal situation, just that you're speaking about it as something possible, not as real. 'will' expresses a more straightforward situation that can be expected.

By the way, please do not post the same comment more than once. You might think this will speed up replies, but in fact it will slow down our responses not just for you, but for everyone.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Paramesh09849 on Sun, 12/02/2023 - 04:59

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In this video you can learn about modals.
In this video you will learn about modals.
What's the difference between the two modals
in the above sentences?

Hello Paramesh09849,

Both sentences are possible.

Will is a prediction or a promise here. It tells us what the speaker (writer) believes or expects.

Can describes what is possible but not certain. It tells us that learning about modal is possible here if, for example, you work hard or if you do all the activities.


Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Paramesh09849 on Fri, 10/02/2023 - 14:27

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https://youtu.be/... Would you mind watching the video and could tell me what are uses of "Would" in the above video link?

Hi Paramesh09849,

Our main purpose is to help learners with the explanations and exercises on our own pages. We try to help as much as we can with other questions too, but I'm afraid we cannot review other people's videos as it's simply too much for our small team. But if you have a specific question, feel free to ask it :)

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Paramesh09849 on Fri, 10/02/2023 - 09:05

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Wha is the "would " function in the below speech?
It is about a course which is divided into 3 different courses which is known as DADM1 and DADM2and DADM3.Each course would basically have an half an hour class so that would be running 5 classes in a week and it will continue for 60 such lectures.

Hi Paramesh09849,

"Would" shows that the future action is conditional on something else happening first (e.g. if the course is not yet confirmed to go ahead). However, it is unclear whether this is the situation or not in this example, since the writer/speaker uses "would" as well as "will" to describe the same course. The speaker may be using both "would" and "will" to refer to the future generally and perhaps does not intend an important difference between them. Without knowing the context in which this was said/written, we can't know the intended meaning for sure.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team