We use will:

  • to talk about the future – to say what we believe will happen
  • to talk about what people want to do or are willing to do
  • to make promises and offers

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 – things that are imagined rather than true.
  • for politeness.

Beliefs

We use will

  • to say what we believe will happen in the future:

We'll be late.
We will have to take the train.

We use would as the past tense of will:

  • to say what we believed would happen:

I thought I would be late …… so I would have to take the train.

Offers and promises

We use I will or We will to make offers and promises:

I’ll give you a lift home after the party.
We will come and see you next week.

Willingness

  • 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.

We use would as the past tense of will:

  • to talk about what people wanted to do or were willing to do:

We had a terrible night. The baby wouldn’t go to sleep. He kept waking up and crying.
Dad wouldn’t lend me the car, so we had to take the train.

  • to talk about something that we did often in the past because we wanted to do it:

When they were children they used to spend their holidays at their grandmother’s at the seaside. They would get up early every morning and they’d have a quick breakfast then they would run across the road to the beach.

Conditionals

We use will in conditionals with if and unless to say what we think will happen in the future or present:

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 talk about hypotheses, about something which is possible but not real:

  • to talk about the result or effect of a possible situation:

It would be very expensive to stay in a hotel.

  • in conditionals with words like if and what if. In these sentences the main verb is usually in the past tense:

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 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.

Phrases with would:

  • 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 that?

  • would you like ...; would you like to ...,  for offers and invitations:

Would you like to come round tomorrow?
Would you like another drink?

  • 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 that one.
I’d rather go home now.

  • 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.

 

 

Exercise

Comments

Hi Kirk, Peter,
This may sound a bit silly, but I was wondering is it possible that we can classify the verb 'will' (on its own)as present tense/ future tense? As you have said 'would' is the past of will.
As far as I know other auxiliary verbs like 'be' and have' present/past forms to them. So I presume both 'will' and 'shall' are present tense? Please be kind enough to clarify.
Thanks in advance!

Hello Noel,

'Will' and 'would' are both modal verbs, which do not have tenses as such (tense being a change in the grammatical form of the verb).

All modal verbs can refer to present and future time. Some can refer to past time and we sometimes see these as past forms of other modals (e.g. 'could' as a past form of 'can' for ability). However, this is really a helpful way to think of them rather than a genuine tense.

You can read more about this on this page.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

HI Teachers, i was wondering what could be the rule in this use of would in the following sentence:1) they fell out over who would be the captain of the team.As well l would like to know which of these three sentence is correct.
1) Kara would sooner die than let Hayden go;
2) Kara would sooner die than letting Hayden go;
3) Kara would sooner die than to let Hayden go;

Thanks in advance

Hi rosario70,

In the first sentence, I'd say 'would' is a future in the past. In the present, this would be 'They've fallen out over who will be the captain'.

Of the other three sentences, 1 is the correct one.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

I would like to ask a question about the appropriate usage of will and would. In an essay, I am often required to offer solutions to a problem and evaluate their effects. Should I use "will" or "would" in this context?

Thanks!

Hi patph0510,

Both forms could work well. In some cases, probably either form would be appropriate, but it really depends on the exact context and on what you want to say. If there's a specific sentence you'd like to ask us about, please feel free to do so. Please provide the context (the couple of sentences before and after) as well.

All the best,
Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk,

Thanks for your reply. Please advise which one I should in the following contexts.

1. Last week, the government announced its decision to reduce corporate tax. Most companies welcome this policy because the tax reduction will/would encourage more foreign investment.

2. The law nowadays does not offer sufficient protection to minorities. I suggest that the law should be reformed so that they will/would have the same opportunities as others in the job market.

Hi patph0510,

Your first sentence is talking about a real situation rather than a hypothetical or unlikely one, and so 'will' is the best option.

Your second sentence is discussing a situation which for the moment is not real or likely and which is only a hypothetical situation, and so 'would' is the correct choice here.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks a lot, Peter, for your patience and taking trouble of commenting on material from other sourcers ,- which is not your task here!
I also attribute this problem with WOUlD to incorrectness of translation, though the example was taken from the 'Russian-English fraseological dictionary'

Hello LETeam!
Once again I am forced to ask for your help concerning the use of 'would'. Could you clear my doubts as to function (meaning/implication) of Would in the following text fragment taken, I assume ,from some narrative :

"Where is the pike?' he was asked. 'Oh,I took it straight down to the village and sold it, ' Yegor would answer without batting an eyelid, and go on to describe the pike in detail."

I believe it is because of narrative form ,and maybe stylistic intention of the author that we have 'would' here. But what if we just changed 'Yegor would answer' for 'Yegor answered...'or 'Yegor answers...' , would it affect in any way the meaning of the sentence. In a word, what kind of nuance does 'would' give to the text here?

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