Last night at the pub one of the guys kept saying “Oh I think I would take the bus home after a drink.” I didn’t know him so I couldn’t correct him and just when I thought the worst was over, another guy said, “If Jason knew about your bachelor party tonight, he will definitely come.” I bit my tongue, you know, at how people randomly confuse “Will” and “Would” and think nothing about it.
Before we begin, let’s talk about Auxiliary Verbs. These are verbs that change the meaning of the main verb to give it one or more of the following functions: passive voice, progressive aspect, perfect aspect, modality, or emphasis. Let’s now jump to modality. That allows speakers to evaluate a proposition relative to other propositions. Or in simpler words, modal verbs do not have meaning on their own but help to give meaning to other verbs. Will and Would are both auxiliary verbs that express modality.
Will is a definite statement and is used when a future prediction is certainly going to occur. For example, “I will finish editing the document in an hour.” When you say that, you are certain the the editing is going to be done in an hour, so in a way, you are committing to that statement. Will, as a modal verb, can also be used for
Instant decisions (I will note that down right now),
Promises (I will pick you up),
Offers (I will help you with the dishes),
Likely forecasts (I think it will rain soon)
A plan for the future (I will visit you sometime soon).
A future event (The buzzer will sound in three minutes)
Will is also a fist conditional. That means it can be used for cause and effect in situations that cannot change. For example, “If you don’t turn the heat down, you will burn the vegetables.” “If you plan on walking, you will need the hiking boots.”
Would as a modal verb has multiple uses too. It can be mean
Invitations (Would you join me for lunch?),
Asking permission (Would I do the stirring while you chop?)
Requesting (Would you be able to pick Lily from school?),
Talking about preferences (I would rather have the beef roast than the pork chops),
Making arrangements (Would it be inconvenient if I came by around 9?)
Habits in the past (I would have a cup of coffee every day at nine)
A past event (Why would he do that?)
Would is also used in second and third conditionals. These typically mean imaginary or unlikely situations, so examples would be:
If I knew where you lived, I would come and visit you. – Second conditional
If I had known you were going to wait, I would have sent the parcel earlier. – Third Conditional
Now depending on your usage and sentence structure, will and would can be interchanged sometimes. For example:
Call me a cab, will you?
Would you please call me a cab?
I’ll carry the bag for you.
Would you want me to carry the bag for you?
So there, I would have told you most of the ways you can use will and would, but I am sure there’s a lot more I couldn’t think of now. Will you let me know if I have missed any?