We use would (‘d) when we imagine a situation or action.
• It would be nice to have a holiday but we can’t afford it.
• I’m not going to bed yet. I’m not tired and I wouldn’t sleep.
We use would have (done) when we imagine situations or actions in the past.
• They helped me a lot. I don’t know what I would have done without their help.
• I didn’t go to bed. I wasn’t tired, so I wouldn’t have slept.
For would in sentences with if see “Conditionals”, lessons:
– “IF I DO… / IF I DID…”
– “IF I KNEW… / I WISH I KNEW”
– “IF I HAD KNOWN… / I WISH I HAD KNOWN”
Compare will (‘ll) and would (‘d).
• I‘ll stay a bit longer. I’ve got plenty of time.
• I‘d stay a bit longer but I really have to go now. (so I can’t stay longer)
Sometimes would/wouldn’t is the past of will/won’t.
Compare the following examples:
• TOM: I‘ll phone you on Sunday.
• ANN: I promise I won’t be late.
• LIZ: Damn! The car won’t start.
• Tom said he‘d phone me on Sunday.
• Ann promised that she wouldn’t be late.
• Liz was angry because the car wouldn’t start.
I WISH… WOULD…
Take a look at this example situation:
It is raining. Jill wants to go out, but not in the rain. She says: I wish it would stop raining.
This means that Jill is complaining about the rain and wants it to stop.
We use I wish… would… when we want something to happen or when we want somebody to do something. The speaker is not happy with the present situation.
• The phone has been ringing for five minutes. I wish somebody would answer it.
• I wish you would do something instead of just sitting and doing nothing.
You can use I wish… wouldn’t… to complain about things people do repeatedly.
• I wish you wouldn’t keep interrupting me.
We use I wish…would… for actions and changes, not situations.
• I wish Sarah would come. (= I want her to come)
BUT… I wish Sarah were (or was) here now.
(NOT ‘I wish Sarah would be…’)
• I wish somebody would buy me a car.
BUT… I wish I had a car.
(NOT ‘I wish I would have…’)
For ‘I wish… were/had (etc.)’ see “Conditionals” lessons “IF I KNEW… / I WISH I KNEW” and “IF I HAD KNOWN… / I WISH I HAD KNOWN”.
You can also use would when you talk about things that happened regularly in the past.
• When we were children, we lived by the sea. In summer, if the weather was fine, we would all get up early and go for a swim. (= we did this regularly)
• Whenever Arthur was angry, he would walk out of the room.
With this meaning, would is similar to used to.
• Whenever Arthur was angry, he used to walk out of the room.