'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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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.

Hello CareBears07

No, I'm afraid that's not correct -- I would recommend you say 'I would work doubly hard' instead. Using 'were' clearly sets up a hypothetical situation, and so it's not correct to use 'will' here.

You might find our Conditionals 1 page helpful.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi CareBears07,

No, that does not work.

If you were to... is used for unlikely events. It is an alternative to a past form in the if-clause. Thus would is needed in the main clause, not will.

 

Note that there is a difference between the past form and the were to form.

We can use a past verb to describe unlikely or impossible events/states:

If I moved to Australia, I would need to get used to the climate. [OK]

If I had three heads, I would need more hats. [OK]

However, we can only use were to to describe unlikely events/states, not impossible ones.

If I were to move to Australia, I would need to get used to the climate. [OK]

If I were to have three heads, I would need more hats. [NOT OK]

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hi Peter, thanks for the added examples to distinguish the difference in using "past form" and "were to" in conditionals. Is it possible to add this information under the conditionals page? Guess it's very useful to many of us here. :D

Hello CareBears07

Thanks for the suggestion! We'll take that into consideration.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Thu, 23/04/2020 - 08:51

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Respected sir, As we know, Action verb describe physical or mental activity. 1. Watching tv- watch is an action verb but can u tell me is it physical or mental? 2. I am sleeping - sleep physical or mental?? 3. I am smelling the cake- here smell physical or mental? 4. Listening lecture- listen physical or mental action 5. Read and study is it physical or mental?? Pls help me to categorised it sir.

Hello Rsb,

I'm afraid I don't understand your distinction here. All of these actions have both physical and mental aspects.

To be honest, I don't think this question is about language at all. It's a biological or philosophical question.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Action verb can be a combination of both physical or mental activity?? Suppose u say, 1. "I am going to market" it shows ur physical movement hence "going" is an action verb defining physical action. 2. "I am listening the lecture" it shows your mental action so it is action verb defining mental activity. 3. "I am studying" here it shows mental action

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 25/04/2020 - 07:45

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb

As Peter said, this is not really a grammatical category. You might find that some teachers or grammars use it, but you'd have to ask them this question. It's not a category that I would use while teaching.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rsb on Thu, 23/04/2020 - 04:17

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Hi , What should be used when we imagine the situation in present and future? As we know "would" is used for past hypothetical. Can we use it for present or future hypothetical too??

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 23/04/2020 - 07:35

In reply to by Rsb

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Hello Rsb

In most cases, 'would have' + past participle is the form we use to speak about a past hypothetical action, and 'would' + base form is used to speak about a present or future hypothetical.

I'd suggest you have a look at our Conditionals 1 and 2 pages, where you can see more examples of 'would' and 'would have' used in this way.

Hope this helps.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by atya on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 09:25

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Hi "I would blame it partly on the fact that he's not very reliable." please could you tell me the usage of "would" in this sentence? why is it used here? thanks a lot

Submitted by Kirk on Wed, 22/04/2020 - 08:56

In reply to by atya

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Hi atya

I'm afraid I can't really say without knowing the context, but it could be, for example, that I'm giving someone a recommendation, or making a hypothesis about an imaginary situation (e.g. if someone asked me why customers are complaining about service).

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Aditya Nair on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 07:50

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hi, is would always used to denote past tense or can it also be used to denote present in some sentences

Submitted by Kirk on Tue, 21/04/2020 - 13:01

In reply to by Aditya Nair

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Hello Aditya Nair

As is explained above, 'would' has many different uses and can be used to refer to different times or even times that, in a sense, don't exist -- for example, hypothetical or imaginary times. It is also often used to make requests (e.g. 'I would like a coffee, please'), which refers to your wishes in the present.

As you can see, modals verbs can be used to mean many different things.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by anna from germany on Mon, 20/04/2020 - 11:16

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Dear teachers, recently I read this sentence and I wonder the use of "would" in it: I would you to start our lesson with a speech. Usually "would" is followed by a verb, e.g. would like. Is this way of using "would" common and if yes, when do I use expressions like this?

Hello anna from germany

It looks to me as if the writer left out the word 'like' ('would like you to start'). As it is, the sentence is not correct, so please don't take it as an example!

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Amit on Sun, 19/04/2020 - 12:17

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Can "Would" may use as a possibility? like in this sentence" Beetoven displayed flashes of the creative imagination that would eventually reached further than any composer's before or since." how would is used? please clarify me.

Hello Amit

In this sentence, 'would' refers to a future time from the perspective of the past. It is used in the same way as the example sentence 'I thought we would be late, so we would have to take the train' (above on this page, in the Beliefs section).

In general, I wouldn't recommend using the idea of 'possibility' as a way of thinking about the modal verb 'would'.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by kiranpn on Sat, 18/04/2020 - 03:57

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Last time a year ago, I had asked on this forum about would meaning as a probability, and it was suggested I was wrong. But I checked some of the resources from Cambridge and Mariam webster, and it said we can use this as a likely incident or Instead of could, for example,” His accent was Irish, he would be John” and ”It could be 20 ltr/It would be 20 ltr”. I am a bit confused here, and it would be great if someone could help me with this confusion.

Hello kiranpn,

I don't know the context in which those sentences appear so it's hard for me to comment. However, the first example looks like a prediction to me. We can use would just as we can use will to make predictions about the present. Will expresses more certainty.

His accent was Irish? Then he'll be John. [will]

His accent was Irish? Then he'd be John. [would]

 

The second example is likely to be similar, but without any context I can't say more.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Thank you, Peter, for your time. I have noticed this is very often used with a native speaker to use "would" for presumption or guess. Would have many different meaning, and it is good to understand the context and the propose of the sentence. Sometimes it is mentioned in a sentence for the presumption, and sometimes it is used for a conditional sentence. During the conditional sentence, sometimes the first sentence is implied and just need to assume.

Submitted by Sara_Mar on Sat, 18/04/2020 - 00:19

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Hi, I need help with this text I'm analysing. It talks about how covid-19 shouldn't be considered as a silver lining for the enviroment. What I'm struggling with in particular is the use of "would" in the last sentence. Can you help me understand the meaning? How can I rephrase it? How would you define this use of would? It sounds strange to me, because I think I would use a "Should have" there (probably because I didn't understand very well what the author is trying to say) "...... This is no one’s model of environmental response, least of all an environmentalist’s. And indeed, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography has highlighted that fossil fuel use would have to decline by about 10 percent around the world, and would need to be sustained for a year to show up clearly in carbon dioxide levels. I also don't understand what the subject of "would need" is. Is it the decline or the use? I think it should be the "decline" and not "fossil fuel", but if it is so the sentence is not grammatically correct. Help, I'm confused. Thank you

Hi Sara_Mar,

Would is used in this example to describe a hypothetical situation. The phrase to show up has the meaning in order to show up. The sentence describes what would be necessary in order to achieve a hypothetical result.

"...... This is no one’s model of environmental response, least of all an environmentalist’s. And indeed, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography has highlighted that fossil fuel use would have to decline by about 10 percent around the world, and would need to be sustained for a year to show up clearly in carbon dioxide levels.

 

The grammatical subject of would need to be sustained is fossil fuel use. I agree that this is not semantically accurate as, as you say, what needs to be maintained is the decline rather than just the use. The sentence should be phrased as follows:

...fossil fuel use would have to decline by about 10 percent around the world, and that decline would need to be sustained for a year to...

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Shantanu on Fri, 03/04/2020 - 15:39

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Hi, I need your expertise to check the following sentence. 'Dachshunds are my favourite breed of dog.' It appears grammatically incorrect. A better construction could be the following sentence. 'Dachshund is my favourite dog-breed.'

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 04/04/2020 - 07:16

In reply to by Shantanu

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Hi shantanu,

Both sentences are perfectly correct. You can use whichever you prefer.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir, Thank you so much for your reply. I need your advice on how to improve the overall English quality. I have been working for a long time and I have always felt the need to improve my spoken English as well as master the English grammar. Could you please suggest how to achieve them? I would like to know everything you usually suggest others. Regards, Shantanu

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 04/04/2020 - 15:41

In reply to by Shantanu

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Hello Shantanu

We have a couple of pages with advice on learning English and on using the site. You can find them here:

  • https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/frequently-asked-questions
  • https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/getting-started

To improve you need to practise, practise and practise some more!

Below are a few tips that might be useful.

To improve your vocabulary:

  • see new and familiar words and phrases in context
  • note down new items in an organised manner
  • practise, revise and review new items systematically

The more you read -- magazines and newspapers, journals, short stories, novels, poems... in fact, whatever genre or kind of writing interests you -- the better, and you can find an inexhaustible supply on the internet, of course.

We also recommend very strongly that you start (if you haven't already) a personal vocabulary book. Organise it by topic (sports, work, appearance, finance etc) and add new words and phrases to it as you listen, watch and read in English.

Once you have built up a small collection of items in your vocabulary book, you can use it to test yourself so you can see how well you memorise the items. Cover the meanings and/or examples and try to recall them, or to translate the words and phrases into your own language.

To improve your speaking and listening:

The most important thing you can do is to speak English as often as possible. To do this a partner is very helpful, so think about the people you know and consider if any of them could be a practice partner for you. It may be that you know someone else who is also learning English and who would like to practise with you, or perhaps you know some people who do not speak your language but do speak English.

However, if you do not have a practice partner it does not mean that you cannot practise because it is possible to practise alone. Just speaking English to yourself while you are at home, going about your normal daily activities, can help a great deal with your fluency and can help you to feel more confident, which will help you to cut down your hesitating. 

You can also use the audio and video materials here on LearnEnglish to improve your fluency. After doing the exercises, try listening with the transcript (listening and reading). Then try saying the text yourself, and finally try saying it with (and at the same speed as) the recording. This will help you to develop speed in your speech, which is a key component of fluency.  You'll also pick up a lot of language as chunks - words which are often used together in set phrases - which you can use to communicate with less hesitation.

How can I improve my writing?

How to write depends upon what kind of writing you want to do, for what purpose you are writing and who the recipient is. Different kinds of writing require different language and different ways of organising the text, so the first thing to do is to take a look at as many different texts as you can. In general, to improve your writing it's important to read and write as much as possible, so keep an eye out for good examples of letters, articles and so on. Using the internet to read magazines, newspapers and other text-types from online media is a good idea.

Whatever you do, try to spend at least 15 minutes several days per week reading and/or writing. Remember also that written texts are usually well organised - unlike a lot of speech, which can often be haphazard and disorganised.  Therefore it's important to write in an organised way: start by collecting your thoughts, then plan how you are going to organise them, then write a first draft. After that, check (or get someone else to check) your draft before writing your final version. Research shows that good writers constantly review their work and amend it, so this is a good model.

It's hard for us to give individual advice to you without knowing your strengths and weaknesses and your goals, but I hope the tips and suggestions above are helpful.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Rafaela1 on Wed, 25/03/2020 - 09:55

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I like this page. Good discussion about 'will' and 'would' which sometimes confuse me. Thanks for sharing.

Submitted by sameer on Mon, 23/03/2020 - 13:17

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Sir. Would vs Will (interchangeable) ? 1)German Facebook users would want the social media platform to pay them about $8 per month for sharing their contact information, while U.S. users would only seek $3.50, according to a study of how people in various countries value their private information. (Newspaper) 2)Washington and the Taliban are set to sign a long-sought deal in Doha on Saturday that would see the two foes agree to the withdrawal of thousands of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in return for insurgent guarantees. (Newspaper) There are several such sentences I get to see on newspaper using would that sound exactly as Will. Now the above sentence is not a past tense of will , I assume not a hypothetical situation as well , I feel it is being used as same as "will". Can you please explain. you can take example even from below dictionaries as well. https://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/would https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/would above dictionaries has below sentences used for saying or asking what someone thinks about a possible situation You wouldn’t recognize the place now – it’s changed so much. It would be fun to have a beach party. It’s no use talking to Henry – he wouldn’t understand. Why would anyone want to kill Jerry? You use would when you are referring to the result or effect of a possible situation. Ordinarily it would be fun to be taken to fabulous restaurants. It would be wrong to suggest that police officers were not annoyed by acts of indecency. It would cost very much more for the four of us to go from Italy. Please help... will and would Interchangeable in some cases?

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 23/03/2020 - 15:47

In reply to by sameer

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Hello sameer

In all of the sentences from the dictionary that you included in your comment, 'would' is speaking about a hypothetical situation. In other words, these are situations that are not real -- for example, we don't plan to have a beach party now -- and instead we are imagining them. In these cases, 'would' indicates that these situations are imagined. It's not that they are possible or impossible -- it's that we are showing that we aren't thinking of them as real situations, at least for the moment.

In some of them, 'will' could also be correct, but it changes the meaning. For example, the first sentence with 'would' means that you don't expect the person you are talking to is actually going to that place. But if you changed it to 'will', it means you expect the person is going there -- perhaps they told you about their plans for next week, for example.

As for the examples from the newspapers, I can't say for sure without knowing the context. But, for example, 1 could be talking about a hypothetical law -- one that legislators are considering, but which has not yet been passed. In 2, the deal being talked about has not yet been made -- it is still hypothetical at the time this report was written. This is why 'would' is correct, but 'will' is not.

Does that help you make sense of it?

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by GIRIKUMAR on Fri, 28/02/2020 - 23:47

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Though this question is irrelevant here, I hope you answer it. It's concerned with the word "really" used as an adverb. He really is a doctor. He is really a doctor. Could you tell me the subtle distinction between the two sentences above in terms of the position of the adverb, "really"? Does it impact on the meaning of both sentences if used just like that? If so, why? Thank you, teachers.

Hello GIRIKUMAR,

The position of the adverb changes its meaning, though context is obviously very important.

He really is a doctor indicates someone - either the speaker or the listener - did not believe that he was a doctor, but is now forced to accept the fact. The adverb adds emphasis to the statement and is often used when one person is contradicting another:

He's a doctor.

I don't believe that! He looks more like a soldier!

No, he really is a doctor.

 

He is really a doctor suggests that the person ('he') was pretending or assumed to be something else.

I always thought he was a teacher but he's really a doctor.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sameer on Thu, 27/02/2020 - 06:58

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Sir According to your below answer , when will you come and when would you come. " would " indicates less possibility as you may not come.. Can I say. It would rain tomorrow (without If clause) = it may rain tomorrow (would have slightly strong possibility than may) ?

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 27/02/2020 - 10:36

In reply to by sameer

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Hello sameer

I'm sorry, I couldn't find the comment ('below answer') that you were referring to. In any case, 'It would rain tomorrow' is not grammatical if it is used without an 'if' clause.

You could say something like 'There's a good chance it will rain tomorrow' to make a stronger prediction than 'may' or 'might'.

Hope this helps.

All the best

Kirk

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by sameer on Thu, 27/02/2020 - 12:26

In reply to by sameer

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Example : I know below sentences are correct.. That would have been Della's car. (guess) john would be calling (guess) Can I say It would rain tomorrow (guess )

Hello sameer,

We don't use would just to guess about the future, but rather in certain contexts when we are talking about the result of an unlikely situation (hypothetical conditionals) or an explanation of something we see (speculation about the present). Without knowing the context of the sentences it's not really possible to say if they are appropriate/correct.

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir According you we also use would in explanation of something we see (speculation about the present). If I see cloud at present then possibly I can say it would rain now?

Submitted by GIRIKUMAR on Sun, 23/02/2020 - 12:41

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I still need to get to find out the subtle distinctions between so many phrases and use them just like you both teachers in my day to day English speaking. But for now, could you tell me the most basic subtle distinction between, "at night" and "in the night"?

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.