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Will vs. would. The difference

While would vs. will might look indistinguishable or interchangeable at first glance, there’s a very easy way to tell the difference.

Cecilia Gigliotti
Cecilia Gigliotti

To say would or will? Talking about hypothetical future events is a tricky thing to master for learners of English as a second language. Determining when it makes sense to say you will do something, and when to say you would do it, can be tough to know.

But while would vs. will might look indistinguishable or interchangeable at first glance, there’s a very easy way to tell the difference.

Will — a definite

When you use “will” in addition to a verb, you’re creating a general assumption that whatever you are saying is going to happen is in fact going to happen. Even if you temper it with “probably,” for instance, the statement is more definite than a would statement.

Examples:

There will be a party tomorrow night at the office.
Those two will probably break up soon.
I know it’s a problem, and I will fix it.

Would — a maybe

“Would” is often accompanied by “if”. It’s part of a conditional phrase — that is, a possible outcome that is dependent on a condition. So if you see a would, an if is usually not far away. There’s room for uncertainty here.

Examples:

I would have gone to the party if I had had enough energy.
I would work with him if he didn’t interrupt me whenever I talked.
If you asked me, I would say yes.

So, if you ever find yourself stuck on when to use will and would, just try the phrase in question with each and see which one makes more sense. “I will go to the store this afternoon” sounds like your errand is pretty certain; “I would go to the store this afternoon if my schedule weren’t so busy” tells your roommate you won’t be restocking the fridge this time.

Examples of using will and would

Logan Lucky (2017)
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
The Terminal (2004)
Cloud Atlas (2012)
Which is correctEnglish

Cecilia Gigliotti

I have extensive experience writing in a variety of genres, from literary novels to music reviews to academic articles. I appreciate the power of words.


Milena Lazova

I'm an ESL teacher with over 7 years of experience in providing original content. I really like writing educational articles which may help others learn some aspects of English.

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