'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: 4.3 (43 votes)

Hello kiranpn,

I agree with you that this is a non-standard form which incorrectly mixes real (likely) and unreal (unlikely) clauses.

I would suggest If we do... the rainforest will surely be or If we did... the rainforest would surely be..., depending on how likely doing something is to the speaker.

 

The site does not seem a very reliable source of grammar information in general. Even on that page there is another mistake where 'will' is described as forming a future tense. The overwhelming consensus amongst grammarians is that English has no future tense and that 'will' is a modal verb which can refer to the future, not a tense.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Khangvo2812 on Tue, 13/02/2024 - 11:31

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Could you explain to me why would is used in the sentence below?
The degree that I’m taking will qualify me for becoming a nutrition consultant, not a nutritionist. In order to become a nutritionist, I would need to attend medical school.

Does my second sentence have the same meaning to if I were to become a nutritionist, I would need to attend medical school?

Hello Khangvo2812,

This is a conditional sentence talking about a hypothetical situation, i.e. a situation that isn't true. This is because the person is studying to be a nutrition consultant, not a nutritionist.

Another way to express the same idea is: 'If I wanted to become a nutritionist, I would need to attend medical school'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Selet on Thu, 14/12/2023 - 23:17

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In this dialgue, speaker B uses "would" when replying to an A's question. Why does B use "would" rather than "will?"

A: Hello everyone
I need your help
Sentence from Harry Potter book: "A bald man in a very long purple coat had actually shaken his hand in the street the other day and then walked away without a word".
My question is why here author has used "the other day" instead of "another". As far as i know in singular noun we have to use "Another"

B: "The other day" refers to a non-specific day in the recent past. "Another day" would mean "on a different day

Hello Selet, 

'The other day' is a quite common phrase in English meaning 'a few days ago':

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/other-day

 

We use 'another day' when we are contrasting different days. For example:

I was very polite to him but on another day I might have got angry.

We can't meet on Tuesday. How about another day?

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Peter M. I ask about the use of "would" in comment B. B says "another day would mean...", why use "would" rather than "will?"

Hello Selet,

What the speaker means is 'If someone said "another day", it would mean "on a different day".' We often omit the condition when we think it's obvious from the context.

I've noticed that you're very interested in the uses of 'would'. If you haven't already done so, I would suggest reading through the comments other users have made on this page, as this is a topic that many have asked about.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Thanks Kirk. What is confusing me is why the speaker doesn't use "will" and say "another day will mean...", can you explain the reason?

Hello again Selet,

'Would' is used here because the speaker is reflecting on a hypothetical situation. The initial speaker said x, but if they had said y then it would mean.... [they didn't say y, so it is hypothetical].

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi. The other day refers to "a few days ago" but another day uses for future. When we want to do something "In another day", means we intend to do it later in coming days.

Submitted by Crokong on Mon, 11/12/2023 - 13:13

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Hello. What's the difference?

What do you think the price of a cinema ticket is?
What do you think would the price of a cinema ticket be?

Hi Crokong,

The first question is asking if you know this factual information (the price of the ticket). It uses "is" in the present simple to show this.

The second question is asking you to imagine or guess the price of the ticket. It seems to assume that you do not know what the price is as a fact. It uses "would" to show this.

Alternatively, the speaker may wish to show that they have not actually committed to buying a ticket yet (i.e., buying a ticket is only an imaginary scenario, not a real one).

By the way, it should also be: What do you think the price of a cinema ticket would be? (because it's an indirect question, including "do you think". The direct question is What would the price of a cinema ticket be?).

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Thanks, Jonathan. Could you explain why "would" is used in the following sentence? I usually say "a simple solution is .../a second measure is ...

There are several actions that governments could take to solve the problems described above. Firstly, a simple solution would be to increase the retirement age for working adults, perhaps from 65 to 70. Nowadays, people of this age tend to be healthy enough to continue a productive working life. A second measure would be for governments to encourage immigration in order to increase the number of working adults who pay taxes. Finally, money from national budgets will need to be taken from other areas and spent on vital healthcare, accommodation and transport facilities for the rising numbers of older citizens.

Hi Crokong,

You can say it like that too. If you say "is", you are stating this solution/measure in a straightforward and factual way. The solution/measure is X.

If you say "would", the meaning is more nuanced. It means that this solution/measure is only an imagined or hypothetical one, and it is not yet in actual use or consideration by governments. By saying "would", the speaker shows that he/she does not assume that any government is actually going to do these solutions/measures. The speaker probably says "could" in the first sentence (rather than "can") for the same reason.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Thanks, Jonathan. If you moved your chair a bit, we could all sit down.

Can I say "If you move your chair a bit, we can all sit down?" What's the difference?

Hi Crokong,

Yes, you can, but the meaning is a bit different. The sentence with "moved" and "could" is a second conditional, showing something that the speaker sees as relatively unlikely to happen or unrealistic. The sentence with "move" and "can" is the first conditional, showing something that the speaker sees as relatively likely to happen, or at least possible.

You can read more about these structures on our first and second conditionals page. I hope you find it useful.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Thanks Jonathan. I see your sentence use "would" when answering a question here. Could you explain how "would" works in your sentence?

Oten # – Hello dear team, and thanks for the time,
I sat (in) the bus chair or (on) the bus chair.

Jonathan # 2 –Hi Hosseinpour,
With "chair" the usual preposition "on". However, a more usual word would be "bus seat" (rather than "bus chair"). You can say "in" or "on" with "seat".

Hi Crokong,

I used "would" because the original poster did not actually say "bus seat" in his/her post. So, I am imagining what he/she could have hypothetically said instead in that situation (but did not actually say).

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Jembut on Sat, 09/12/2023 - 15:29

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Hello, There is a game now. I want to predict the team. Should I use "will" here because the situation real? And "would" isn't correct. What do you think?

- A draw today will or would be be a better result for Manchester Utd than it will or would for Liverpool.

Hello Jembut,

Both are possible. Which you choose depends on how likely you think the outcome is - will suggests you expect it/see it as a real possibility; would suggests that you do not expect a draw.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Jembut,

Which case do you mean? Does the commentator expect a draw or not expect a draw?

If you haven't already, I'd suggest reading some sports articles to get more insight into this.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by jitu_jaga on Sat, 09/12/2023 - 11:11

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Hello The LearnEnglish Team,
BRIAN Did you look in the trunk?

JAKE Yes, Dad. I looked. They're not there.

BRIAN I don't know, Jake. Maybe they got thrown away.

JAKE Why would you do that? They're my drawings! BRIAN Why don't you just make new ones.
Could you explain the use of would in the sentence above "Jake why would you do that? Is it same as why did you want to do that? I don't understand the use of would in the above conversation..

Hello jitu_jaga,

'Why would you do that?' and 'Why did you do that?' are very similar in meaning. I think the first question is perhaps a little stronger in terms of the speaker's emotion. It suggests that the other person's motivation is completely unintelligible to the speaker.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Plokonyo on Thu, 07/12/2023 - 03:44

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Which should I use, will or would in this context?

Maybe, you'll have another question later on. I will / would be glad to reply to another question.

Hello Plokonyo,

It depends on whether the speaker sees the possible future question as something likely (in this case, 'will') or something more imaginary (in this case, 'would'). I'm afraid the situation isn't clear enough for me to tell which way the speaker sees things.

In any case, both of them are intelligible.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Dwishiren on Wed, 06/12/2023 - 16:52

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I want to say this to my friend. Which is correct , will or would?
I suppose a bank will/would be a good place to put money.

Hello Dwishiren,

Both of them can be correct. Can you please explain in more detail what your thinking is? Then we can help you choose the form that best expresses your intentions.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Hi Kirk. I want to make suggestion to my friend. It's better to put money in the bank.

I suppose a bank will/would be a good place to put money.

Hello Dwishiren,

If your friend had the money ready and is looking to do something with it (a real situation, if you wish) then 'will' is more likely.

If you are talking hypothetically (your friend doesn't have the money or is really unsure if they want to do anything with it) then 'would' is probably more likely.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Nyenok on Mon, 04/12/2023 - 04:54

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Why does it have "would" in this sentence? Why not say "three teams will be ...?" Here's an explanation about the phrase "two-horse race".

(a) Two-horse race
A close or tight battle between two teams for the title (three teams would be a three-horse race, and so on). 

Hello Nyenok,

Since this is a definition of a two-horse race, a race with three teams is hypothetical and so we use 'would' to express this idea.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Hello Nyenok,

That's what dictionaries are for!

'hypothetical' means that it refers to a situation or person or thing that doesn't exist (in the common sense of the word). In this case, we are talking about a two-horse race. To talk about a three-horse race is something that doesn't apply to this situation; it applies to a situation that doesn't exist in the context we are talking about. That's why it's hypothetical.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Jembut on Sat, 02/12/2023 - 04:42

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Which should I use, will or would in this dialogue?

Mbutt: What does "taking it back" mean? What does "it" mean?

Thomas: You haven't given us the context, Mbutt. That will/ would help us answer this question.

Hi Jembut,

They are both good. Using "will" means that Thomas assumes that Mbutt is going to subsequently give the context (i.e., it is a real action). Using "would" means that Thomas does not assume that, so the action is not yet real. It's just something imagined or hypothetical at this point. In terms of social interaction, using "would" puts less pressure on Mbutt to actually provide an answer, and for that reason it may seem more polite when compared to "will".

I hope that helps.

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Thank you, Jonathan. You said "Using "will" means that Thomas assumes that Mbutt is going to subsequently give the context (i.e., it is a real action).".

Could you give an example sentence about Thomas assumes that Mbutt is going to subsequently give the context? How is the scanario?

Hi Jembut,

The context is the expectation that Thomas seems to have. Perhaps Thomas knows that Mbutt regularly asks questions of this kind and Thomas therefore assumes that Mbutt is likely to respond. Or perhaps Thomas prefers to request this information in a direct way, rather than a less direct way using "would", or even uses "will" to show his own intention to help by responding further. As outsiders to this conversation, we cannot know Thomas' exact reason for sure.

If I may suggest, have you considered asking Thomas directly about his word choice?

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Gendeng on Wed, 29/11/2023 - 14:50

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Today would have been the birthday of our FA Cup winning captain, Jack Nicholas.

I'm wondering why the sentence is not writen "Today is the birthday of our FA Cul winning captain, Jack Nicholas". Why use "would have?"

Hello Gendeng,

I suppose because Nicklaus is retired and not participating in whatever event is being talked about. The speaker is probably thinking of what it would have been like for Nicklaus to be there and so uses 'would have' to show this.

But you are right, you could say 'Today is his birthday' and that is also correct, especially considering that Nicklaus is still alive. But even if he weren't, we could still use 'is'.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Plokonyo on Sun, 26/11/2023 - 04:11

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How does "will" function in this sentence? I think this sentence is imagining a situation. Why not say "you would find "up" has many uses" and "you would find the meaning ..."?

You will find 'up' has many, many uses and I'm sure you will find the meaning if you're familiar with this usage

Hello Plokonyo,

This sounds like a prediction to me, but without knowing the context I can't say for sure. It's important to think about the speaker's point of view on what they're saying to understand how the verb forms work. 

I'm guessing this is from a comment that I or another member of the team wrote, but I'm afraid I don't remember the context.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Selet on Tue, 21/11/2023 - 22:44

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I don't understand the word "less direct". What does it mean? This is realated to the use of "would".

We often use would with verbs such as advise, imagine, recommend, say, suggest, think to make what we say less direct.

I’d advise you to keep working on your grammar.
We'd suggest that you take this route. It's more scenic.

Hello Selet,

Here is a command, which is a direct statement:

Study the material in at least three separate sessions.

Here are some examples of less direct statements. They are not commands, but instead suggestions:

I suggest you study the material in at least three separate sessions.
If I were you, I would study the material in at least three separate sessions.
Experts advise studying the material in at least three separate sessions.

Since we don't give someone a command, but still want them to do something, we say these statements are less direct.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Thanks Kirk. I get i it now. But why do we add the word "would" although the sentences are less direct.

I suggest you study the material in at least three separate sessions. (Less direct)

Your example sentences are less direct although there is no the word "would", while my English grammar book says with verbs suggest, recommend, advice, etc. indicate whay we say "less direct". What is the difference?

I suggest you study the material in at least three separate sessions.
I would suggest you study the material in at least three separate sessions

Hello Selet,

I'm glad that makes sense.

You are right in thinking that 'would' is only one of many ways of being less direct. In 'If I were you, I would study the material in at least three separate sessions', we use 'would' because the sentence is speaking about an imaginary or hypothetical situation, i.e. the situation when I am in your place instead of you. This imaginary situation is less direct because we are not referring to a real (direct) situation and making a command; we are imagining a situation and suggesting there is a similarity between it and the real situation someone is in.

In the other sentences I wrote, the verb forms in the dependent clauses depend on the primary verbs. For example, when we use 'suggest', the verbs that come after it (in the dependent clause) can only go in a few different forms. In this case, I used subject + base form (e.g. 'I suggest you (subject) study (base form)'). It's also possible to say 'suggest' and an '-ing' form: 'I suggest studying'. 

The verbs after 'advise' can also go in the '-ing' form ('I advise studying'), but if a subject is mentioned, the verb goes in the 'to'-infinitive form ('I advise you to study').

Verbs like 'suggest' and 'advise' can be put in groups based on the grammatical structures that follow them. You can find some of these on the following pages:

I hope this helps you make sense of it.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by whitekrystal on Sun, 12/11/2023 - 07:51

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Hello. I see Peter M use "would" when asnweing a question from someone else on the page about "conditional". In the sentence "A more natural phrasing would be...", how does "would" work?

Hello again User_1,
PeterM: I see. In that case the answer is no. Generally, 'hope' implies a possible rather than a hypothetical situation so we would use 'will':

If the weather makes things change, I hope you'll remember...

I think the first part is rather awkward, incidentally. A more natural phrasing would be something like 'If the weather changes/improves)...' or 'If your plans change because of the weather