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

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, possibilities, etc. For example:

I will join the expedition.

We will meet again in another life.

'Would' is a modal verb that indicates future events, possibilities, willingness, etc. 'Would' is the past tense of 'will.' For instance:

I would like to meet them again.

Similarities

Making Predictions

Prediction in the Future

'Will' is used to make predictions about the future. We think these predictions are going to happen. For example:

The gallery will open in April.

It will be a great year.

Prediction in the Past

We use 'would' to talk about actions and events that were supposed to happen in the future but perhaps now they have or never have happened.

He said he would love me forever.

I thought the answer would be different.

Talking about Willingness

We use 'will' and 'would' to indicate our willingness or unwillingness to do something. Take a look at the following examples:

Nina will participate in this event.

Nina would participate in this event.

Talking about Habits

'Will' and 'would' are used to talk about routine actions that are called habits.

  • 'Will' refers to habits and routine actions that still occur to this day and perhaps will continue in the future.
  • 'Would' refers to past habits that are no longer pursued.

For instance:

He would exercise every single morning.

Making Requests

We use requests to ask others to do specific actions. Requests are polite and often used formally. 'Will' and 'would' are both used to make requests but note that 'would' is politer than 'will.' Take a look at the following examples:

Will you come over?

Would you come over?

Negation and Question

We can use modal verbs such as 'will' and 'would' to create negative and interrogative forms.
To make a negative sentence, we simply add 'not' to the modal verb:

  • WillWill notWon't
  • WouldWould notWouldn't

You can see the process of negation in the following examples:

I will take them out for dinner. → I will not take them out for dinner.

It would be unfair if he didn't get the job. → It would not be unfair if he didn't get the job.

To make questions with sentences that contain a modal verb, we simply invert the modal verb. For instance:

You will help me out. → Will you help me out?

He would turn the lights off. → Would he turn the lights off?

With Other Modals

Modal verbs are never the only verb of the sentence since they must be used with the main verb, however, we cannot use modal verbs with other modal verbs. In other words, we cannot have more than one modal verb in a clause. Take a look at these incorrect examples:

You will could be late to work.

I would shall like a sandwich.

Differences

Making Assumptions

Assumptions are ideas or beliefs of a person without any proof. 'Will' can be used to make an assumption about the present and the future, and if it is followed by a perfect infinitive structure, it can talk about the past as well. For example:

The project will have been finished by now.

She won't be coming back after that incident.

Making Offers

Offers are statements used to ask if someone likes to do something. We use 'would' with 'like' as the main verb to give polite offers. For example:

Would you like some more tea?

With Conditionals

We use 'will' and 'would' as conditional verbs. You can see them with all conditional types in the table below:

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

Conditional Type 1

'Will' and 'would' are 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 been. This past never occurred and we are 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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