'will have' and 'would have'

Level: intermediate

We use will have when we are looking back from a point in time in the future:

By the end of the decade, scientists will have discovered a cure for influenza.
I will phone at six o'clock. He will have got home by then.

or looking back from the present:

Look at the time. The match will have started.
It's half past five. Dad will have finished work by now.

We use would have as the past tense form of will have:

I phoned at six o'clock. I knew he would have got home by then.
It was half past five. Dad would have finished work.

We also use would have in conditionals to talk about something that did not happen in the past:

If it had been a little warmer, we would have gone for a swim.
(but it was cold so we didn't go for a swim)

He would have been very angry if he had seen you.
(but he didn't see you so he wasn't angry)

will have and would have 1


will have and would have 2


Average: 4.1 (63 votes)
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Submitted by Giang Phan on Tue, 07/05/2024 - 10:30


"Whenever my mother wasn’t free to drive me into Manhattan for auditions, I would take the train from suburban New Jersey and meet my father — who would have left his desk at the law office where he worked — and we would meet under the Upper Platform Arrivals and Departures sign in Penn Station"

I don't understand the meaning of "would have left his desk". Does it mean he already left his desk when she arrived the office?

Hi Giang Phan,

Yes, right! "Would have" shows that this action ("left his desk") was already completed before the "would" action ("meet my father").

Note that they met in Penn Station, not at his office.

I hope that helps.


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by panzer_hier on Thu, 11/01/2024 - 08:07


Hello, I've got questions about grammar reference example. There is a sentence in the last item :

'Maybe Donald isn't coming to work today.' – 'No, he ___ phoned to let us know.'

The questions are :
- why 'would have' is the right answer here ? (I thought 'will have' would be here as a 'looking back from the present' situation) ;
- why is it considered as 'Something that did not happen in the past' ?

Thanks very much in advance
Best Regards,

Hi Dmitry,

It's because in reality, Donald did not phone them. "Would have" shows that this past action of phoning us did not actually happen, i.e. it's an unreal past. This meaning may be clearer if we rewrite the sentence as a conditional: If he wasn't coming to work today, he would have phoned us to let us know (so therefore, we assume that Donald actually is coming to work today). 

"Will have", in comparison, gives the idea that something DID happen (rather than did not happen), which is not the case with phoning in this example.

I hope that helps to understand it.


LearnEnglish team

Submitted by melvinthio on Fri, 29/12/2023 - 08:36


Dear Jonathan,
Merry Christmas and happy new year 2024 to The Learn English Team.

I saw this sentence in my grammar book :
"The guests would have been arriving by now".
[1] Does it mean that the guests' arrivals are still going on now (with each guest coming one after the other), or all the guests have already arrived now (action recently finished)?

I saw from Youglish the following:
" It would have had to have been done a month ago".
[2] Does "would have" here also mean "confident prediction" just like the sentence in point 1 above ?

I'd appreciate your detailed explanations to my above questions.
Best regards,

Hello melvinthio,

In your first example the speaker is saying (speculating) that the arrivals are in progress. They have begun but not finished. If the arrivals were complete then the form would be 'would have arrived'.


In your second example the speaker is making a confident prediction (speculating) about what was necessary in the past for the present to have come to pass. In other words, the thing must have been done because otherwise things would be different now.



The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Howard Manzi on Wed, 18/01/2023 - 12:55


Hi, I would like to form questions with "will have", and "would have".
- Will you have finished dinner by 10? (Pretty straightforward)
- Would you have finished your homework by 10? ( Have doubts)
Is the second statement considered more polite in relation to the first? What is the difference? Thanks.

Hi Howard Manzi,

Yes, right. The "will you have" question sounds like a simple factual inquiry. The "would you have" question is less direct, which could reflect more doubt or more politeness, as you mentioned.


The LearnEnglish Team