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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

Hi Peter, why is a second goal unlikely?

Hi again whitekrystal,

It's not that the second goal is or is not unlikely as a matter of fact; it's how the speaker sees it. If the speaker believes that a second goal is likely then they will use 'will'. If the speaker believes that a second goal is unlikely then they will use 'would'. Both are grammatically correct; the speaker chooses according to how they see the situation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello sir. In the sentence "it would be nice...", what does " would" mean?

Questioner: What does 'probe down' mean in footbal context?
Richarlison probes down the left and wins a corner off James.

Answer: It would be nice to have a bit more context to work with here, but if it is something like a soccer / football game, the interpretation is clear.

In the sentence "it would be...", Could you tell me what "would" funtions?

A. Is it "May I know who you are ?" or "May I know who are you?"
Thanks!

VB. The first one is correct. 'May I know who are you?' is not correct in standard British English; instead, it would be 'May I know who you are?'.

Hello Selet,

We use would to describe a hypothetical or imaginary situation. It's very common when a person is giving advice about a hypothetical situation, as opposed to a real situation which has occurred.

 

The correct form is 'May I know who you are?'

This is an example of an indirect question. You can read more about these here:

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/english-grammar-reference/questions-and-negatives

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, could you explain more clearly what is meant by giving advice about a hypothetical situation? Give me another example so that I can understand it

Hello British Council Team,
I am a little confused about how "Will" can be used for Present in the concept of Belief i.e: "John will be in his office."; could you please clarify it with more examples?
Thank you.

Hello Basheer Ahmed,

We can use 'will' when we're certain or confident about a present situation. If I say 'John will be in his office', it means I'm quite sure that he is in his office. This could be because he is normally there at this time and I expect today to be normal, it could be that he told me he would be there, it could be that I've just spoken with him -- there are many different reasons I might be sure. Note that it's the speaker who decides if they are sure.

I could also say 'John must be in his office' or 'He has to be in his office' or 'I'm sure he's in his office' and they all mean much the same thing.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish team

How does 'would' work here? It looks like it's a past form of will. What do you thing I'm right?

Such a plain would bd disastrous.
To ask Joe would be a big mistake.

Hell Jembut,

Your first sentence has several errors, but as far as would goes, both sentences describe hypothetical situations in the future. You can think of them as having impled if-clauses: if we did it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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