Using Would

We use 'would' in many different ways:

  1. As the past of 'will' to talk about beliefs, willingness, and habits;
  2. Talking about the future from a point in the past;
  3. In polite phrases.

Would is also used a lot in conditionals. Learn more about conditionals.

The Past of Will

We use 'would' as the past form of 'will' to talk about our beliefs in the past.

I thought it would rain.

You are talking about a time in the past. At that time you believed it was going to rain.

We use the present form 'I think it will rain' for a belief you have now.

We can use 'would' as the past form of 'will' to talk about things we were willing to do in the past.

I told my sister I would lend her the car.

You are talking about a time in the past. At that time you were willing to lend your sister the car.

We use the negative 'would not' to talk about things we were unwilling to do, or refused to do.

The boy wouldn't eat his vegetables.

You are talking about a time in the past. The boy refused to eat vegetables.

We use the present form 'The boy won't eat his vegetables' if he refuses to eat the vegetables now.

Sarah wouldn't lend me the money.

You are talking about a time in the past. Sarah refused to lend you money.

The short form of would not is wouldn't. Learn more about short forms.

We also use 'would' to talk about habits or routines in the past.

When were were children, we would go to the beach every summer.

You are talking about a time in the past (when you were a child). At that time you went to the beach every summer.

Talking About the Future in the Past

We use 'would' to talk about a future event from a time in the past. Both of the events are now in the past.

John met the woman he would marry at the party.

The party was an event in the past. John met a woman at the party. John later married the woman he met. At the time of the party, the marriage is in the future.

<------party------marriage-------now------->

When I accepted the job, I didn't know it would change my life.

You are talking about a time in the past (when you accepted the job). The job changed your life. When you accepted the job, the life change was in the future.

Polite Phrases

There are a lot of polite phrases that use 'would'.

We use 'would you' in questions to make requests.

Would you open the window, please?

You want the window open. You are asking another person to open the window.

We also use 'could' to make polite requests. Learn more about using could.

We use 'would you like' in questions to offer something to someone else.

Would you like some coffee?

You are offering the other person coffee.

Would you like to go to the museum on the weekend?

You are asking if the other person wants to go to the museum.

We use 'I would like' to say we want something or express a desire.

I would like a drink.

You are thirsty. You want a drink.

She would like to meet the President.

She wants to meet the President. It is her desire to meet the President.

The short form of I would is I'd. Learn more about short forms.

Making Sentences Using Would

+ She would go to the beach each summer. s=she + would + v

- She wouldn't eat vegetables. s=she + would + not + v

? Would you like a drink? would + s=you + v