Uses of Would

Indirect speech

Would is the past tense of will in indirect speech.

  • Direct speech: John said, ‘I will wait until you return.’
  • Indirect speech: John said that he would wait until I return.
  • Direct speech: The boy said, ‘I will not eat this cake.’
  • Indirect speech: The boy said that he would not eat that cake.

Willingness and determination

Would expresses ideas such as willingness or determination.

  • He said that he would help me.
  • She said that she would wait for me.
  • I would have my own way. (= I am determined to have my own way.)

Habitual action in the past

Would can be used to talk about a habitual or customary action in the past.

  • After dinner we would all sit in the hall and chat for a while.

Would and would like to

Would is often used to express a wish. In this case it means the same as would like to.

  • I would know what I am supposed to do.
  • I would like to know what I am supposed to do.

Polite questions

Would is used to ask polite questions.

  • Would you like a cup of coffee? (More polite than ‘Will you like a cup of coffee?’)
  • Would you mind lending me your bicycle?
  • Would you, please, call me a taxi?

Would is also used in the main clause when preceded or followed by a subordinate clause expressing an impossible or improbable condition.

  • If I could fly like a bird, I would be with you now.
  • If I were the President, I would lower taxes.