Modal Auxiliary Would

Would is a modal auxiliary verb. There is no -s in the third person singular. Would is followed by an infinitive without to.

  • He said he would try his best to help me.
  • would like to know what my duty is.
  • The doctor said he would visit the patient.

Questions and negatives are made without do.

  • Would you like some coffee? (NOT Do you would like …)

Would and Will

Would is a softer, less definite form of will. It is used in polite requests and offers.

  • would like to meet him.

Would can act as the past of will in indirect speech.

  • She said, ‘I will not live here anymore.’
  • She said that she would not live there anymore.

Would: Uses

To make polite offers and requests

Would is often used in polite requests and offers. It is a softer, less definite form of will.

  • Would you mind moving a bit?
  • Would you mind sharing a room?
  • would like to meet the manager.

Would can also be used to express an opinion in a more polite way without being forceful.

  • This is not what we would expect from a professional service.

To talk about past habits

Would can be used to talk about past events that happened often or always.

  • He would always bring us nice gifts without telling why.
  • The old man would recline in a corner and sleep most of the time.
  • After dinner we would sit in a common room and chat for a while.

Would is often used to suggest that what happens is expected because it is typical, especially of a person’s behaviour.

  • She would always trust the wrong person.
  • ‘Ann rang to say that she was too busy to come.’ ‘She would – she always has an excuse.’
To talk about willingness and determination

Would can express willingness or a rather perverse determination.

  • He said he would try his best to help me. (Willingness)
  • He would bet on that horse, though I asked him not to. (Determination)
  • She would have her own way.

Wouldn’t shows unwillingness.

  • I asked him to move his car, but he said he wouldn’t.

To talk about imaginary situations

Would is sometimes used to refer to a situation that you can imagine happening.

  • would hate to miss the show.
  • would go myself but I am too busy.
  • It would have been quite boring to sit through the entire speech.

Would and used to

Both would and used to can refer to repeated actions and events in the past.

  • She would/used to always carry an umbrella.

Note that used to can refer to past states; would cannot.

  • used to have an old Rolls Royce. (NOT I would have …)

Would rather

Would rather expresses choice or preference.

  • She would rather die than marry him.
  • They would rather go to jail than pay the fine.

Manjusha Nambiar

Hi, I am Manjusha. This is my blog where I give English grammar lessons and worksheets.

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