The word "would" is a modal verb that is used as the past tense for "will." It’s also used for conditional sentences:

The sentences below describe a time that has long passed, a person has a lasting memory of the experience, whether the memory is good or bad:

  • When she was a little girl, she would walk to school every day.
  • Remmy would wake up early every morning in the summer and go to the beach.
  • As a boy, Juan would join his father who worked as a fisherman.

This word is also used when describing recent, past situations, usually with a negative:

  • My car wouldn’t start this morning.
  • No matter what, the kids wouldn’t leave the pool.
  • The alarm wouldn’t wake him up, so she threw cold water on his face.

In these sentences, there is some kind of condition that exists for something else to be true:

  • She would go to the class if she had time.
  • If they had better jobs, they would try to save some money.
  • Theodore would have become a doctor if he hadn’t left college. (This sentence uses a perfect modal verb.)
  • Had we known that cat was going to cause so many problems we wouldn’t have bought it.
  • What would you do if you were in his position?

You can also use "would" when identifying preferences and politely asking for things:

  • I would like some milk, please.
  • They’d like to leave early. (They’d = They would)
  • What would you like to do today?
  • The kids would prefer to stay inside and play video games.

Note: Don’t pronounce the "l" in would. The word "would" sounds exactly like "wood." It rhymes with the word "good."

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This page was first published on August 12, 2013. It was updated on August 28, 2016.