Will vs. Would – What’s the Difference?

Verb conjugation is difficult, even on a basic level. The rules that govern regular verb conjugation are predictable and simple. However, many verbs are irregular, and both regular and irregular verbs have many obscure tenses that can be difficult to remember.

Will is one such verb. Conjugated in some tenses, it forms would, but would also has other uses. Continue reading for an overview of these two confusing verbs.

What is the Difference Between Will and Would?

In this post, I will compare will vs. would. I will use each of these verbs in example sentences, so that you can see it in its proper context.

Plus, I will show you how to use a memory tool that will help you choose will or would for your own writing.

When to Use Will

will versus would meaningWhat does will mean? Will can be a noun, in which case it has various meanings. In this article, though, I will be concerned with will as a verb.

Will is a modal auxiliary verb, where it describes an action that is expected to take place in the future. It modifies many verbs in their future tenses.

Here are some examples,

  • You will arrive at the airport at 10:15am Thursday morning and escort the ambassador back to the royal palace.
  • Catalina will turn us in at the earliest opportunity.
  • I will sell my car when I can afford to buy a newer one.
  • Apple Inc. said Wednesday it will open its new campus in April and spend six months moving employees into a glass-encased building reminiscent of a spaceship. –The Wall Street Journal

When to Use Would

Definition of would definition and definition of will definitionWhat does would mean? Would is another verb with multiple senses. Sometimes, it is the past tense of will but only under certain conditions.

Would describes something that was in the future at the time of the original action, but is no longer in the future now.

Here is an example,

  • “Jess said she would pick up the pizza,” said Erik.

In this example, Jess made a statement in the past about her intention to pick up a pizza in the near future. However, Erik is now referring to the event from a point even further in the future.

Here is another example,

  • Nissan said its new chief executive would be Hiroto Saikawa, a 40-year company veteran who had served as Nissan’s “chief competitive officer” and had led its operations in North America. –The New York Times

Would is also a conditional verb. It indicates an action that would happen if certain circumstances were met.

Here is an example,

  • I would buy a dishwasher if you ever cooked us anything.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Define would and define willHere is a helpful trick to remember would vs. will.

Since both will and would have so many different senses, it can be difficult to remember when to choose which one. One easy rule of thumb is that will is never past tense. It can be present tense and several different future moods and tenses, but never past tense.

You can easily remember that will is never past tense since the words will and past don’t use any of the same letters.

Summary

It is will or would? Will and would are verbs, and each can be used many different ways.

  • Will can be a present tense verb that means to cause something to happen through force of desire. It can also be a modal auxiliary verb in various tenses.
  • Would is a past tense form of will. It is also a conditional verb that indicates an action that would happen under certain conditions.

You can remember that will is never past tense since it shares no letters with past.

In summary,

  • Would is sometimes past tense.
  • Will is never past tense.

If you are ever stuck choosing would or will again, you can use this article as a refresher.