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General English

Welcome to your “Would” lesson! In this topic we talk about:
• When do we use “Would”?
“Will” or “Would”?
Other uses of “Would”
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When do we use “Would”?

We use “would” or “wouldn’t” when we imagine a situation or action:

“It would be nice to buy a house near the beach, but we can’t afford it.”

“I‘d love to be an actor.”

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

We use “would have” when we imagine situations or actions in the past:

“I don’t know what we would have done without your help.”

“I didn’t tell him, he wouldn’t have been very happy.”

Compare the two forms:

“I would text her, but I don’t have her number.”

“I would have texted her, but I didn’t have her number.”

“Would” is often used with “If”:

“I would text her if I had her number.”

“I would have texted her if I had had her number.”

“Will” or “Would”?

Compare the two forms:

“I‘ll have dinner with you, I’m free tonight.”

“I would have dinner with you, but I’m not free tonight.”
(so I can’t have dinner with you)

“I‘ll text her, I have her number.”

“I would text her but I don’t have her number.”
(so I can’t text her)

Sometimes “would” and “wouldn’t” are the past forms of “will” and “won’t”. Compare the two forms:

Present Past

James: “I‘ll mail you about it later.”

“James said he‘d mail me about it later.”

Marcus: “I promise I won’t forget.”

“Marcus promised that he wouldn’t be late.”

Jen: “Damn! The car won’t start!”

“Jen was angry that her car wouldn’t start.”

Other uses of “Would”

“Somebody wouldn’t do something” means “they refused to do it”:

“I made him some dinner but he wouldn’t eat it.”
(he refused to eat the dinner)

“The TV wouldn’t turn on.”
(the TV “refused” to turn on)

You can also use “would” when you talk about things that happened regularly in the past:

“When we were younger we would go to the beach every weekend.”

“Whenever James was hungry, he would get very angry.”

With this meaning, “would” is similar to “used to”:

“Whenever James was hungry, he used to get very angry.”