Modal Verbs – Would

We use “would” to express:

  • a polite offering
  • a polite request
  • a desire
  • a conditional statement with “if”
  • a past habit or action
Would as a Polite Offering

When we use “would” as a polite offering we often include the word “like“.
Would is commonly used for invitations and when someone is being served.

Question: Would you like to come to our party?
 Sure, when is it?

Question: Would you like to come to our wedding?
 Your wedding! I didn’t know that you were getting married, but thanks I’ll be there.

Question: Christine, would you like to come to France with me to see the Eiffel Tower?
Answer: I’d love to go with you Raul, but what would my parents say? We’re not married!

Question: Would you like to dance ma’am?
Answer: Sure, I’d love to. Thanks for asking me.

Question: Would you like something before your meal sir?
Answer: Certainly, I’d like a Scotch on the rocks and my lovely wife would like to have a glass of red wine please.

Question: Would you like to try our house special this evening ma’am?
Answer: Well, I don’t know, what is your house special this evening?

Question: Mom, would you like more salad?
Answer: No thanks, I’m full.

We normally use “would” with the pronoun “you” when making a polite offering.
It’s possible to use “would” with the pronouns “he, she and they” but it isn’t common.

  • Perhaps they would like some champagne?
  • Would she like to meet our family?
  • Do you think he would like to go to the game with us?
  • Don’t you think they would like to go out for dinner with us?
  • Would she like to come to our house for Christmas dinner?
Would as a Polite Request

When we use “would” as a polite request we are making the request in a formal way and “would” is only used with the pronoun “you“.

Question: Would you pass the salt, please?
 Sure, there you go.

Question: Would you call Daniela into my office please?
 Certainly, Sir.

Question: Would you mind if I closed the door?
 No, not at all.

Question: Would you mind closing the door please?
 No, not at all.

Question: Would you mind if I turned up the music?
Answer: Sure, that would be great.

The expression “would you mind if I…?” is the same as saying, “would it bother you if…?” or “would it be a problem for you if…?” After “if” the second part of the clause is expressed with the verb in the simple past tense.

A) Would you mind if I borrowed your pen for a minute?
B) No, not at all.
(In the above example, person B is saying that there is no problem at all for person A to use the pen).

A) Would you mind if I closed the door?
B) Of course not, besides it’s cold in here.
(In this example, person B is going to complete the request of person A).

A) Would you mind turning off the television? I’m trying to read.
B) Yes, I would mind. I’m watching a very good movie!
(In the above example, person B does not want to complete the request because he / she is watching television).

A) Would you mind getting me a glass of water?
B) Yes, I would mind. I’m not your servant!
(In this last example, person B doesn’t want to complete the request, because he / she feels that the request is unreasonable).

Would you mind” plus the verb in “ing” is a polite request and the person being asked to complete the action will either refuse or accept to complete the action immediately. Notice the difference between “Would you mind if” followed by the pronoun and the verb in the simple past and “Would you mind” followed by the verb in the “ing” form.

  • Would you mind moving your car?
    (The person being asked knows that the request is directed to him / her).
  • Would you mind giving me your phone number?
    (It’s obvious to the listener that he / she is being asked for their number).
  • Would they mind staying overtime?
    (The person being asked knows who he / she is).
Would to Express a Desire

When we use “would” as a desire, we often include the word “wish“. In this situation we want something to happen or someone to do something because we want he situation to change.

  • I wish the sun would come out, I am tired of the rain.
  • I wish she would call me, I haven’t talked to her in over a week!
  • I wish I could win the lottery, I’m tired of selling newspapers in the streets.
  • You always snore, I wish you would get an operation so I could sleep in peace!
  • I wish the president would do something about the economy.

In the above examples the speaker is unhappy with a situation or with another person’s behavior or actions and the speaker wants the situation to change.

The negative form of using “wish” and “would” is made simply by putting “would” into the negative form is “wouldn’t“.

  • I wish you wouldn’t smoke, it’s a terrible habit.
  • I wish it wouldn’t rain so much, I love the sun.
  • I wish she wouldn’t work so much, I hardly get to see her.
  • I wish politicians wouldn’t lie so much, nobody knows who to trust.
  • I wish you wouldn’t call me at three in the morning, it’s very annoying.

It’s also possible to use the pronouns “he, she, they and we” when using “wish” and “would” but it is more common to use the pronoun “I” for this form.

  • He wishes they would stop calling him names.
  • She wishes he would send her flowers once in a while.
  • They wish their son would send them a letter more often.
  • We wish that they would stop bugging us all the time!
  • We wish the government would spend more money on health and education than on the military.
Would for the Conditional Tense

When using “would” in a conditional statement it is the same structure as “could“. They are both unreal situations that are very unlikely to happen or impossible to happen. The difference is that “could” is the possibility for something to happen if the condition is met and “would” is an intention if the condition is met.


Subject + Would + Verb in Simple Present + Complementizer + If + Subject + Verb in Simple Past Tense + Complementizer

But it is also possible the vice – versa structure.

If + Subject + Verb in Simple Past Tense + Complementizer + Subject + Would + Verb in Simple Present Tense + Complementizer

  • I would travel to the beach, if I had some money and time.
  • If
     I had some money and time, I would travel to the beach.
  • My father would fly jets, if he were a pilot.
  • If
     my father were a pilot, he would fly jets.

In the negative structure we use: “wouldn’t, didn’t and weren’t.

  • If I were you, I wouldn’t go to that party. It is going to be awful!
  • I wouldn’t go to that party if I were you, it is going to be awful!
  • If I were you, I wouldn’t do something like that.
  • I wouldn’t do something like that, if I were you.
  • I wouldn’t go out with her, if I were you. She is a pain in the neck!
  • If I were you, I wouldn’t go out with her. She is a pain in the neck!
  • If I weren’t so intelligent, I wouldn’t have won the Noble Peace Prize.
  • I wouldn’t have won the Noble Peace Prize, if I weren’t so intelligent.