Will and Would

These two modals are often confusing for learners, because they are used in quite similar situations. But they're different.

intermediate
"Will and Would" in English Grammar

'Will' and 'would' are two modal verbs that are mainly used to talk about willingness and hypothetical situations. 'Will' is used to express a certain event or action that will happen in the future. 'Would' is the past tense form of 'will', and can be used to express the conditional tense or hypothetical situations.

Will

'Will' is a modal verb that is used to:

  1. predict the future
  2. express plans and decisions
  3. ask somebody to do something
  4. invite somebody to do something
  5. make offers or suggestions
  6. order somebody to do something
  7. promise to do something in the future

Predicting the Future

We use the verb 'will' to talk about the future; we use it to predict something about the future or express expectations.

You'll be late if you don't hurry.

Expressing Plans and Decisions

We use 'will' to talk about decisions and plans that we are certain about.

By next year we will be living in Italy.

The kids are hungry. I will make dinner soon.

Asking Somebody to Do Something

You can use 'will' to ask somebody to do something for you. It is rather polite and formal.

Will you proofread this essay for me, please?

Inviting Somebody to Do Something

'Will' can be used to invite somebody to do something.

Will you come to the movies with me tonight?

Making Offers or Suggestions

If you want to offer or suggest something, you can use 'will'.

I'll make some tea, if you want.

Ordering Somebody to Do Something

'Will' is used for ordering somebody to do something. It is rather informal and direct.

You'll clean your room now!

Will you shut up?

using 'will' to talk about future events

Promising to Do Something in the Future

We use 'will' to make promises or vows.

I will love you forever!

Would

'Would' is technically the past tense of 'will'. But it has uses in other tenses too. It is used to express:

  1. the past tense of will
  2. imaginary future (type 2 and 3 conditionals)
  3. regular and typical activity in the past
  4. refusals in the past
  5. politely offering or making requests

Past Tense of Will

'Would' is used as the past form of 'will' in indirect speech when reporting or quoting what somebody has said or thought.

He said he would be here at eight o'clock.

His words were: 'I will be there at eight o'clock.'

Imaginary Future

'Would' is used for talking about the result of an action in the imaginary or unreal future. It is used in conditionals.

If I was rich, I would buy a car.

This sentence is type 2 conditional. In reality, the speaker is not rich and he is imagining a future.

'Would' is also used in third conditional. Type 3 conditionals are the only conditionals that talk about the past and describe imaginary or hypothetical situations in the past.
When we use type 3 conditionals, we are talking about the hypothetical result of something that did not happen.

If I had studied hard, I would have passed the exam.

The speaker is using type 3 conditionals, because he didn't work hard, and he didn't pass the exam and he cannot change the past.

Regular Activities in the Past

'Would' is used to talk about things that often happened in the past. In this case, 'would' is synonymous with 'used to'.

When my grandma visited us, she would tell us stories.

'Would' is also used to talk about a regular activity or habit that is thought to be typical. Note that, in this case, by using 'would' we are expressing annoyance.

She would wear that dress everywhere. She's always trying to get attention.

It is implied that it is really annoying when she wears that dress.

Expressing Refusals in the Past

You can use 'would' to show that somebody or something refused to do something in the past.
Remember that in this use, we use the negative form of would, i.e. 'wouldn't'.

Mom, Sam wouldn't play with me.

My car wouldn't start this morning.

Politely Offering or Making Requests

'Would' is also used for making polite offers or invitations. Typically, 'would' is used with the verb 'like'.

Would you like a sandwich?

Additionally, 'would' is used in question form to ask somebody politely to do something.

Would you open the door for me, please?

Review

'Will' and 'would' are commonly used in English. they have many functions that are explained as follows.

Will
predicting the future You will become a doctor.
expressing plans and decisions I will travel to Japan.
asking somebody to do something Will you close the door?
inviting somebody to do something Will you come for dinner?
making offers or suggestions Will you stop being too pessimists?
ordering somebody to do something You will study your lessons!
promising to do something in the future I will send the e-mails.
would
the past tense of will They didn't say it would take this long.
the imaginary future (type 2 and 3 conditionals) If I were you I would get divorced.
regular and typical activity in the past My mother would bake a cake every night back then.
expressing refusals in the past He wouldn't talk to her unless she calls first.
politely offering or making requests Would you like a cup of tea?

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