How to use would in English sentences

How to use would in English sentences


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WOULD

Would is a modal auxiliary, which is the will loan. It allows you to express a hypothesis.

The contracted form of would is ‘d, and the contracted form of would not is wouldn’t.

⚠ Be careful not to confuse the ‘d of would with that of had!

Here are the different uses of Would in English:

1 – Express the conditional with Would

We would use to imagine something that is not real:

  • I’d like to go to Paris.
  • I would not (= wouldn’t) want to go by bus. 
  • They would buy this car if they had enough money. 

2 – Make a prediction

Would is often used with if + preterite, to evoke a possible hypothesis:

  • I would do it if you asked me. 
  • We would live in Osaka if we were Japanese. 
  • I would be happy if she came. 

3 – To be polite

We use would to speak politely (it’s less direct than saying “I want”):

  • I’d like some information about this car. 
  • I’d like to see the menu, please. 

Would is often used in questioning form to ask or propose something politely:

  • Would you help me, please?
  • Would you like some tea? 
  • How would you describe him? 

4 – Express the refusal with would

In the negative form, would express the refusal:

  • I asked him to come, but he wouldn’t. 
  • He wouldn’t listen to me. 
  • The computer wouldn’t start. 

5 – Express an indirect speech

  • Paul said that he would arrive late.

6 – Indicate a past habit with Would

We can use would to talk about things that used to happen regularly in the past, about old habits:

  • When I was a child I would walk to school every day. 
  • She would practise two hours a day. 

⚠ We can replace would by used to in this type of sentence:

  • She would practise two hours a day. = She used to practise two hours a day.

7 – Would have + Past participle

This formula is used to imagine possible or impossible hypotheses in the past:

  • We would have preferred to eat pizzas. 
  • He wouldn’t have accepted. 
  • I would have done it if I had known. 

Compare the following sentences:

  • I would like to leave quickly.
  • I would have liked to leave quickly.

8 – Would Rather

The formula I’d rather (= I would rather) means ‘I like (I would like) better’,’I prefer’ (I would prefer).

  • I’d rather stay here. 
  • I’d rather not go out tonight. 

There is another possible construction:

  • I’d rather you stayed here. 
  • I’d rather he didn’t know.

You can also add ‘than’ to compare:

  • I’d rather stay at home tomnight than go to the cinema. 

⚠ Be careful not to confuse the construction of I’d rather with I’d prefer:

  • I’d rather go there by bus ≠ I’d prefer to go there by bus.

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