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'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?

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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

Hello. There is a point that I didn’t understand. When we tell about past as a negative, we use “didn’t”
Ex: My car didn’t start.
Can we use “wouldn’t” instead of “didn’t” in all conditions ? Ex: My car wouldn’t start.
Do they mean the same thing? Thanks in advance.

Hello Baki,

The negative for past simple verbs is formed with didn't, as you say.

 

Wouldn't suggests refual in the past. We use it sometimes when we want to talk about an inanimate object as if it were a person (anthropomorphism) and could make decisions. Thus, we sometimes say sentences like these:

My car wouldn't start this morning.

I wanted to send an email but my computer wouldn't turn on.

These really mean 'my car refused to start' and 'my computer didn't want to turn on'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello,

I would like to know if this is a sentence of present conditional in simple form. If so, why is it used. Could you please explain.

"If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases."

Thank you.

Nina

Hello Nina

That's what is called a second conditional structure. The verb 'didn't do' is a past subjunctive (though most teachers call it a past simple form, because it is identical in form to the past simple). This kind of conditional speaks about an imaginary situation. In other words, if you say this, it means that testing is in fact being done and it suggests that there are many cases.

You can read more about this on our Conditionals 1 page.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Sir,
Am I correct?

'Would' is also used to express imaginory situation (unreal/hypothetical) related to past and present.
Example - 1. Sachin would be playing.(imagination related to present)
2. She would have gone.(imagination related to past)
3. Sachin would play now.(imagination related to present)

Above situations are imaginory related to past and present so we used "would".

If situation is imaginory(unreal/hypothetical) and related to future, do we use 'will' instead of 'would' right?

Example 1. Sachin will play.(imagination related to future)
2. He will be watching movie.(imagination related to future)
3. Sachin will have played.(imagination related to future)

Hello Sir, I want to know what's the difference between these two sentences.
1 He will sleep.
2 He would sleep.

Is the last one past habitual action or present probability.

Hello Amit shukla

Could you please provide some context for the sentences? Verb forms can mean different things depending on the context they are used in.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team 

Hi, is it possible to use "will" in the main clause when the if-clause contains "If you were to be ...." ?

For eg: If you were to be my tutor, I will work doubly hard.

Using "will" here is to show high possibility instead of would, which indicates imagined events.

Hi CareBears07,

No, that does not work.

If you were to... is used for unlikely events. It is an alternative to a past form in the if-clause. Thus would is needed in the main clause, not will.

 

Note that there is a difference between the past form and the were to form.

We can use a past verb to describe unlikely or impossible events/states:

If I moved to Australia, I would need to get used to the climate. [OK]

If I had three heads, I would need more hats. [OK]

However, we can only use were to to describe unlikely events/states, not impossible ones.

If I were to move to Australia, I would need to get used to the climate. [OK]

If I were to have three heads, I would need more hats. [NOT OK]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, thanks for the added examples to distinguish the difference in using "past form" and "were to" in conditionals.

Is it possible to add this information under the conditionals page? Guess it's very useful to many of us here. :D

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