Future tense · Uncategorized

Will or Would?

will would

Warning: If you are just starting to learn English, this article is not for you.

I got many questions about the distinction about will and would. So let’s clear up.

Will

Will is used for the future.

Examples:

Tomorrow I will visit my parents.

Or: Tomorrow I will be visiting my parents. (in future progressive)

Will you have time later today?

Sorry, I won’t be able to finish the report this afternoon. (won’t = will not)

(Want to clear up about the future? You can read older articles about the future here.

And about future progressive (continuous) here and here.

All these articles have links to online quizzes.)

Would

Would can be used as the past and as the future of will.

That sounds weird, I know.

“Would” in the future indicates a possible future.

Have a look at these examples:

She said she wouldn’t be at the party.

If this party was yesterday, it’s in the past.

But the party could also be in the future.

If the party is tomorrow, you can still say: She said she wouldn’t be at the party.

You can’t use will here. You have to use would, because the rule is that if you start your sentence in the past, you need to stay in the past. (and would is the past of will).

Let’s look at another sentence:

Lars would like to fly to Corfu.

This sentence could be said about the past; for instance, last week Lars had the plan to fly to Corfu. But it could also be that Lars is saying now that he wants to fly to Corfu.

You can’t say will here. Will is only for things that are sure to happen in the future. Whereas would is for things that may happen in the future (or maybe not) or that someone wants to happen in the future.

Let’s see some more examples:

1) ___________ you come to my dinner party on Friday?

Will or would?

Both are possible.

Using “will” creates a question about the future. The speaker wants to know if this person is going to be there.

If you ask with “would,” it is less certain and therefore more polite.

2) The movers broke the frame of my favourite painting. But they said they _______ not pay for it.

Will or would?

Would, because the sentence is in the past (“They said they …”). You need to continue in the past tense.

3) If you’re not more careful with that bike, you __________ break your neck.

Will or would?

Will.

Reason: the person on the bike will surely break his or her neck (if he’s not careful).

4) A more difficult example:

There’s a big storm coming. I’m afraid the trees ________ be damaged.

Will or would?

Will is the correct answer.

Why?

Because the speaker who says this sentence thinks the trees are surely going to be damaged if the storm comes. It’s not a maybe. If it were a maybe, you would use would.

5) I _______ help you if I could.

Will or would?

Would.

This person cannot help, so you can’t use will, because that would make it a sure thing.

In things that are theoretical (= not real), you use would.

Now try the exercise:

Exercise

Choose will or would. Do this exercise online here

1 All essays must be handed in by Monday 28 January. Late entries ___________ not be accepted.

2 I wanted to upgrade my flight. The airline said they __________ honour my frequent flyer points.

3 __________ you mind if I used your bathroom?

4 It’s been raining all day. The football organization ________ surely cancel the match.

5 If you don’t make a decision by Monday, you _________ lose the sale.

6 We ________ see you at the meeting tomorrow.

7 When __________ you have time to help me with my project?

8 She said: If my husband made me laugh now and then, I _________ put off the divorce!

9 The nurse promised that our father ________ be well taken care of.

10 I’m not sure that a perfect world ________ be a lot of fun.

Answers ___________ be given online.

Will or would? 🙂

10 thoughts on “Will or Would?

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