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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.

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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 Mussorie,

I'm afraid it's impossible to say how possible or probable it is without being the person who says this and knowing the situation he or she is in. It could, for example, be that two people with a limited budget are discussing whether to go visit an expensive city; in this case, they're talking about a possibility which could be something they're really considering, or it could be just a dream -- that is, very unlikely. Only the context and the speaker's perception determine this.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Ok, I can understand the context, but it is given as an example in would and will usage on this site.
One more thing I would like to ask is that is
the "would" used in the present tense aspect as an imaginary, meaning whether is the action or state possible to some extent or completely imaginary (not possible).

Hello Mussorie,

I'm not sure what you mean by 'present tense aspect', but we can certainly use would to describe both unlikely and entirely imaginary situations:

It would be nice to go to the cinema (if they were open).

It would be nice to fly to the moon (if I had superpowers).

 

If you have a different context in mind then we'll be happy to comment, of course.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

The present tense aspect means present tense, but if we use would in the present tense context then can we expect the action or state to be likely to happen or completely imaginary.

Hello again Mussorie,

Please provide a concrete example of what you have in mind (an example sentence). I think it will be much clearer if we are looking at something concrete rather than speaking in abstract terms.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, in award winning show when somone win the award and give the speech to the audience, winner says, "i would say thanks to my director and producer and so so".

What is "would" in this context? Does would express the present tense here?? Subject is saying thanks in present time.

would has many uses, some of which also express present tense.
1. I would read. - reading in present time
2.i will read- reading in future time.

Hello Rsb,

I think what they usually say is I'd [would] like to thank..., which is a common way to express an intention,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Here, in this case, you said "would" is used to express intention, but I would like to know whether is the intention here used as imaginary or likely possible?

Hello Mussorie,

The person saying this is speaking about the intention for what they are saying in the moment. It's a more polite way of saying 'I want to thank ...' You could also just say 'I thank ...' here, but the commonly accepted way of doing this politely is to use 'I would like to thank ...'.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

 

No I mean to say 'would' has many uses some of which even express the present tense.

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