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'will' and 'would'

Undefined

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?

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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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Comments

Sir,
Could you tell me the difference between, "When would you come tomorrow?" and "When will you come tomorrow?"
Thank you.

Hello GIRIKUMAR,

The question with would is more hypothetical. It suggests that the situation is uncertain or unlikely (the person may not come). It can also be used as a more polite form as it is more tentative.

The question with will describes a situation which is likely to happen (the speaker thinks the other person will definitely come).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you so much, Peter.

Hello team of the web!
I am not getting the idea behind the sentence "John will be in his office." to be used for Belief in Present? How does that mean; a future tense for Present idea? Kindly clarify it with further explanation and examples please.
Thank you.

Hello Basheer Ahmed,

'Will' has several uses in English. Some of these refer to the future, but not all. We often use 'will' to express what we consider likely, whether referring to past, present or future time:

  • John will have gone an hour ago. [expectation about the past]
  • John will be at the party right now. [expectation about the present]
  • John will be at the party this evening. [expectation about the future]

 

It's helpful to understand that English does not have a future tense. Instead, it uses a range of different verbal and lexical forms to express future time. This includes present forms (simple and continuous), the going to form, infinitives and more. It also includes will, but this is not a tense but a modal verb. We can use other modal verbs in the same way:

  • John will be at the party this evening. [expectation about the future]
  • John should be at the party this evening. [less confident expectation about the future]
  • John might be at the party this evening. [tentative expectation about the future]
  • John can't be at the party this evening. [strong negative expectation about the future]
  • John must be at the party this evening. [strong expectation about the future]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Kirk & Peter,
1- John will be playing football tommorow by this time.(future prediction).
For present prediction can we write
"John will be playing football right now"?
If we write " John would be playing football right now". What would be its meaning? Please make me understand with example.

Hello jitu_jaga,

For present predictions we use [will be +ing], as you suggest.

The difference between will and would in this context is one of perceived likelihood. We use will when we are confident of our prediction and would when we are not. We can also use would when we know the action cannot happen and are presenting a counter-factual example with an implied if or if not. For example:

  • John will be playing football now. [I'm sure this is true]
  • John would be playing football now. [a tentative guess]
  • John would be playing football now (if he hadn't broken his leg). [a counter-factual statement]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir,

You say 'John would be playing football now. [a tentative guess]'
You say it means it is a tentative guess.

What kind of usage of would is this ?Where have we mentioned this kind of usage on the 'will/would' page.
The onlu usage of 'would' for present tense is for politeness, or for unreal situation; I don't find this usage on your page.

Regards

Dipak R Gandhi

Hello dipakrgandhi,

The use of 'would' here is for unlikely or unreal situations. It's similar to the use of 'will' and 'would' in certain conditional forms, where 'will' is used for something likely or real (if + present > will + verb) and 'would' is used for something unlikely or unreal (if + past > would + verb).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Ok ! So does that mean when we are not certain, we can use 'would' for present tense - without using full conditional clause; there is a hidden conditional clause here. I am trying to make a full sentence with a 2nd conditional clause for the above example where the example would mean that it is a tentative guess as well as a nureal condition , but I am not able to do so. Can you give full sentence.

Regards

Dipak R Gandhi
If I were John would be playing football now.

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