Will vs. Would

'Will' and 'would' have similar functions which is why learners confuse them. However, there are differences between them that we will learn in this lesson.

"Will" vs. "Would" in the English grammar

What Is Their Main Difference?

The main difference between modal verbs 'will' and 'would' is that 'will' talks about the future while 'would' talks about the past and the future.

'Will' is a modal verb used to talk about the future. It also indicates willingness, possibility, etc. For example:

I will join the expedition.

We will meet again in another life.

'Would' is a modal verb that can be used to express hypothetical or conditional events or actions in the present or future, as well as to express willingness, requests, or preferences. Additionally, 'would' is often used as the past tense of 'will'. For instance:

I would like to meet them again.

Differences

Making Predictions

Prediction in the Future

'Will' is used to make predictions about the future. We use 'will' when we are certain that an event is going to happen. For example:

The gallery will open in April.

It will be a great year.

Prediction in the Past

'Would' is often used to refer to a past prediction that did not come true, or to suggest an alternative outcome to a past event.

He said he would love me forever.

I thought the answer would be different.

Talking about Willingness

We can use both 'will' and 'would' to express willingness or unwillingness to do something. However, 'will' indicates a strong willingness or determination to do something, while 'would' is often used to express a more tentative or conditional willingness or preference.

Nina will participate in this event.

Nina would participate in this event.

Talking about Habits

'Would' can be used to talk about past habits or repeated actions that occurred in the past. This usage of 'would' is often used to describe a habit or routine that a person regularly did in the past, but no longer does. 'Will' cannot be used for this purpose.

He would exercise every single morning.

When I was a kid, we would always have pizza on Friday nights.

Politeness

'Would' is often used to express a polite request or offer. While requests ask someone for something, offers ask if someone wants something. We use 'would' with 'like' as the main verb to give polite offers and use it with or without 'mind' to make polite requests. For example:

Would you like some more tea?

Would you mind helping me with this?

We can also use 'will' to make requests, but it is more direct and less polite. Pay attention to the examples:

Would you please close the door on your way out?

Will you close the door?

Reported Speech

'Would' is also sometimes used to report speech or thoughts in the past tense.
When reporting speech, we often shift the tense of the verb back one tense. So, if the original statement used 'will', we would shift the tense back to the past and use 'would' in the reported speech. This is known as backshifting. Pay attention to the examples:

Direct speech: I will meet you at the restaurant at 7 PM.

Reported speech: She said she would meet me at the restaurant at 7 PM.

With Conditionals

'Will' and 'would' are used in conditional sentences. Take a look at the table below to see which types of conditionals use 'will' and which types use 'would':

Will Would
Conditional Type 1
Conditional Type 2
Conditional Type 3
Zero Conditionals

Conditional Type 1

'Will' and 'would' are both used in conditional type 1. In this type, we show a condition or situation and its results. These situations are real with a high chance of occurrence. For example:

If you don't drink enough water, you will get sick.

If you don't drink enough water, you would get sick.

Conditional Type 2

'Would' is used in conditional type 2. In this type, we talk about a hypothetical situation in the present or future that is imaginary and has a low chance of occurrence. Note that 'will' cannot be used in this type. Have a look:

If it wasn't rainy, we would go to the park.

If he really loved me, he would tell me.

Conditional Type 3

Conditional type 3 talks about an imaginary past that could have happened. This past never occurred and we are only imagining a different past. We use 'would' in this type of conditional. 'Will' cannot be used in this type as it cannot refer to the past. For example:

I would have gotten stuck in the blizzard if I hadn't left earlier.

She would have been accepted in a university if she had studied harder.

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