'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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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.

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Expressions with would 2

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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

Hello whitekrystal,

'Would' is very common when giving advice as we put ourselves in the other person's position and imagine how we *would* react if we were them. You can imagine an if-clause like 'If we needed to say this...'

There are other ways to give advice, of course, but this is a very common one.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks sir. "Would" when used to give advice, it sounds polite, doesn't it? Can "will" also be used for advice?

I will appreciate it if you can help me move all these stuff.

Hello whitekrystal,

Yes, as Peter explained, it is possible to use 'would' in a conditional structure to give advice in a polite way. Another common way of giving advice is with 'should'.

'will' is not generally appropriate for giving advice. It can be part of a wish (e.g. 'I hope you'll pass your exam'), but in that case it is part of an expression with 'I hope', which gives a flavour to what follows it.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

 

Submitted by whitekrystal on Sat, 28/10/2023 - 05:57

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Hi everyone. Could you explain what's the meaning of "would" ik this sentence?

Good afternoon and welcome to Sports Mole's live commentary of the Premier League encounter between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Manchester United. The clash is crucial at both ends of the table, with Wolves currently sitting in the bottom three, while victory for United would move Sir Alex Ferguson's side four points clear of Manchester City at the summit.

Hello whitekrystal,

It's speaking about a hypothetical situation that depends on a condition. If Man United wins the match (this is the condition), they will move up in position, more specifically four points ahead of Manchester City (this is the situation depending on the condition). It's possible to use both 'will' and 'would' in this case. The difference is that 'would' makes it more hypothetical, somehow more abstract. But the meaning is essentially the same.

Hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Thanks, Kirk. So in this case, "will" is better because the situation is real, isn't it? Before the match no one knows who will definitely win. However "would" is also possible in that sentence because we're talking about a hypothetical situation. This makes me puzzled because when imagining a situation, I usually use "would".

Hello whitekrystal,

Yes, it sounds to me as if you understand this. I wouldn't say 'will' is better, but it's certainly possible to use 'will' in this case, and I probably would have used 'will' if it were me speaking.

With conditional sentences, the way the speaker views the situation is crucial. For example, in talking about a lottery, where I have only an extremely small chance of winning, I can still talking about winning it and therefore use 'will'. It may seem completely unreasonable to do this from a purely statistical point of view, but I can choose to view it as I wish and use 'would'.

Similarly, in theory I can use 'would' when most people would choose 'will'.

I hope this helps.

Best wishes,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Selet on Wed, 25/10/2023 - 23:39

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A: Let me help you with your homework.
B: That will/would be great.

Will or would? Which is correct in the sentence above?

Hello Selet,

Both options are perfectly fine here. It's really a question of personal preference and style – I don't see any difference in meaning.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

My friend says "will" would be wrong here. There are cases where it would sound OK. For example:
A "I'll be at your place by noon."
B "That'll be great, it will give us plenty of time to get the train".

What do you think sir?

Submitted by ShE on Mon, 23/10/2023 - 21:36

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Hello Teachers,

I have a question about this sentence:
John will be in his office. (present)
why it is present?
thank you for your help in advance

Hi ShE,

Actually, this sentence can refer to the future (e.g. John will be in his office tomorrow) or the present (e.g. John will be in his office now).

About the present meaning, we can use will to express a belief about the present. If I say John will be in his office now, I'm expressing what I believe to be true. Saying "John will be ..." (instead of a factual statement such as "John is ...") shows that I believe it to be true but I don't know it as a fact. For example, maybe I know that John is usually in his office at this time every day, but I have not actually seen him in his office right now.

Does that make sense?

Jonathan

LearnEnglish team

Submitted by Selet on Fri, 20/10/2023 - 07:05

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I'm a bit confused by these sentences. What is the difference? In what should I use them?

It will be very helpful if you provide some context.
It would be very helpful if you provided some context.

Hello Selet,

The first sentence is an example of a first conditional and the second sentence is an example of a second conditional. I'd recommend you read the explanation of these two common patterns on our Conditionals: zero, first and second page, but briefly speaking, the first one shows that the speaker imagines or sees the situation they are talking about as something that is going to happen. Perhaps, for example, it's a teacher who's giving advice to a student who is about to give a presentation.

In the second case, there are two scenarios that are most likely. The first one is the same as what I described above, but in this case the speaker is being more polite. We often use the past tense and 'would' to be more polite. The second scenario is that the speaker imagines the situation as less likely to happen, somehow less real. For example, perhaps the person they are giving this advice to isn't yet sure whether they are going to give a presentation.

I hope this helps.

All the best,
Kirk
LearnEnglish team

Thanks, Kirk. Here is a context. Someone is asking a question about English grammar in a English forum, but the questioner gives a example sentence that doesn't have any context. A forum member says "some/more context would be helpful" or "it would be helpful if you provided some context."

Could you explain how "would" works in that sentence? Second, why doesn't the writer say "it will be helpful if you provide some context?"