Ten different meanings of 'would' in English

English learners often think that 'would' is just the past of 'will', but that isn't so. There are many different meanings of would in English...


In the last video we looked at the modal verb 'will' and how flexible and how useful that word is. How we can use it in many different contexts. In this video, we're going to look at the modal verb 'would'. Now many people think that 'would' is just the past of 'will', but as with 'will', 'would' can be used in many different situations, many different contexts. It's very useful, very flexible, and so in this video, I'm going to give you some example sentences. We're going to look at ten different examples to see how we use 'would' in English.

So here's the first example..."Why wouldn't you help me yesterday?" In this case, this is volition; this is willingness in the past. Something you didn't want to do in the past. "I would play football every day when I was a child". This refers to a past habit or a repeated action in the past. The meaning is the same as 'used to'. "I used to play football". But we only use 'would' when we're describing a past repeated action, not for a state. So we could say: "I used to be shorter", but we can't say "I would be shorter". That wouldn't express the same thing. So, "I would play football every day when I was a child". "His girlfriend left him. That would be why he was crying". This expresses high probability. Something we think is true. "Why would anyone want to live in such a horrible place?" 'Would' in this example is expressing reason. "I wouldn't do that if I were you". In this example, 'would' is part of a second conditional sentence. The condition is "if I were you", but I'm not, "I wouldn't do that". This is a very common sentence, expression, that's used to give advice to someone. "Would you like a drink?" This is used for an invitation. "I thought it would rain today". This is used for a past prediction. This is what I thought was going to happen at some point in the past. "I would like a cup of tea please". This is used for a polite request. "You said you would always love me!" 'Would' here is being used for a past intention. Something that you expected to do or you intended to do at some point in the future. "I told you ages ago I would be on holiday all week!" This is expressing the future in the past. So we're expressing the future from a point in the past.

OK, let's practise some of those examples. I'm going to give you some example sentences using 'would' and I want you to try to guess...What is the use of 'would' in each of these different contexts? If you need more time to think about your answer, then just pause the video after each example.

So next time you hear or read 'would' think to yourself: What does it mean in this context? The context is so important to understanding words in English. If you can't remember all these different examples of 'would' and all these different uses of 'would' then go back and watch the video again. It's always easier the second time. Like the video, share it with your friends, subscribe to my YouTube channel and go to anglopod.com to take a course with me to improve every aspect of your English. Good luck, keep practising and I'll see you soon.