You are here

'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?

will and would 1

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTYzNzQ=

will and would 2

MultipleChoice_MTYzNzU=

will and would 3

GapFillTyping_MTYzOTk=

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

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTY0MDA=

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

GapFillDragAndDrop_MTY0MDE=

Expressions with would 2

GapFillTyping_MTY0MDI=

Comments

My friend is working and I would like to give him a question like the following. In this situation, should I use "will" or "would"?

What will/would you do if you are/were fired from your job?

Hello Gendeng,

You could use 'will' and 'are' or 'would' and 'were'. If you used 'will' and 'are', it would suggest that her firing is more likely or possible -- perhaps she's already been warned this could happen, for example.

If you used 'would' and 'were', her firing is seen as more imaginary, so it would seem less likely.

Note that it is the speaker's perception of the situation that determines which form should be used.

Hope this helps.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello Kirk. You said:

If you used "will" and "are", it would suggest ...
If you used " would" and "were", it would suggest ...

Why did't you say "if you use ..., it will suggest ...?"

Hi everyone. The use 'would' in this sentence is used to talk about an unreal situation or not sure?

I want to write in great lenght to you, but I'm afraid I would be a bother to you this evening.

Hi whitekrystal,

Yes, that's right. There is an implied condition here which is not stated: ...but I'm afraid if I did so I would be a bother to you...

 

However, there are a couple of problems with the sentence. First, there is a spelling error (it should be length not *lenght). Second, the verb 'want' does not agree with 'would' here. 'Want' suggests a real situation, while 'would' suggests a hypothetical one. I think you need either to say want...will or wanted...would:

  1. I want to write in great length to you, but I'm afraid I will be a bother to you this evening.
  2. I wanted to write in great length to you, but I'm afraid I would be a bother to you this evening.

In sentence 1, the person wrote a long text and is apologising in advance. In sentence 2, the person did not write a long text and is explaining why.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Tea

What will you do if you miss the train? Shouldn't this sentence be 'what would you do if missed the train?' We are imagining

Hello Gendeng,

Both sentences are possible.

 

If the speaker thinks there is a real chance of the person missing a real train then the will use will... miss. For example, they may be speaking to someone who has a train soon and think that it is already very late.

 

On the other hand, if the speaker is talking purely hypothetically or thinks that it is very unlikely to happen then would... missed is the correct option.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi everyone. Could you explain how 'would' works in the following sentence?

Life would be quieter without telephone.

Hi Plokonyo,

The sentence is not quite grammatical. It should be either of these:

Life would be quieter without the telephone.

Life would be quieter without telephones.

 

Would here expresses a hypothetical sense. It tells us that we are talking about a situation which is not real but rather imaginary.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks Peter. Would you explain what you mean by "...talking about a situation which is not real but rather imaginary?"

Pages