would

  • Forms
    Would is a ‘modal auxiliary verb’ (see 202). There is no -s in the third person singular; questions and negatives are made without do; after would, we use the infinitive without to.
  • Meaning
    We use would as a past form of will, or as a less definite, ‘softer’ form of will. Compare:
      I’ll be here at ten tomorrow.
      I said I would be there at ten the next day.
      She will talk to herself for hours, (present habit)
      She would talk to herself for hours, (past habit)
      He won’t do his homework, (present refusal)
      He wouldn’t do his homework, (past refusal)
      Will you open the window, please? (firm request)
      Would you open the window, please? (‘softer’ request)
      Would is the auxiliary verb for the ‘conditional’ of other verbs (see 88).
      I would tell you if I knew.