How to use would in English sentences
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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.