‘Would' vs 'Will': What's the Difference Between the Two?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on November 28, 2022

Wondering whether to use the word ‘would’ or ‘will’? Well, there’s definitely a difference, and we’ll talk about that below. Plus, we’ll discuss how to use it correctly in a sentence.

But the short answer is:

‘Would’ is the past tense of will.

‘Will’ means choice, desire, or willingness.

Should I Use ‘Would’ or ‘Will’ in an If-Clause

Now that you know the difference between ‘would’ and ‘will,’ it’s important to know when to use each word.

An ‘if’ clause is a clause that begins with the word ‘if.’ These clauses (along with when-clauses) usually don’t contain the word ‘will.’ However, there’s an exception to the rule. When the action in the clause (whether it’s an if-clause or a when-clause) takes place after that main clause, it’s okay to use.

Learn the Difference Between Will and Would in English 

As we’ve discussed, it’s important to know the difference between the words ‘would’ and ‘will.’ While they might be similar, they have slightly different usages in the English language.

Before we get into that, let’s quickly define both words.

Definition and Meaning of ‘Would’

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘would’ is “past tense of will,” “used in auxiliary function to express plan or intention,” “should,” “used in auxiliary function to express consent or choice,” “used in auxiliary function to express a request with which voluntary compliance is expected,” “used in auxiliary function with rather or sooner to express a preference,” and “used in auxiliary function in the conclusion of a conditional sentence to express a contingency or possibility.”

It’s also defined as: “used in auxiliary function in a noun clause (such as one completing a statement of desire, request, or advice),” “used in auxiliary function to express custom or habitual action,” “could,” “used in auxiliary function to express doubt or uncertainty,” “used in auxiliary function to express a wish, desire, or intent,” “used in auxiliary function to express willingness or preference,” and “strongly desire: wish.”

Definition and Meaning of ‘Will’

 The Merriam-Webster definition of the word ‘will’ is: “used to express futurity,” “used to express desire, choice, willingness, consent, or in negative constructions refusal,” “used to express a command, exhortation, or injunction,” “used to express frequent, customary, or habitual action or natural tendency or disposition,” “and “used to express probability and often equivalent to the simple verb.”

It’s also defined as: “used to express inevitability,” “used to express determination, insistence, persistence, or willfulness,” and “used to express capability or sufficiency.”

As a noun, it’s defined as: “a legal declaration of a person’s wishes regarding the disposal of his or her property or estate after death,” “desire, wish: such as disposition, inclination, appetite, passion, choice, determination,” “the act, process, or experience of willing: volition,” “mental powers manifested as wishing, choosing, desiring, or intending,” “a disposition to act according to principles or ends,” “the collective desire of a group,” “the power or control over one’s own actions or emotions,” and “something desired.”

Other definitions include: “to cause or change by an act of will,” “intended, purpose,” “decree, ordain,” “to determine by an act of choice,” and “to dispose of by or as if by a will: bequeath,” and “to order or direct by a will.”

Using ‘Would’ in a Sentence 

Now that we’ve defined both words let’s see how we’d use ‘would’ correctly in a sentence.

Here are a few examples of how to use ‘would’ in a sentence.

  • Would you choose a prize already? You’ve been looking for a while.
  • What would you say is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
  • Would your mother like another piece of pie?
  • I don’t know if Peter would like a bike for his birthday; he’s more into science.

Using ‘Will’ in a Sentence

Now let’s take a look at a few examples of how to use ‘will’ in a sentence correctly.

  • Will you help Mrs. Stevens with her groceries?
  • I don’t know if Juniper will want to come over and play today.
  • Will you please try and be grateful for what we have?
  • The sun will come out tomorrow; it can’t rain forever.

Final Thoughts on ‘Would’ and ‘Will’  

To recap, we’ve learned the subtle differences in the way you’d use the words ‘would’ and ‘will.’

If you find yourself stuck, you can always come back here and refresh your memory. Bookmark the page if you need to.

We’ve got a whole library of content dedicated to explaining confusing words and phrases. So, don’t be afraid to come back and check it out.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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