Meaning of “would” in the English Dictionary

"would" in British English

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wouldmodal verb

uk strong /wʊd/ weak /wəd/ /əd/ us strong /wʊd/ weak /wəd/ /əd/

would modal verb (FUTURE)

B1 also 'd used to refer to future time from the point of view of the past:

He said he would see his brother tomorrow.
They knew there would be trouble unless the report was finished by the next day.
We realized it wouldn't be easy to find another secretary.
would have

used to refer back to a time in the past from a point of view in the future:

We thought they would have got home by five o'clock, but there was no reply when we phoned.

More examples

  • Such a policy would not be constitutional.
  • What time would it be convenient for me to come round?
  • Changing the course of the river would cause serious environmental damage to the whole valley.
  • I was curious to know what would happen next.
  • The chief's son would inherit all his dominions.

would modal verb (INTENTION)

also 'd used to refer to an intention from the point of view of the past:

He said he would always love her .
They promised that they would help.
There was nobody left who would (= was willing to) do it.
I asked him to move his car but he said he wouldn't (= he refused).

More examples

  • The president continued by saying that his country was a free country and would always remain so.
  • I would like to express my thanks for your kindness.
  • She promised faithfully that she would never leave him.
  • My dad said he would help with the costs of buying a house.
  • We would like to announce the appointment of Julia Lewis as head of sales.

would modal verb (POSSIBILITY)

B1 also 'd used to refer to a situation that you can imagine happening:

I would hate to miss the show.
I'd go myself but I'm too busy.
It would have been very boring to sit through the whole speech.

B1 also 'd used with if in conditional sentences (= sentences that refer to what happens if something else happens):

What would you do if you lost your job?
If I'd had time, I would have gone to see Graham.

More examples

  • If she ever left him he would be heartbroken.
  • My mother would worry herself to death if she knew what I was doing.
  • A nuclear holocaust would leave few survivors.
  • If you were offered an overseas posting, would you take it?
  • If he forgot to pay his rent, his landlady would send him a reminder.

would modal verb (REQUEST)

A1 also 'd used in polite requests and offers:

Would you mind sharing a room?
Would you like me to come with you?
Would you like some cake?

More examples

  • Would you like to borrow this book?
  • May I conduct you to your table, sir, or would you prefer to have a drink at the bar first?
  • Would you like an aisle seat or would you prefer to be by the window?
  • Is that enough potato, or would you like some more?
  • Someone's at the door - would you answer it please?

would modal verb (WILLINGNESS)

B1 past simple of will modal verb : used to talk about what someone was willing to do or what something was able to do:

The car wouldn't start this morning.

More examples

  • This new computer system would save us a lot of time when doing the accounts.
  • Such a policy would enhance the company's profile abroad.
  • Thick carpet would reduce the echo in this hallway.
  • She would let you use her computer if you asked.
  • I wouldn't get involved if I were you.

would modal verb (WISH)

would rather/sooner also 'd

More examples

  • I'd rather not have any mushrooms, thanks.
  • I'd rather get a taxi than wait for the bus.
  • Would you rather eat now or later?
  • I'd rather watch a film with subtitles than one dubbed into English.
  • I'd far sooner go to the theatre than watch a video.

B1 used to show that you prefer to have or do one thing more than another:

I'd rather have a beer.
Which would you sooner do - go swimming or play tennis?
Wouldn't you rather finish it tomorrow?
He'd rather die than (= he certainly does not want to) let me think he needed help.
would that... formal

used to express a strong wish or desire:

Would that (= if only) she could see her famous son now.

would modal verb (FREQUENCY)

B2 also 'd used to talk about things in the past that happened often or always:

He would always turn and wave at the end of the street.

also 'd disapproving used to suggest that what happens is expected because it is typical, especially of a person's behaviour:

"Madeleine called to say she's too busy to come." "She would - she always has an excuse."

More examples

  • He would always begin his lectures with a joke.
  • They would often go for a drink together on Wednesdays.
  • He would always smoke a cigar after dinner.
  • She would often forget where she'd put her glasses.
  • He would say that! He's always got a reason for being late.

would modal verb (OPINION)

C1 also 'd used to express an opinion in a polite way without being forceful:

I would think we need to speak to the headteacher about this first.
It's not what we would have expected from a professional service.

More examples

  • I would class her among/with the top ten American novelists.
  • I would suggest that you were not adequately prepared for the interview.
  • We would describe the standard of the food as poor.
  • I'd have hoped for a better choice of wine to go with the meal.
  • She'd describe her reaction to the film as one of disappointment.

would modal verb (ADVISE)

also 'd used after "I" when giving advice:

I wouldn't (= I advise you not to) worry about it, if I were you.

More examples

  • If you're unsure of your legal rights, I would check with a lawyer.
  • I wouldn't set off at five o'clock. You'll get caught in the rush hour traffic.
  • I would add more salt to that.
  • I would wear something more formal, if I were you.
  • I wouldn't touch that, it's hot.

would modal verb (REASON)

also 'd used after "why" when giving or asking the reason for something:

Why would anyone want to eat something so horrible?

More examples

  • He came to see you. Why else would he come?
  • Why would he run away from the scene of the crime if he wasn't guilty?
  • Why would you drive, when you could take the train?
  • Why would anyone do such a thing?
  • They must have split up. Why else would he be moving out?

(Definition of “would” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"would" in American English

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wouldmodal verb

us /wʊd, wəd/

would modal verb (FUTURE)

used to refer to future time after a verb in the past tense:

He said he would see his brother tomorrow.
They hoped they would go to France for their next vacation.

would modal verb (INTENTION)

used to express an intention or plan after a verb in a past tense:

He said he would love her forever.
They promised that tomorrow they would help.

would modal verb (REQUEST)

used as a form of will in requests and offers:

"Would you like some cake?" "Yes, I would."
Would you pick up a newspaper on your way home?

would modal verb (POSSIBLE)

used to refer to a possibility or likelihood:

I would hate to miss the show.

Would is used with if in sentences that show what will happen if something else happens:

What would you do if you lost your job?

would modal verb (ALWAYS)

used to suggest that in the past something happened often or always:

In summer my dad would sit on the back porch after supper and read the newspaper.


us /wʊd, wəd/

would (WILL)

past simple of will :

The car wouldn’t start this morning.

(Definition of “would” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

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