'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

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTYzNzQ=

will and would 2

MultipleChoice_MTYzNzU=

will and would 3

GapFillTyping_MTYzOTk=

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

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTY0MDA=

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

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTY0MDE=

Expressions with would 2

GapFillTyping_MTY0MDI=

Average
Average: 4.2 (53 votes)

Submitted by uo on Tue, 16/04/2024 - 05:26

Permalink

Hello 

Is this correct ?

I would  say he was about fifty ( mean  would future in the past because he was about fifty ) 

 I would  say you are about fifty  ( mean  would future because  you are about fifty )


 

Helo uo,

The phrase I would say here is not about future but rather an expression for making an estimate. You can think of it as part of a longer expression:

If I had to guess, I would say....

If you asked me, I would say...

The second part (was or is) depends on whether you are talking about the past or present. The present is clear: fifty is his age now, in your opinion. The past is less clear. It could mean at a time in the past (three years ago / in 2020 / when I knew him / when I was at school etc) or it could mean when I saw him, which may be recent enough to still be true (last week / yesterday etc).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter 

1-  would could be past and could be present or future 

would means past if the context of the past (meaning before or after a past sentence or last week / yesterday etc.)

would means present or future  if the context of the present or future  (meaning before or after a present or future sentence or Next week tomorrow etc.)

2 the difference between would in the past AND would have  p.p

 would in the past (means  to talk about something that did not happen OR happened)

Examples
yesterday  I would call Lisa but I didn't have her number (means  did not happen )
yesterday   I would call Lisa and I did  (means happened)
would have  p.p ( (just meaning did not happen)

Example

we would have gone for a swim. but  we didn't go for a swim

Hello uo,

What you say in 1 looks correct to me.

In 2, the sentence 'I would call Lisa, but I didn't have her number' is not grammatically correct. When we speak about an 'imaginary past' (in other words, a past action that did not happen), we use 'would have'. So if yesterday I intended to call Lisa but could not because I didn't have her number, the correct form is 'I would have called Lisa, but I didn't have her number'. Your other example with 'would have' (about swimming) is correct.

I'm not sure what the intended meaning of 'would call' in 'I would call Lisa and I did' is. While it's true that 'would' is a past tense form of 'will', we don't use it to talk about wants or intentions in this way. Rather, we say something like 'I wanted to call Lisa and I did' or 'I planned to call Lisa and I did'. Actually, unless there is a particular reason to separate the intention to call Lisa and the act of calling Lisa, most of the time I'd say simply 'I called Lisa'.

Hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by uo on Sat, 23/03/2024 - 23:53

Permalink

Hello  Peter 

Is this correct ?

When I mean would in the past I must put past sentence OR Past time expressions (yesterday, last week) before OR after  would OR only I must put  past  sentence OR Past time expressions (yesterday, last week)
 before would ?

examples after  would :

1-  I would be late I thought ( mean  would future in the past because  I thought )

2- I would call Lisa but I didn't have her number  ( mean  would future in the past because I didn't have her number )

3- I would call Lisa yesterday  ( mean  would future in the past because yesterday )

4-   I would play football every month When I was a child ( mean  would typical behaviour in the past because When I was a child)

examples before  would :

1-   I thought we would be late ( mean  would future in the past because  I thought )

2- I didn't have her number I would call Lisa but   ( mean  would future in the past because I didn't have her number )

3- yesterday I would call Lisa ( mean  would future in the past because yesterday )

4-  When I was a child I would play football every month ( mean  would typical behaviour in the past because When I was a child)

Hello uo,

In general, it doesn't matter if past time expressions go before or after 'would'. However, there are some restrictions. Since most time expressions are adverbials, and since different kinds of adverbials go in certain positions in sentences, many time expressions normally go before or after 'would'.

One example of this is adverbs of frequency -- words like 'always', 'never', 'often', etc. Normally these adverbs go between a modal verb and the infinitive. So you can say 'I would always go', but 'I always would go' or 'I would go always' are not correct.

Another example is (your sentence 1) 'I think' (or 'I thought'). Most of the time, this comes first in a sentence. So while it is possible to say 'I would be late I thought', most of the time we say 'I thought I would be late'.

Please note that, if I've understood you, your sentences 2 and 3 are not correct. 2 is talking about an action that did not happen, so it should be 'I would have called Lisa but I didn't have her number'. Sentence 3 would be something like 'Yesterday I was going to call Lisa'.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

 

 

Submitted by jitu_jaga on Wed, 13/03/2024 - 17:06

Permalink

Hello TheLearnEnglishTeam,
JAKE Have I seen her dance?
BRIAN No. During high school, she got into a really good conservatory, and I ran into her a couple of times after that, and she was always about to get this, or about to get that. But each time, her arm would be in a sling, or she would be on crutches. She would have a pulled ligament. Or a stress fracture in her back. The last time I saw her, I ran into her on the subway, it was clear she hadn't danced for years. She was fat. You would have never imagined that she was the same girl.

Could you please clarify in the above paragraph the uses of "would"are for future in the past or for past state. As far as I know, in english would is used for past habits not for states. But here, to me it seems like the writer has used would for past states.
    What is your point? please state..
    Thanks...
 

Hello jitu_jaga,

The use of would that you are referring to is for describing past habits or states - used to for past habitual actions or states, would for only past habitual actions. However, this is not the use here as the actions/states described are not habits or even repeated actions but examples. What the author is really saying is that each time he or she saw the girl she had had an accident of some kind - each time a different accident. You can see this clearly because you cannot change would to used to in these examples.

The use of would here is actually a kind of prediction or expectation. Imagine the speaker is actually talking about meetings that happen regularly and is describing what he or she expects. In that case they would use will:

She's really unlucky, you know. Every time I see her she'll have a different injury. She'll have her arm in a sling, or she'll be on crutches, or....

This is the use of will for expressing expectations. It describes what we expect based on what we know. The use of would in your example is the same, but in past time.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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

Permalink

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

Permalink

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

Permalink

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

Permalink

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

Permalink

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

Permalink

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

Permalink

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

Permalink

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

Permalink

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