The modal auxiliary verb ‘would’ is one of the most versatile modal auxiliary verbs in English, if not the most. It is used in different situations for different purposes. Today, we will dive in deep and master all the different uses of would in English.
Would is a modal auxiliary verb; that means, it supports or helps the main verb in a sentence. The interesting thing about would is that it can be used to refer to all the tenses: present, past, and future.
Different use of would
1. Past habits (repetitive actions in the past)
One of the most interesting uses of would is to talk about past habits or repetitive actions in the past. Read the following story carefully to master this use of would:
Back in the days, I had a classmate named Anish. He would come late to the class. He would be punished by the teacher every time. He would sit alone in the back seat and make weird noises. For that, he would get beaten too. 😉
The interesting and surprising thing was that he would not talk to any of our classmates; he would just be alone and talk to himself.
Other students would say that he had been hit by a train. Everyone would make fun of him for his peculiar behavior. Nobody would try to be his friends, sit with him, or even say Hi.
Isn’t it a tragic story? ;(
Yes, it is. But it is a great story to learn the use of would when to talk about repetitive actions in the past. All these things would happen repetitively in the past, and that’s why we are using would in these sentences. We can replace would in these sentences with ‘used to.’ It does the same job.
Let me show you more examples of would to talk about the repetitive actions in the past!
- When I was living in Mumbai, I would go to Juhu beach every evening and eat bhelpuri on the top of a rock.
- In my childhood, my father would take us to movies every weekend.
- It was amazing to be with Jerry. She would wake me up every morning, cook breakfast for me, feed me from her own hands.
- My sister would cry before going to school.
NOTE: we can replace would with used to in these sentences.
- When I was living in Mumbai, I used to go to Juhu beach every evening and eat bhelpuri on the top of a rock.
- In my childhood, my father used to take us to movies every weekend.
- It was amazing to be with Jerry. She used to wake me up every morning, cook breakfast for me, feed me from her own hands.
- My sister used to cry before going to school.
2. WOULD as the past form of will in indirect speech
Direct speech: Rahul said to me, “I will help you.”
Indirect speech: Rahul told me that he would help me.
Direct speech: He said, “You will be my best friend.”
Indirect speech: He said that I would be his best friend.
Direct speech: I said to my friends, “I will throw a party soon.”
Indirect speech: I told my friends that I would throw a party soon.
NOTE: Would is used as the past tense of will in indirect speech.
3. To make polite offers and invitations
Would is usually used to make polite offers and invitations.
- Would you like to be a part of our startup?
- Would you like to join us tonight for the party?
- Would you like me to book a cab for you?
- Would any of your friends be interested to watch the movie with us?
Note: we make polite offers and invitations use the structure ” subject + would + like to” or ” subject + would + like + noun/pronoun + to.”
4. Polite Requests
We often use would to make polite requests. We also use can or could to make requests too.
- Would you please shift a bit?
- Would you drop my son to his school?
- Would you lend me your phone for a minute, please?
- Would you share your current location, please?
Adding ‘please‘ to the request makes the request even more polite.
NOTE: Use “Would you mind + gerund ……. ? “ to make a request. It’s very common in spoken English.
- Would you mind sharing the pizza with me?
- Would you mind taking a photo of my kids?
- Would you mind carrying my bags for a moment?
- Would you mind helping me understand this text?
- Would you mind sharing some workout tips? We really need some.
5. Polite questions
Use would while asking polite questions.
- Would you like some cheese in your pasta?
- Would you like to try the cake I just have baked?
- Would you know the name of your math teacher?
- Would your husband mind if I dance with you?
You can use would to ask questions in a polite manner. The same questions can be asked in other ways too (not remotely polite).
- Do you want some cheese in your pasta?
- Do you want to try the cake I just have baked?
- Do you know the name of your math teacher?
- Does your husband mind if I dance with you?
6. To make wishes/desires
Use would to show you desires or wishes.
- I would like to open a school for underprivileged students.
- She would like you to sing for her.
- We would like to do something for the poor.
- My mother would like to see my kids before she dies.
- I would like some beer if that’s possible.
7. To show certainty or possibility
The modal will is used to talk about what people are willing to do in the present or in the future. Would is the past tense of will and is used to talk about what people were willing to do in the past.
- We will die for you.
- The students will do whatever you say.
- I will not put my job on the line for you.
- The baby will not sleep without getting the milk.
Use would in the past to talk about the willingness of a person or people!
- They would die for me if they had to.
- The students would do whatever I said.
- He would not put his job on the line for me.
- The baby would not sleep without getting the milk.
8. To give opinions
- Going there without knowing them would not be the right thing to do.
- Proposing her on her birthday would be the best.
- That job would be good to join.
9. Unreal or hypothetical situation (conditional sentences)
Would is used in conditional sentences to talk about unreal or hypothetical things.
Use of would in type 2 conditional sentences
- If I were your father, I would take away all the fancy gadgets from you.
- If she knew how to speak English, she would get many jobs.
- If I were a bird, I would shit on you every day.
- If he had more money, he wouldn’t do this terrible job.
In type 2 conditional sentences, we talk about an unreal or impossible situation and its result in the present or in the near future. We use the subjunctive ‘were’ to show the hypothetical condition.
Use would to give pieces of advises (2nd conditional)
- If I were you, I wouldn’t waste my talent like this.
(Don’t waste your talent like this)
- We would say ‘yes’ to his offer if we were you.
(You should say ‘yes’ to his offer)
- I would never leave this girl if I were you.
(You should never leave this girl)
- If I were you, I wouldn’t talk to my father with such a derogatory tone.
(You should not talk to your father with such a derogatory tone)
- If I were you, I would consult a doctor right away.
(You should consult a doctor right away)
Use of would in type 3 conditional sentences
- We would have won the match if they had not cheated.
- If the company had treated me well, I wouldn’t have left the job.
- If she had not lied to me, I would not have broken up with her.
- If you had come in my life earlier, I would have been a successful guy.
- Jon would have been alive if you had taken him to the hospital in time.
We use type 3 conditional sentences to about an unreal situation in the past, and its probable result in the past.
Examples of would in Mixed conditional sentences:
- If I did not have an exam tomorrow, I would be coming with you guys.
(I have an exam tomorrow, and I will not be coming with you.)
- Max would be really upset with us if we were not coming to his party.
(We are coming to his party, and he is not upset with us.)
- If I had listened to your advice that day, I would be dead today.
(I am not dead as I did listen to your advice that day.)
- If she had not cheated me, we would be getting married next week.
(We are not getting married next week because she cheated me.)
- If you had found Ashish, your lives would be so boring.
(Your lives aren’t boring as Ashish is with you.) 😉
Hope the usages of would is clear. Feel free to ask your questions and share the post with others! See you in the other class!
Related YouTube videos:
Conditional sentences Type 1 2 3:
Mixed conditional sentences
Use of Can and Could