Difference between Will and Would

May 31, 2017 by Editorial Team

Especially if you are not a native English speaker, it can be confusing to find the right words to use in a sentence. For instance, “I hope you will come” and “I hope you would come” sound like they both mean the same thing. But if you go deeper into the technicalities of the language, you will realize that, although they may sound and look similar, the two sentences actually have different meanings. In what way? In this article, we will help you understand the difference between “will” and “would.”

Descriptions

Will vs Would

The word will is one of the modal auxiliary verbs. In general, it indicates anything that happens in the future. It is used to:

  1. Describe a future event; for example: We will visit Nana’s house next week.
  2. Express an action that a person wants to do or is willing to do; for example: I will let you know the outcome tomorrow.
  3. Describe a promise or offer; for example: I will take you to Papa Alejandro’s Taco Place tomorrow night.
  4. Describe what a person thinks will happen in the future if a condition is met; usually paired with “if” or “unless”(called “first conditional”); for example: If Manuel does not arrive by 5 PM, we will cancel the order.
  5. Express an immediate decision; for example: Someone is at the door. I’ll go get it.
  6. Express a request; for example: Will you tell Ms. Baker that Principal Jenkins wants to see her?
  7. Express agreement, choice, or preference; for example: I will accept your business proposal.
  8. Describe capability or capacity; for example: This worm bin will hold 2,000 adult nightcrawlers.
  9. Express determination; for example: I will pass this test!

would

On the other hand, the word would is the past tense of “will.” It is used to:

  1. Indicate something that was in the future but is no longer in the future at the time of speaking; for example: I wanted to speak with her but she wouldn’t pick up the phone.
  2. Describe an action that a person was willing or not willing to do; for example: I’m worried. Mr. Smith would not let me take a special exam on Physics.
  3. Express requests and favors in a polite manner; for example: Would you please connect me to the dean’s secretary?
  4. Express an opinion or answer in a polite manner, especially when you are not sure of it; for example: I would say “letter c” is the answer to question number 5.
  5. Express an offer; for example: Would you like a glass of champagne?
  6. Talk about something that a person often did in the past or habitual things; for example: I loved going for a nature walk when I was younger. I would get up at 5:00 AM every Saturday to go to the woods with my dog.
  7. Talk about an outcome of a possible situation; for example: It would be very exhausting to walk for 10 hours nonstop.
  8. Express preference or choice; for example: I would rather stay home and crochet a blanket than go out and meet people I don’t even know.
  9. Describe a plan, wish, want or desire; for example: I would like to learn how to bake Danish cookies.
  10. Give advice; for example: If I were you, I would grab this rare opportunity and study abroad.
  11. Describe an unreal, hypothetical, or imaginary scenario and its possible result (second conditional); for example: If I were a billionaire, I would go to remote tropical beaches.
  12. Indicate an unreal situation in the past and its possible result (third conditional); for example: If I had sent the email before Mr. Meyers did, I would have known the documents were no longer necessary.
  13. Talk about an event in an indirect speech format; for example: Yuri said he would call at exactly 7 o’clock.
  14. Talk about something we thought would happen in the past; for example: I thought I would not like the new house.

Will vs Would

What, then, is the difference between “will” and “would”?

“Will” is generally used to indicate a future action or event whereas “would” indicates something that was in the future but is no longer in the future at the time of speaking. “Would” is the past tense of “will” but it also has other uses.

In conditional statements, “will” is used in the first conditional. It is paired with “if” or “unless” to express a scenario that will happen if a certain condition is met. “Would,” on the contrary, is used in the second and third conditionals. It is used to express a hypothetical scenario and its “possible” result and an unreal event that happened or did not happen in the past and its possible outcome.

In terms of expressing requests, favors, offers, willingness, preference, or choice, both “will” and “would” can be used but “would” is more polite.

Moreover, “will” can be used to express capability or capacity and an immediate or spontaneous decision. “Would” is used to express your opinion; describe a habitual action in the past or an outcome of a possible situation; express a wish, plan, or desire; give advice; or to talk about an event we thought would happen in the past. It is also used to discuss events or situations in an indirect speech format.

Comparison Chart

WillWould
Generally used to indicate a future action or eventIndicates something that was in the future but is no longer at the time of speaking; past tense of “will”
Used to express an action that a person wants to do or is willing to do; describe a promise or offer; describe what a person thinks will happen in the future if a condition is met (first conditional); express an immediate decision; express a request; express agreement, choice, or preference; describe capability or capacity; express determinationUsed to describe an action that a person was or was not willing to do; express offers, requests, favors, and opinion in a polite manner; talk about something that a person often did in the past; talk about an outcome of a possible situation; express preference or choice; describe a plan, wish, want, or desire; give advice; describe an unreal, hypothetical, or imaginary scenario and its possible result (second conditional); indicate an unreal situation in the past and its possible result (third conditional); talk about an event in an indirect speech format; talk about something we thought would happen in the past