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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.


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.


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


will and would 2


will and would 3


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


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.

Expressions with would 1


Expressions with would 2



Thanks Peter M. So, does the "would" mean imagined? A textbook penalty is imagined a penalty...

Hello again Crokong,

Yes, it is imagined. You are not describing a real penalty but rather an imagined perfect penalty.



The LearnEnglish Team

I sometimes find "would" used in this sentence, what does it actually mean? And if I change it with "is", is it wrong?

A: Which is correct? They reached the oasis, walking / having been walking across the desert all day.

B: 'Having been walking' would be OK, but more likely, I think, would be 'having walked

Hello Plokonyo,

It's difficult to talk about sentences without knowing what situation they're supposed to be used in and particularly when they're just made up, but I'll try to make a few points that I think will help you. Please know, however, that we just don't have the time to do this very often for our users.

A. This sounds a little unnatural to me. If the idea is they reached the oasis by walking, I'd say 'They reached the oasis by walking across the desert' or perhaps 'They walked through the desert all day to reach the oasis'. It depends on how the sentence fits in with the rest of the narrative.

B. Yes, 'having been walking' is a grammatical form, but is quite unusual and doesn't really work here. You could say 'Having walked across the desert all day, they reached the oasis'. You can read more about this structure on our participle clauses page.

If in B you were asking about the word 'would', here it's used to express a hypothetical situation, i.e. 'If I said this, it would be OK'.

Hope this helps.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

What is the usage of "would" here?

When we say 'I need to go to the bathroom' we are talking about the physical need, not the room. You could say 'I need to go to the bathroom' in the middle of a field or a forest, for example!
If we want to talk about the room then we would use 'a' or 'the' depending on the situation

Hello Gendeng,

Would is often used to express preferences or choices in phrases like I'd like (I would like), I'd say, I'd choose, I'd want, I'd prefer etc.

Grammatically speaking, you could argue that the if-clause should have a past form (If we wanted...) but I think the best way to look at would here is in the context of expressing an opinion or preference.



The LearnEnglish Team

What is the point of "would" here? Does it mean will possibly?

now, just because a game has seven goals it does not always mean it’s a thriller. For example, if a team wins 7-0 or 6-1 we don’t usually call it a seven-goal thriller – it would be better to use a thrashing or a trouncing to describe the heavy defeat

Hi Dwishiren,

No, actually it doesn't mean 'possibly' here. It shows that this is an imagined situation - the speaker is not talking about any particular description of a game that has taken place.

Another explanation is that the speaker is giving advice to the reader, and using 'would' to give the advice has the effect of making it seem less direct and more polite.

I hope that helps!


The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Jonathan. How about the use of "would" in this sentence?

Kiss the woodwork
DB: Goretzka’s shot is different to Sanches’ as it only just touched the woodwork. The writer uses the verb ‘to kiss‘ to describe this light touch. As in the example with Sanches’ shot, we can describe the incident with more detail by replacing woodwork with crossbar or bar – the horizontal part of the goal. So, the shot kissed the bar as it flashed by.
Alternatives to kiss, would be to graze or to shave. Both of these verbs describe delicate contact. Indeed in the live commentary of the game, the commentator said the shot shaved the crossbar

Hello Dwishiren,

Would here is used to suggest a hypothetical alternative. You can imagine an implied if-clause: if you wanted to use a different word.


You could use a simple present form instead: Alternatives to kiss are...

This describes the matter from a vocabulary point of view. It is a description of the language rather than a description of what a person might want to do. In this context, of course, the difference is minimal.



The LearnEnglish Team