By Alena Lien, 


Click below to expand each section. 


Affirmative sentences 

[subject] + ["would"] + [verb] 

Contractions of "would" with pronouns: 

  • I would = I'd 

  • You would = You'd 

  • We would = We'd 

  • They would = They'd 

  • He would = He'd 

  • She would = She'd 

  • It would = It'd

Please note: The contraction "I'd" can also mean "I had" - context will usually inform you if it's "would" or "had." Otherwise the past participle usually follows "had," and not "would."

  • "Mum would make pancakes every morning."

Not - "Mum would should make pancakes every morning."


  • "I'd go if someone accompanied me."

Not - "I'd might go if someone accompanied me."

Negative sentences

[subject] + ["would not"] + [verb]

Please note: "Would not" is contracted to "wouldn't."

  • "He said he wouldn't be able to join us for dinner."

Full forms are used in formal contexts or for added emphasis.

  • "The CEO would not consider the long-term benefits of an organisational overhaul."

  • "The car would not start this morning."


["would"] + [subject] + [verb]

[question word] + ["would"] + [subject] + [verb]

  • "Would you like a drink?"

  • "How would you like your coffee?"

It is possible to make negative questions even though their use is quite specific. The structure for full forms and contracted forms are slightly different. However, contracted forms are preferred in general.

Contracted form:

["wouldn't"] + [subject] + [verb]

[question word] + ["wouldn't"] + [subject] + [verb]

  • "Wouldn't you like a drink?"

  • "Why wouldn't she like it?"

Full form:

["would"] + [subject] + ["not"] + [verb]

[question word] + ["would"] + [subject] + ["not"] + [verb]

  • "Would you not like a drink?"

  • "Why would she not like it?"


Although "would" is considered the past tense form of "will," it actually has many other uses .

1.   To refer to what someone was willing to do OR what something was able to do.

This is the past tense of "will." Usually this is used in the negative, "would not," and is often used to express the speaker's disapproval.

Past: "My daughter won't get out of bed."

Present: "My daughter wouldn't get out of bed this morning."

Past: "My van will not start."

Present: "The van would not start again today."

2.   To refer to past statements about the future in reported/indirect speech.

This is also the past tense of "will."

Past: "There will be clear skies tomorrow."

Present: "The weather report said there would be clear skies today."


Past: "I'll write to you every week."

Present: "He said he would write to her every week."


Past: "I think they'll arrive by midnight."

Present: "I thought they would have arrived by midnight, but they were delayed by traffic."

Future time or plans:

Past: "We're going to Singapore next week."

Present: "They said they would go to Singapore next week."

3.   To refer to habitual or repetitive actions in the past.

  • "Every morning, my grandmother would water her flowers."

  • "We would play in the park every evening after school."

Used in a disapproving way to refer to something typical or expected of a person's behaviour.

  • "He would always forget where he left the car keys."

Please note: "Would" should not be used to refer to states.

  • "When I was a child, we used to live in the countryside."

Not - "When I was a child, we would live in the countryside."

4.   To refer to one's motives in a past event with "why."

To add emphasis when you do not understand why.

  • "Why would anyone steal my watch? It's not valuable!"

  • "I don't understand why you would say something like that."

To state something obvious in the form of a rhetorical question.

  • "It was obvious he came for you. Why else would he come?"

5.   To be more polite, formal and less direct.

To make offers.

  • "Would you like some help?"

To make requests.

  • "I'd like some more time to think about this."

  • "Would you mind passing the salt?"

To express opinions.

  • "This is not what I would have expected from you."

  • "I would say we need to be more cautious moving forward."

  • "I'd think he'd be happier doing other things."

-   However this can also imply doubt or uncertainty.

  • "I'd imagine it costs a lot more."

To give advice in the first person.

  • "I wouldn't be too concerned about it if I were you."

  • "I'd recommend trying the bigger sizes first."

  • "I'd suggest taking the more scenic route if you're not in a hurry."

  • "We'd advise you try again next year."

To express strong or controversial statements in a less forceful and offensive way:

Compare the two sentences:

  • "The whole thing was revolting."

  • "I'd say the whole thing was pretty revolting."

6.   To show preference (between two choices).

  • "I'd rather have coffee than tea."

  • "Which would you prefer? A or B?"

However, the second choice can be implied rather than stated.

  • "I'd prefer to do it by myself."   (... rather than get help.)

7.   To refer to what is likely or probable.

  • "There's someone on the phone for you."

  •       "That would be my wife."

8.   To express desires with "wish."

  • "I wish he wouldn't smoke so much."

  • "I wish you'd be a little more understanding."

9.   To refer to theoretical or imagined situations.

Used with 'if' in conditional sentences for unreal/theoretical situations.

  • "What would you do if you were very rich?"

  • "If I had a lot of money, I would travel the world."

If the past or situation were different.

  • "If I had been there earlier, I would have seen you before you left."

  • "I would do it, but I haven't got the time."

Or in imagined situations.

  • "I would hate to be late for a meeting."