How to Use ‘Would’ – Guide & Examples

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Would you want to learn how to use would in sentences? We use this modal verb in everyday speech, but many don’t know its meaning. But, I assure you, it’s easy to use once you know its functions.

Is would the same as will? Does it express a different verb tense? Keep reading to learn the rules, uses, and examples of would in sentences.

What Part of Speech Is Would?

Would is a modal verb, which is a type of auxiliary verb. We use this word with its main verb to form a verb phrase and:

  • Talk about the past
  • Talk about the future in the past
  • Express conditional mood
  • Show reported speech
  • Express desire and polite requests.

Would Forms

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Would can be found in different forms of sentences.

Affirmative Form

Would comes first before the main verb and after the subject.

  • Subject + would + main verb

For example:

  • My dog would bark at me every morning.
  • We thought you would be here.

Negative Form

The negative form of the modal verb would is would not or wouldn’t. It also comes after the subject and before the main verb. Do not use don’t, doesn’t, and didn’t with would.

  • Subject + would not + main verb

For example:

  • She would not buy her kid the toy.
  • There wouldn’t be space in the bedroom.

Question Form

Here, would comes first before the subject. The main verb then comes after the subject.

  • Would + subject + main verb

For example:

  • Would you please hand me the lemon?
  • Wouldn’t you live in this mansion?

How to Use Would

Would can be used to express some kind of remoteness in a time period, possibility, or remoteness between speakers.

Would Past Tense

Use would as an auxiliary verb with action verbs when expressing a habit that occurred in the past. Since it was a habit, it happened regularly. Remember not to use would with stative verbs.

Here are some sentences with would in the past tense.

  • When we were kids, we would try ethnic cuisine for dinner every Friday.
  • When I was in South Korea, I would take Korean lessons to learn their alphabet and language.
  • She would only eat soft food and any sweet food as a kid.

Notice how would + simple verb form is an alternative to used to + simple verb form. For example:

  • Two years ago, I would always ride the train to the office.
  • Two years ago, I used to always ride the train to the office.

Would for Willingness in the Past

Use would as a simple past verb to express willingness in past-time situations. When using the negative form, we usually use the contraction wouldn’t. For example:

  • The recorder I bought was broken. But the seller would not give me my money back.
  • Her mother wouldn’t let him go out.

Would for Reported Speech

Use would for the past tense of will in reported speech clauses. Meanwhile, will is for direct speech. Consider these examples.

  • Direct speech: My parents will be there tomorrow.
  • Indirect speech: My parents said they would be there tomorrow.
  • Direct speech: I will not drink coffee.
  • Indirect speech: She said she would not drink coffee.
  • Direct speech: The singer will perform at the party.
  • Indirect speech: They said the singer would perform at the party.

Would for the Future in Past

Use would when talking about the past at a future time. Use it to describe something that has not happened at the time you were discussing it. For example:

  • Corey met the woman she would one day marry.
  • He was busy crying, not knowing the good news that would arrive the next day.

Would for Conditionals

Another use of would is for the so-called second and third conditionals or unreal conditionals.

The second conditional refers to future scenarios unlikely to be true or present situations that are impossible. The correct structure here is if + past subjunctive, would + infinitive. For example:

  • If I won the lotto, I would travel the world.
  • If you try harder, you would be the class valedictorian.

The third conditional expresses unreal scenarios in the past, referencing the hypothetical result that might have happened in the past. The correct structure for the third conditional is if + past perfect subjunctive, would + perfect infinitive. For example:

  • If I had known about his arrival, I would have waited at the airport.
  • If you had seen the show, you would have cried about it.

Would for Desire

Another way would expresses remoteness is when the speaker shows desire or inclination. For example:

  • I would love to be here forever.
  • Would you like some tea?

We usually use would with the verb wish. For example:

  • I wish you wouldn’t be so loud.

Would for Uncertainty

Use would when you want to show uncertainty over a situation. For example:

  • It would appear that Candace was wrong.

Would for Requests

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Use would as a helping verb when making requests. This word is more polite and formal than will. Here are some examples.

  • Talking to a friend: Will you please help me carry these boxes?
  • Talking to a stranger: Would you please help me carry these boxes?
  • Casual: Open the door, please.
  • More polite: Would you open the door, please?

Would for Expectations

Use the modal verb would when you want to show presumption. Here are some examples.

  • That would be Candace knocking.

Would for Derogatory Statements

Some people use would with the intention of being derogatory. For example:

  • You would say that, wouldn’t you?

Learn More About Modal Verbs

Would is one of the many modal verbs in the English language. It expresses some sort of remoteness, such as:

  • Distance in time (past action or future action in the past)
  • Distance in possibility (conditionals)
  • Distance from the listener (polite requests and uncertainty)

Learn the other modal verbs so you can show possibility, intent, ability, and necessity in your sentences.