'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

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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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Submitted by riverolorena67 on Thu, 20/02/2020 - 17:01

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Hi! I would like to know the difference between these sentences I believe you wouldn't understand the text I believe you won't understand the text. Thanks

Hello riverolorena67,

The difference between will and would here is one of likelihood. We use will when we think there is a good possibility of the situation occurring and we use would when we think that the situation is hypothetical.

In your context this means that the speaker uses will when they think that the other person will see and read the text. They use would when they think that the other person will not ever see or read the text. Would here implies an if-clause:  I believe you wouldn't understand the text (if you ever saw it).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by GIRIKUMAR on Tue, 18/02/2020 - 17:04

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I m afraid these questions aren't relevant here but still I am asking them to you, Sir. Question.1:- The book I gave you was costly. The book I gave to you was costly. Which one is correct and why? Question.2: Can't we you the modal verb 'will' in the following sentence? I hope he wins the finals. As many dictionaries say that the verb 'hope' should always take the present tense form of a verb used in its following clause. Is it so?

Hello Girikumar

Normally, when a verb like 'give' has two objects (direct and indirect), the indirect object goes first and the direct object goes second:

I gave you a book.

But it's also possible to use a prepositional phrase with 'to' after the direct object:

I gave a book to you.

In question 1, the first version is the more commonly used one. As far as I know, the second one is not incorrect, but if I were correcting your writing, I would advise that you omit the 'to'.

As for question 2, 'will' is not correct -- as the dictionaries you consulted explain, the simple present is the form used here.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by GIRIKUMAR on Fri, 14/02/2020 - 15:19

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Sir, Could you tell me the difference between, "When would you come tomorrow?" and "When will you come tomorrow?" Thank you.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 15/02/2020 - 07:04

In reply to by GIRIKUMAR

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Hello GIRIKUMAR,

The question with would is more hypothetical. It suggests that the situation is uncertain or unlikely (the person may not come). It can also be used as a more polite form as it is more tentative.

The question with will describes a situation which is likely to happen (the speaker thinks the other person will definitely come).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Basheer Ahmed on Tue, 21/01/2020 - 22:07

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Hello team of the web! I am not getting the idea behind the sentence "John will be in his office." to be used for Belief in Present? How does that mean; a future tense for Present idea? Kindly clarify it with further explanation and examples please. Thank you.

Hello Basheer Ahmed,

'Will' has several uses in English. Some of these refer to the future, but not all. We often use 'will' to express what we consider likely, whether referring to past, present or future time:

  • John will have gone an hour ago. [expectation about the past]
  • John will be at the party right now. [expectation about the present]
  • John will be at the party this evening. [expectation about the future]

 

It's helpful to understand that English does not have a future tense. Instead, it uses a range of different verbal and lexical forms to express future time. This includes present forms (simple and continuous), the going to form, infinitives and more. It also includes will, but this is not a tense but a modal verb. We can use other modal verbs in the same way:

  • John will be at the party this evening. [expectation about the future]
  • John should be at the party this evening. [less confident expectation about the future]
  • John might be at the party this evening. [tentative expectation about the future]
  • John can't be at the party this evening. [strong negative expectation about the future]
  • John must be at the party this evening. [strong expectation about the future]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jitu_jaga on Fri, 29/11/2019 - 16:13

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Hi Kirk & Peter, 1- John will be playing football tommorow by this time.(future prediction). For present prediction can we write "John will be playing football right now"? If we write " John would be playing football right now". What would be its meaning? Please make me understand with example.

Hello jitu_jaga,

For present predictions we use [will be +ing], as you suggest.

The difference between will and would in this context is one of perceived likelihood. We use will when we are confident of our prediction and would when we are not. We can also use would when we know the action cannot happen and are presenting a counter-factual example with an implied if or if not. For example:

  • John will be playing football now. [I'm sure this is true]
  • John would be playing football now. [a tentative guess]
  • John would be playing football now (if he hadn't broken his leg). [a counter-factual statement]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, You say 'John would be playing football now. [a tentative guess]' You say it means it is a tentative guess. What kind of usage of would is this ?Where have we mentioned this kind of usage on the 'will/would' page. The onlu usage of 'would' for present tense is for politeness, or for unreal situation; I don't find this usage on your page. Regards Dipak R Gandhi

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 03/12/2019 - 07:07

In reply to by dipakrgandhi

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Hello dipakrgandhi,

The use of 'would' here is for unlikely or unreal situations. It's similar to the use of 'will' and 'would' in certain conditional forms, where 'will' is used for something likely or real (if + present > will + verb) and 'would' is used for something unlikely or unreal (if + past > would + verb).

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Ok ! So does that mean when we are not certain, we can use 'would' for present tense - without using full conditional clause; there is a hidden conditional clause here. I am trying to make a full sentence with a 2nd conditional clause for the above example where the example would mean that it is a tentative guess as well as a nureal condition , but I am not able to do so. Can you give full sentence. Regards Dipak R Gandhi If I were John would be playing football now.

Hello Dipak,

You could imagine an if-clause like this:

If it were a typical day, John would be playing football now.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Sun, 24/11/2019 - 15:12

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I have come across this sentence in newspaper: Instead, if the school curriculum would teach the concepts needed and to the extent needed for entrance exams, why would students join coaching institutes? What kind of usage of 'would' is this sir ? It is a suggestion for future - then why this 'would' ? Or is it second conditional : instead of 'Instead, if the school curriculam "taught " ...' there is a past tense of will and so 'Instead, if the school curriculam would teach...' Would you help me understand this ? Regards Dipak R Gandhi

Hello Dipak R Gandhi

Like you, if I were writing this, I would say 'taught' instead of 'would teach'. Sometimes in informal situation, 'would' is used in this way, but it's a little unusual in a newspaper, unless of course it's reporting someone's speech.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Sun, 24/11/2019 - 14:31

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Sir, I have come across this sentence in newspaper: The party also needs to understand that once it spends five years as a part of secular alliance, there won't be many options available for it to return to hardline politics as that space would then be entirely occupied by the other party. I have not been able to understand about the usage of 'would' in ' ... that space would then be...' ; which kind of usage is it ? What I understand is that this is the case of future past looking back from future- then should it not be '... that space will then have been ...' If we take it as a conditional sentence - usage of 'once' like 'if' in 'once it spends...' - then it has first conditional if clause and has two result clauses- the first of which 'there won't be many...' agrees with the first conditional if clause ; second result clause ' as that space would then be ...' is in past tense and does not agree with the first conditional if clause. Also, there is no reported speech here. Would you help me understand this usage of would ?

Submitted by dipakrgandhi on Mon, 02/12/2019 - 14:51

In reply to by dipakrgandhi

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Sir, Please see that this question also gets its turn for reply. No hurry !