'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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will and would 2

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will and would 3

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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.

Expressions with would 1

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Expressions with would 2

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Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 05/08/2020 - 15:06

In reply to by cms10

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Hello cms10,

Yes, that's right: 'wouldn't' means he was unwilling in sentence 1. The alternatives you ask about in sentence 2 might work or might not -- it depends on the context. If, for example, the context is one in which you are speaking of a hypothetical situation, 'would' would probably be more appropriate.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Thanks for your reply teacher! Regarding Sentence 2, if it is talking about a general social phenomenon, would "compromises" or "will compromise" be better?

Hello cms10,

It depends on how you are talking about the situation in which biliteracy is emphasised more (or not). If you are talking about such a change in a hypothetical way, then 'would' is fine. If you are speaking about it in a more concrete way, as something that happens some places and not so much in others, then the present simple is probably the best choice. If you are speaking about a specific situation in which this is being considered, then 'will compromise' is probably the best choice.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Kashvi.la27 on Tue, 04/08/2020 - 05:54

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May I know why "would" instead of the simple present tense is used in the following sentences? 1. It would be convenient to highlight a number of matters which emerged at the hearing. 2. In the normal course of things we would not treat her disappearance as suspicious. Thank you.

Hello Kashvi.la27,

The present simple would be a comment on what is normal in general, not a comment on what should be done at a particular moment. For this, we use will, so you could say this:

It will be convenient to highlight a number of matters which emerged at the hearing.

However, will sounds very direct. Would is often used as a more polite form as it sounds more tentative than will.

 

Your second example uses would because the speaker is talking about a hypothetical situation:

In the normal course of things we would not treat her disappearance as suspicious. However, this situation is not normal, so it will be treated as a possible kidnapping.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Sat, 25/07/2020 - 13:58

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I would think that this site is perfect for English learners! ;)

Submitted by Dwishiren on Sat, 25/07/2020 - 11:07

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Hello everyone. I looked for previous pages/comments of the use "would" here. But why there's no. I just finded 1-11 pages. Please help me, I want to read the anawers one by one so that I can understand.

Hello Dwishiren,

I see what you mean, and I'm sorry for the inconvenience.

I'm afraid this is something that our technical team will have to look into and it could take some time. But once I have any news, I'll respond here.

All the best,

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sandeep Gupta on Thu, 09/07/2020 - 11:06

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Yesterday,I was reading an article : "8 ways to read someone's body language" in which one of 8 ways was "stepping-back is not a good sign." Here It said: When you are talking to a person and if the listener swiftly steps back, then that generally means that what you said at that point has made them uncomfortable, or they are not interested in that topic , and they want to come out of the situation. This behaviour highly demotivates the speaker; they feel rejected sometimes. If the speaker experience this conduct they mostly would not open up themselves in front of that particular person in the future. Could you please tell me what are the grammatical mistakes in it? Thank You!

Hello Sandeep Gupta,

Thanks for your contribution, but I'm afraid we don't provide the service of correcting our users' writing.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sandeep Gupta on Wed, 08/07/2020 - 17:56

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"If the speaker experience this conduct they mostly would not open up themselves in front of that particular person in the future." In this sentence, I am confused that which structure of conditional sentence has been used here. If it is condition 1 then can i use "will" in place of "would"? Sir,please! Clear my doubt.

Hello again Sandeep Gupta,

The sentence has some errors in it. You cannot say 'speaker experience'. 'Speakers experience', 'speaker experiences', 'speakers experienced', 'speaker experienced' are all possible.

'Open up themselves' is also incorrect. The pronoun should be before the particle: 'open themselves up'.

 

I don't know the source of the sentence and whether the errors are in the original or are the result of errors in transcription, but I can't really comment on the grammar of a sentence which is ungrammatical!

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Sandeep Gupta on Wed, 08/07/2020 - 17:44

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In this sentence "Being quiet and showing appropriate gestures in a discussion would give you enough time to listen to one's views and all with great attention." My question is: how has "would" been used here ?

Hello Sandeep Gupta,

Would is used to show that the situation is hypothetical. The person is not talking about a person who is actually using gestures or who is planning to do so, but rather speaking in hypothetical terms, imagining such a situation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, I'd like to ask you that is it possible to use "would" as an opinion here? If yes, then is this sentence correct?

Submitted by Peter M. on Fri, 10/07/2020 - 07:49

In reply to by Sandeep Gupta

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Hello Sandeep Gupta,

Would does express an opinion, in the context of a hypothetical situation, and the sentence is correct.

You can think of it as having an implied if-clause:

Being quiet and showing appropriate gestures in a discussion would give you enough time to listen to one's views and all with great attention if you did it.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by patph0510 on Tue, 07/07/2020 - 11:05

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Hi teachers, I would like to ask two questions: 1. What is the purpose of “should” in the following sentence: If I should run into Daniel, I will tell him to call you. 2. We would be able to go sailing if the wind were blowing. - Can I replace "would be able to" with “could”? Is there any difference in meaning? Thanks.

Hello patph0510,

In British English, 'should' is sometimes used in conditional clauses to express possibility. It is never necessary though, and means the same thing as 'If I run into Daniel'.

Yes, you could just say 'could' there and it would mean the same thing.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by brian1010 on Tue, 23/06/2020 - 18:05

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Hi teacher, I would like to ask two questions: 1. If a plan, proposal, or policy etc is under discussion and has not been formally approved, should we use would (instead of will) when talking about the benefits/impact of the plan etc? 2. When a company unveils a new product at a product launch event, the chairman may say the product will bring numerous benefits to the company and will increase the company’s profits. Does the use of will in this context refer to predictions based on personal opinion rather than present evidence? Would it be more appropriate to use "would" or "be going to"? Thanks!

Hi brian1010,

We use will when we think something is likely to happen. It implies that we consider the event a real possibility. We use would when we think something is unlikely or impossible and we are thinking of it in purely hypothetical terms.

For example:

The visit of a UFO will change the world. [I think a visit is possible/likely]

The visit of a UFO would change the world. [I think a visit is impossible/unlikely]

 

As far as your second question goes, it really is hard to say without knowing the precise context. It may well come down to a rhetorical choice on the part of the speaker rather than a question of fact. Will can imply a strong belief or certainty, so it can be very effective in a sales presentation.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by patph0510 on Fri, 19/06/2020 - 17:12

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Hello teachers, I would like to ask what is the difference between "It would be very expensive to stay in a hotel." and "It is very expensive to stay in a hotel." Thank you. Pat

Hello patph0510,

The second sentence (with is) tells us something which is generally true. It does not refer to any particular stay. This sentences tells us something about hotels in general.

The first sentence (with would) describes a potential particular stay. You might use this if you were planning a holiday and trying to decide whether or not to stay in a hotel.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you for your reply! I would like to ask one more question: What is the difference between "It will be very expensive to stay in a hotel." and "It would be very expensive to stay in a hotel."?

Hello again patph0510,

Will suggests that the situation is a real future. In other words, we understand that you are not only speaking in hypothetical terms, but are really considering staying in a hotel.

Would suggests that you do not really expect to stay in a hotel. It tells us that you are speaking hypothetically, but have no real intention of choosing a hotel.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by saadkhan on Sat, 13/06/2020 - 16:43

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hello native buddies! i have got a little confusion. we all are aware about adjective clause and how we use it, :however there are some things that i am writing down below make me confuse so far here are the sentences the more i practice, the more i become good all i have are negative thoughts. the girls,who lives with me is my girlfriend. i know that the girl in 3rd sentence is a noun and we are decsribing it. but i dont know about 1 and 2 which have subject all and the more above! what are these? are these nouns or something else? given info would be appreciable please guide

Hello saadkhan,

Adjective clause is another name for relative clause, which is a clause (like this one) using a relative pronoun (that, who, which, whose) or a relative adverb (where, when) to reference a noun or noun phrases (the referent).

 

Your examples do not contain relative pronouns or relative adverbs so it is hard to explain what the referent is in each case. Of course, sometimes it is possible to omit the relative pronoun, but in terms of the grammar structure it is still implied.

 

Your third example does include a relative pronoun but the sentence has some errors. The correct sentence would be this:

The girl who lives with me is my girlfriend.

The relative clause begins with who and the referent is the girl.

 

As far as the first two examples go, try to rewrite them so that they include relative pronouns. That should make it clear what they refer to, but if you are still confused we'll be happy to explain.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Mon, 08/06/2020 - 16:42

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Hi sir, 1. I will start the car. - transitive verb 2. The car will not start. - intransitive verb In both sentences "start" is the main verb. Now my question is - 1. what kind a verb "start" in both sentences. 2. Are they also transitive and intransitive Verb too??
Sir I will suspend you. You will suspend. Is "suspend" here labile verb?

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 11/06/2020 - 12:06

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb

No, 'suspend' is not an ergative verb -- it is only transitive. In your first sentence, it is clearly active. I'm afraid that the second sentence is not correct in standard British English.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir , If I say "you will be suspended" (passive) here suspend is not an intransitive verb????

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 14/06/2020 - 07:14

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

If suspended is a verb then it is being used as part of a passive construction (be + past participle) and so it cannot be an intransitive verb. Intransitive verbs have no object and so cannot be used to form passives.

 

You could also see suspended as an adjective complement (be + adjective).

 

As it stands, without any other context, it is ambiguous whether this is a passive construction or an adjective complement. It's also unimportant. Nothing changes in terms of the meaning, however you choose to label the item.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Overall, since passive form always begins with the "direct object" so verb (3rd form) in the passive construction can't be intransitive as intransitive verbs have no objects.

Submitted by Rsb on Sat, 20/06/2020 - 15:22

In reply to by Rsb

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Hi sir, Die, sit, laugh, cry, go, etc. These are the verbs which are only intransitive. Do we have some example of verbs which are only transitive??

Submitted by Peter M. on Sun, 21/06/2020 - 07:22

In reply to by Rsb

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Hi Rsb,

The majority of verbs in English are transitive. You can use any dictionary to check a verb, as this is one of the pieces of information included in each entry.

We don't have a list of transitive verbs on the site but you should be able to find such lists quickly with an internet search.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Tue, 23/06/2020 - 15:39

In reply to by Peter M.

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Ok sir! Sir, please let me know Separate and undress are both labile verbs here and also represent an adjective??? Suppose, 1. He separated the car from the tunnel. (Transitive) 2. The couple separated after 25 years of marriage.(intransitive) 3. The couple got separated after 25 years of marriage.(separate an adjective compliment) 3. He undressed me in a minute.(transitive) 4. He undressed with in a minute. (intransitive) 5. He got undressed with in a minute.(undress an adjective)

Submitted by Rsb on Sat, 27/06/2020 - 07:52

In reply to by Rsb

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Sir, The couple separated after 25years of marriage.(intransitive verb) Is subject 'the couple' performing an action on itself ? Could u explain me pls

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 27/06/2020 - 08:45

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb,

The verb is intransitive so there's no reason to think of it as an action on anything. I think the verb separate here describes a change in state rather than an action performed, though it's really a question of interpretation and I don't think the actual description is particularly important to understanding the phrase and its use.

 

I have two requests for future questions you might have. First, can you please post them as individual questions rather than replies to replies. Long threads of questions like this drive all other questions from the page and mean that other users cannot see other parts of the comments section. Second, please try to post questions on relevant pages. This page deals with will and would, not transitive and intransitive verbs.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Right sir! I would keep it on my mind.

Submitted by Ashkan0_0 on Mon, 01/06/2020 - 11:16

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Hello teachers. I have two questions. 1- In this phrase : Why don't you invite jack ? I'm sure he would come. The speaker seems quite certain that jack will come because he uses “Sure“ . so why the word “would“ is used instead of “will“ ? Isn't will for certainty and would for imagination and Hypothesis? 2- If i want to ask someone out of curiosity whether he is willing to do something in future (Not to order) which phrase would be more appropriate or is correct : a - Will you play with him someday ? b - Would you play with him someday ? c - do you play with him someday ? Thank you

Hello Ashkan0_0

1) It's not really a question of the speaker's certainty about Jack coming or not, but rather of whether Jack will be invited. The speaker has chosen to speak about a hypothetical future (a future in which 'you' has invited Jack). The complete thought is 'I'm sure he would come if you invited him'. The speaker could have chosen to say what you suggest, but here did not. 

2) A or B are possible for the situation you describe; which one would be better depends on details about the situation and the relationship between the speakers that I don't know, but in general you could use either one.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Baki on Tue, 26/05/2020 - 15:01

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Hello. There is a point that I didn’t understand. When we tell about past as a negative, we use “didn’t” Ex: My car didn’t start. Can we use “wouldn’t” instead of “didn’t” in all conditions ? Ex: My car wouldn’t start. Do they mean the same thing? Thanks in advance.

Hello Baki,

The negative for past simple verbs is formed with didn't, as you say.

 

Wouldn't suggests refual in the past. We use it sometimes when we want to talk about an inanimate object as if it were a person (anthropomorphism) and could make decisions. Thus, we sometimes say sentences like these:

My car wouldn't start this morning.

I wanted to send an email but my computer wouldn't turn on.

These really mean 'my car refused to start' and 'my computer didn't want to turn on'.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by NinaZ on Fri, 15/05/2020 - 10:50

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Hello, I would like to know if this is a sentence of present conditional in simple form. If so, why is it used. Could you please explain. "If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases." Thank you. Nina

Submitted by Kirk on Fri, 15/05/2020 - 13:27

In reply to by NinaZ

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Hello Nina

That's what is called a second conditional structure. The verb 'didn't do' is a past subjunctive (though most teachers call it a past simple form, because it is identical in form to the past simple). This kind of conditional speaks about an imaginary situation. In other words, if you say this, it means that testing is in fact being done and it suggests that there are many cases.

You can read more about this on our Conditionals 1 page.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Sun, 10/05/2020 - 06:10

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Hi Sir, Am I correct? 'Would' is also used to express imaginory situation (unreal/hypothetical) related to past and present. Example - 1. Sachin would be playing.(imagination related to present) 2. She would have gone.(imagination related to past) 3. Sachin would play now.(imagination related to present) Above situations are imaginory related to past and present so we used "would". If situation is imaginory(unreal/hypothetical) and related to future, do we use 'will' instead of 'would' right? Example 1. Sachin will play.(imagination related to future) 2. He will be watching movie.(imagination related to future) 3. Sachin will have played.(imagination related to future)

Submitted by Amit shukla on Sat, 09/05/2020 - 11:30

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Hello Sir, I want to know what's the difference between these two sentences. 1 He will sleep. 2 He would sleep. Is the last one past habitual action or present probability.

Hello Amit shukla

Could you please provide some context for the sentences? Verb forms can mean different things depending on the context they are used in.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team 

Submitted by CareBears07 on Tue, 05/05/2020 - 10:42

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Hi, is it possible to use "will" in the main clause when the if-clause contains "If you were to be ...." ? For eg: If you were to be my tutor, I will work doubly hard. Using "will" here is to show high possibility instead of would, which indicates imagined events.