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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 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.

Hello Rsb,

I agree with what Peter said about what people often say when they accept awards. I wouldn't say that 'would' is used to express a present time. In general, 'I would read' is speaking about an imaginary time, not a real moment in time. I suppose you could call it an imaginary present time in some cases, but it's impossible to say without more context and I wouldn't generally recommend thinking of it that way.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi sir,
I agree with you.

Imaginary present time in some cases suppose,
India and England team are presently playing now and I say "sachin would be batting now" so it's an imagination in present time as match is running in present time.

Would is used for imaginary situation of past and present time.

But I read somewhere, 'would' can also be used to express the present tense even u don't imagine just general talk

Hi sir,
I agree with you.

Imaginary present time in some cases suppose,
India and England team are presently playing now and I say "sachin would be batting now" so it's an imagination in present time as match is running in present time.

Would is used for imaginary situation of past and present time.

But I read somewhere, 'would' can also be used to express the present tense even u don't imagine just general talk

one more example, like we are talking and you ask me suggestion of going somewhere and I say,
'I would suggest you must go'.
So here, did I imagine something in present time. It's just a general talk.
I am suggesting you in present time. Not for future I will say you must go.

I will say would be incorrect.

Hello Rsb,

It sounds to me as if you understand this.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir am I thinking wrong?

Hello again Rsb,

Phrases such as I would say/suggest/think (etc) are not about time. They are forms which show politeness or tentativeness. They can be thought of as a form of conditional: If you were were to ask me, I'd say...

 

In your example about Sachin, I think will is more appropriate. Sachin was an opener, as you know, so you could imagine a situation where you hear that the opposition have been bowled out and India are about to start their innings; in this case you would be able to say 'Sachin will be batting right now'. You don't know this for sure, but you can speculate about the present. We would not use would in this case as it would suggest an unreal situation. You might use would if, for example, you know it is raining and so Sachin is not batting; then you could say 'Sachin would be batting (if it weren't raining)'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

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