Would vs will in the English language

reviewed byIryna Andrus / more about Editorial Process

In most languages, verbs play crucial roles in sentence structure and communication of ideas. Modal and auxiliary verbs are the challenging parts of the English language. They are invaluable for English grammar, have many difficult rules, and sometimes even have similar meanings. Below, you will find the main differences between would vs will and learn the situations and rules when they are used.

Differences between will and would

Language learners are often confused about using will vs would. In many situations, these two verbs might both seem appropriate. However, they have very different meanings and usage.

 WillExamplesWouldExamples
UsageDepending on the context, it can be a modal verb or noun in the sentence.

1. She will finish her work by Friday.

2. Show your will for freedom.

In all situations, would is used only as a modal verb.

1. I would travel more if I had more time.

2. I would go to the party if I were invited.

MeaningAs a verbtalk about past habits (similar to ‘used to’)When I was a child, I would play outside every day.
 represent the future tenseShe will start her new job next Monday.in the second conditionalIf I had more time, I would travel more.
 indicate the decision made at the moment of speakingIt's hot in here. I'll open the window.in the third conditionalIf I had known, I would have called you.
 make promises and offersI will help you with your project tomorrow.make polite requests and offersWould you mind opening the window?
 predictI think it will rain later today.describe a future event from a past perspectiveHe said he would finish the work by Monday.
 make requestsWill you please turn down the music?talk about preferencesI would prefer tea to coffee.
 in the first conditionalIf it is sunny, we will go to the beach.indirect and reported speechHe asked if you would be attending the meeting.
 As a nounspeculation about the pastHe would have been about 25 years old at that time.
 a legal document specifying a person's wishes regarding the distribution of their property after deathHe left his estate to his children, as stated in his will.  
 represent someone’s determinationThrough sheer will, she overcame her challenges.  
 represent mental stateHe has the will to succeed in his career.  
 power to control somethingShe has a strong will to influence her team effectively.  

As you can see, ‘will’ can serve as two parts of speech in English, so it’s crucial to follow the context. ‘Would’ can be only a verb but might be used for different purposes. Now you understand the basic rules, whether to use will or would. How to use each of them in a certain occasion?

How to use the word will?

‘Will’ is a versatile word in the English language. It can be used as a modal verb and noun for many purposes. It makes ‘will’ very complex for language learners. However, you can master all the rules with some practice.

Will as a verb

The most common occasion of using will in a sentence is indicating future tense. Usually, it indicates future events that haven’t been planned before. Some other cases to use ‘will’ are future predictions that have no real proof and express a strong certainty or promise.

  • I’m thirsty. I will drink a glass of water. (future event that haven’t been planned)
  • I will always love you. (strong certainty)
  • I guess he will win the race. (prediction based on feelings)

A common mistake, in this case, is confusing ‘will’ vs. ‘going to’ for planned actions or intentions. Use 'will' for predictions or spontaneous decisions and 'going to’ for planned actions. In our article, we describe the difference between ‘will’ and ‘going to’ in detail, providing some examples.

Very often, ‘will’ is used in interrogative questions to make requests and offers. Such sentences are treated as less polite, so pay attention to the context.

  • Will you open the window?
  • Will you be quiet? 

A common mistake is confusing 'will' with 'can' in requests. 'Will' is more about willingness than ability. So try to use 'will' for requests about future actions and ‘can’ to define whether you or somebody else have the physical ability to do something.

‘Will’ is obligatory in the first conditional, where the structure is ‘if+present simple, will+base form of the verb.’ The first conditional in the English language is used to express a condition that is seen as real or possible. It's typically used for situations in the future that are likely to happen. 

  • If it rains, I will take an umbrella.
  • If you study hard, you will pass the exam.

This form is often used to make predictions, give warnings, or set conditions for future actions. It's one of the most common ways to discuss future possibilities in English.

Will as a noun

When used as a noun, ‘will’ can refer to:

  • legal document related to a testament;
  • someone’s determination;
  • mental state;
  • power to control the things happening.

To understand the correct meaning, you must pay attention to the context. However, there are some common mistakes. Using ‘will’ in the meaning of the legal document, learners often confuse it with 'living will' (which concerns end-of-life care decisions). To avoid this mistake, remember that a 'will' is about property and inheritance.

  • He left his house to his son in his will.
  • She needs to update her will after the birth of her daughter.

People often misinterpret ‘will’ as a mere wish or desire when it refers to a mental state. A useful tip for 'will' in this context is remembering that ‘will’ is about the mental power to choose or decide.

  • It requires a strong will to resist temptation.
  • She lost her will to fight the illness

Practice some exercises with ‘will’ to remember the basic rules of using it as a verb or noun. Through practice, you will quickly understand that this word is not very complex.

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How to use ‘would’ in English?

Comparing will and would, you may find out that the latter is more complex. It can be placed differently in sentence structures, playing various roles. It’s important to remember each situation since even a small mistake may spoil the sentence's meaning.

‘Would’ to talk about past habits

‘Would’ is used to talk about repeated actions or habits in the past, which is very similar to 'used to.' However, it's not used for past states or single events.

  • As a child, I would spend hours reading.
  • Every summer, we would go to the beach.

The very common mistake is using 'would' for single past events or states. For instance, 'I would live in London' is incorrect if you lived there only once. Use 'would' when talking about repeated or habitual actions in the past. For single events or states, use 'used to.'

Would with conditionals

The second conditional is used for unreal or hypothetical situations in the present or future. 'Would' is used in the main clause, often following an 'if' clause in the past simple tense.

  • If I were president, I would change the law.
  • If she had more time, she would start her own business.

Language learners often place 'would' in the 'if' clause, which is a mistake (e.g., 'If I would be' is incorrect.) To avoid this mistake, remember the structure: 'If [past simple], [would + base verb].' Never use 'would' in the 'if' clause.

The third conditional is for hypothetical past situations. It uses 'would have' in the main clause to describe an outcome that could have happened but didn't.

  • If I had studied harder, I would have passed the exam.
  • They would have won the match if they had played better.

A common mistake in this case is confusing the third conditional with past real conditions. (e.g., 'If I studied, I passed' (real) vs. 'If I had studied, I would have passed' (hypothetical). Remember to use 'had' + past participle in the 'if' clause and 'would have' + past participle in the main clause.

Would for requests and preferences

As well as ‘will,’ 'would' is used to make requests and offers. The difference between will vs would, in this case, is that ‘would’ helps you to sound more polite. You should also use it for formal situations.

  • Would you mind lending me your book?
  • I would be happy to help you with your project.

Although it’s not a big mistake, using 'would' in very informal or immediate situations might be inappropriate. To sound more natural, use 'would' only for formal or polite requests and offers, especially with people you don’t know well.

‘Would’ can also be used to express preferences politely, often in a hypothetical context.

  • I would rather go for a hike than watch TV.
  • She would prefer to stay at a hotel rather than a hostel.

However, you shouldn’t use 'would' for strong, current desires or needs. Use 'would' for hypothetical or polite preferences, especially when offering choices or making suggestions and refer to ‘will’ speaking about desires.

Conclusion

Now you know when to use would and will in English language. There are many rules, and they might be challenging. So we recommend splitting them into several lessons and learning step-by-step. It will help you to stay motivated and remember this grammar more effectively. If you don’t know how to create a correct plan, download our application and get a plan with bite-sized lessons. 

Verbs in EnglishNouns in EnglishAction Verbs in EnglishEnglish Verbs for KidsCollective Nouns in EnglishTypes of Nouns in English

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