Will vs Would: What’s The Difference?

Would and will are both modal auxiliary verbs used with a main verb. There are many subtle differences between would and will, which we will explore in this article.

Let’s go over the many ways we use will and would and when you should use them.

Will Vs. Would (Table)

There are many different ways we use would and will.

WillWould
What you think will happen in the futureSomething that did not happen
Make decisions in the momentAsk for opinions
Making promisesExpressing uncertainty
Future possibilitiesImaginary or unlikely situations
Ask someone to do somethingMake requests in a polite way
Describing habitual behaviorDescribing past behavior

Will as a Modal Verb

  • Positive: I will, you will, he/she/it will, we will, they will.
  • Contractions: I’ll, you’ll, he/she/it’ll, we’ll, they’ll.
  • Negative: I will not, you will not, he/she/it will not, we will not, they will not.
  • Negative (contractions): I won’t, you won’t, he/she/it won’t, we won’t, they won’t.

When to Use Will

Future Events

If you think something will happen in the future, you use will. For example,

  • I will see you tomorrow.
  • It will be hot on Saturday.
  • They will probably go to training then.
  • The flowers in the pot will bloom again.
  • I think Arsenal will win the football game.

To Ask and Give Information About The Future

For example,

  • What time will it be when we land?
  • It’ll be Autumn soon.
  • What do you think will happen to the economy next year?
  • When will he be able to come back to work?

Decisions Made in The Moment

If you make a decision at the moment while speaking, you use will.

  • I’m so thirsty. I will have a coke.
  • OK, I will lend you my laptop. But be careful with it!
  • Shall we go out now? Yes, I will just get changed first.

Certainty or Promise

You use will to make a promise. For example,

  • I will help you with the dishes.
  • I will not tell anyone what you said.
  • I will help you with your homework.
  • I won’t (=will not) tell anyone.

Future Perfect: Will Have

Use will have + past participle to look back at a point in time. The future perfect tense describes an action that will be completed before another specified time in the future. For example,

  • We can’t visit — they will have gone to work by now.
  • To whom it may concern, You will have received a questionnaire in the mail…
  • By the end of the century, the world’s population will have doubled.
  • Look at the time. Mum will have finished the job by now.
  • I will have finished my exams by June.
  • She will have left by 8 am.
  • We will have eaten dinner before we get to the hotel tomorrow evening.

First Conditional

The first conditional is used to talk about things that could happen in the future, often based on current conditions. It talks about future possibilities and is written as if+simple present, will + base verb. For example,

  • If it rains tomorrow, I will take an umbrella with me.
  • If I have time, I will go shopping.
  • I will be very angry if you arrive late again.
  • You will fall if you are not careful.

Giving an Order or Instruction

If you want someone to do something, you use will. For example,

  • Will you please close the door?
  • You will need a ticket to get in.
  • You will have to show your passport at customs.
  • You will start work at 8 am sharp.

Future Progressive

The future progressive tense describes an ongoing action that will occur at a specific time in the future. For example,

  • I will be meeting John at 4 pm.
  • She will be flying to London tomorrow night.
  • We will be thinking of you while you’re gone.

Describe Behavior

You can use will to describe someone or something’s habitual behavior. For example,

  • Maura will sit there talking for hours.
  • He will just sit in front of the TV all day.
  • If you turn the computer on and off again, it will work.

Would as a Modal Verb

  • Positive: I would, you would, he/she/it would, we would, they would.
  • Contractions: I’d, you’d, he/she/it’d, we’d, they’d.
  • Negative: I would not, you would not, he/she/it would not…
  • Negative (contraction): I wouldn’t, you wouldn’t, he/she/it wouldn’t…

When to Use Would

For Polite Instructions, Requests, and Suggestions

We use would to make polite requests and instructions. For example,

  • Would you please close the door?
  • If you would like to see the menu, please let me know.
  • I would prefer that one, thanks.

We often say would you mind for polite requests

  • Would you mind closing the window?
  • Would you mind turning off the light?
  • Would you mind giving me a hand with this?

When we make requests or offers with verbs such as “want,” “like,” and “prefer,” we use would + verb. For example,

  • I would like a coffee, please.
  • I’d love to come to your party!
  • Would you like me to help you with your homework?
  • I would prefer to take a nap.
  • Would you like a drink?

Second Conditional

The second conditional talks about hypothetical (unlikely or imaginary) situations. It is formed by if + past simple, would+ base verb. For example,

  • I would help you with the dishes if I had time.
  • I wouldn’t be so rude if I were you.
  • If I had a million dollars, I would buy a yacht.
  • If I had more free time, I would write a blog post.

Express Opinion

Would can be used to express an opinion indirectly by using the question form. For example,

  • It would be better to paint the child’s room blue. (direct expression)
  • Wouldn’t it be better to paint the child’s room blue? (asking for agreement; less direct)
  • Would it be better to paint the child’s room blue? (asking an open question, indirect)

Make a Statement Less Definite

We commonly use would to make a statement less definite or want to be polite. For example,

  • I would think so. (less definite than “I think so”)
  • I would imagine that she is at home.
  • I would think we might take a break soon.
  • I would say that John is a better tennis player than Jane.

Would Like (want)

Instead of saying “want,” we can say would like to sound more polite. For example,

  • I want to go home. (less polite)
  • I would like to go home. (more polite)
  • She wants a drink. (less polite)
  • She would like a drink. (more polite)

Would Rather

We say would rather to talk about preference. Altneratively, you can say would prefer. For example,

  • I would rather drink coffee than tea.
  • Jane would rather live in the city than in the country.
  • John would rather not go to the party tonight. (negative)

Describe Behaviour

Would is also used to describe habitual behavior in the past (you can also use “used to” here). For example,

  • When I was younger, I would always go out on Saturday nights. (or: I used to go out on Saturday nights…)
  • I would visit my grandparents every Sunday when I was a child.
  • She would study for hours every night during the exam period.

Would Have

Would have is the past of “will have.” This is used in conditionals to talk about something that did not happen in the past. For example,

  • I would have helped you with the dishes, but I was too tired.
  • If I had known you were coming, I would have baked a cake.
  • They would have been here if they hadn’t missed their train.

In Conclusion

There are many ways to use will and would in sentences. As you can see, will is mainly used in the conditionals to talk about future possibilities and would is used to talk about unlikely or imaginary situations.

If using would and will for requests, would usually sound more polite than will. Both can be used to make requests, give instructions and suggestions.

Try and come up with your own will and would sentences in the comments section below to consolidate what you have learned. Let me know if you have any questions!

References:

Understanding Verbs Verb Tenses | University of Houston-Victoria. https://www.uhv.edu/curriculum-and-student-achievement/student-success/tutoring/student-resources/q-z/understanding-verbs-verb-tenses/

I'm an Irish tutor and founder of TPR Teaching. I started teaching in 2016 and have since taught in the UK, Spain, and online.

I love learning new things about the English language and how to teach it better. I'm always trying to improve my knowledge, so I can better meet the needs of others!

I enjoy traveling, nature walks, and soaking up a new culture. Please share the posts if you find them helpful!

Share on:

Leave a Comment