would vs will

Hello and good morning!
The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday that budget austerity programs, like those underway in Europe, would dampen economic growth more than usual in the short term.
I want to hear your opinion about the use of “would” in the sentence above. Do you think that “would” here is a past form of “will” or it is actually “would” by itself?

It’s would be itself, rather than being the past tense or past participle of will.

They actually mean will, but using would is less forceful , less blunt. Since the 17th century, they’ve promoted usage rules that say for future tense, you use shall/should for first person, and will//would for second or third person, but nobody follows the rule. They almost always use will/would, except where there’s some morality attached. (You should wear longer dresses, Sissy!) From my reading, I believe many people go decades between using the word “shall”, although the word is familiar to them.

Thanks, Steve!

***** NOT A TEACHER *****


Since you asked members to express their opinions, here is mine.

Yes, I believe that “would” is simply the past tense of “will” in that sentence.

On Thursday, the IMF probably held a press conference or issued a written statement. Let’s say it was a press conference. If it was, then the spokesman may have said:" Austerity programs WILL damage economic growth in the short term."

The next day, your newspaper reported an INdirect statement:

The IMF SAID on Thursday that the austerity programs WOULD …


Hi Screen,

You can’t really describe ‘would’ as the past of ‘will’. They are both modal verbs. In other words they express modality or the way something is done or performed and they attach themselves to verbs to show this way of doing something. We say: I will go there the day after tomorrow, and this indicates what I intend to do. We say: I would go there the day after tomorrow, and this indicates not a determination, an intention or a wish but more a probability because there is a possibility that something is going to stop me doing that.

In your sentence:

you are repeating what somebody else said and so the idea of ‘will’ expressing intention is as it were secondhand and isn’t so strong because you are not the IMF and can’t speak for them…


I beg to differ, Alan, and I think James gave an appropriate example of when ‘would’ might very well be described as the past form of ‘will’.

macmillandictionary.com/dict … rican/will

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary is also willing to refer to ‘would’ as the ‘past of will’:

Even the Oxford Dictionary has gone so far as to refer to ‘would’ as the ‘past of will’ (see definition 1):
oxforddictionaries.com/definitio … ld?view=uk

So, yes, ‘will’ and ‘would’ are both modal verbs, and I think it’s fair to say that in the majority of cases they refer to the future. However some usages of ‘would’ do convey a sense of the past.

- When I was a child, my mother would read to me every night at bedtime.

[size=75]“If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man but deteriorate the cat.” ~ Mark Twain[/size]

Saying that ‘would’ is the past of ‘will’ is very confusing to learners and it actually doesn’t make much sense if any. “Will” an auxiliary verb that is used to form future tenses. How can the auxiliary verb ‘will’ have a past form?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, talks: Transportation announcement[YSaerTTEW443543]

Do you understand anything other than past in my last sentence, Torsten? That use of ‘would’ refers strictly to past time.

Well, I’m not sure how will developed ‘would’ as a past form. Have you looked into the etymology? We also have semi-modals that are past forms: used to and had to, for example.

Hi Torsten,

I ran out of time earlier to make my other point.

To be honest, I don’t see it as being any more confusing than explaining to learners that words such as ‘saw’ or ‘won’ suddenly have a future meaning in a Type 2 IF sentence.
After all, learners initially get it drilled into their heads that those are examples of past simple and refer to past time.

[i]- Mary won the lottery last week!

  • If I won a million dollars, I would buy a yacht.[/i]

The question is if anyone actually needs to know that ‘would’ is the past of ‘will’ to use those words correctly. How many native speakers are able to see a connection between ‘will’ and ‘would’ other than they usually go with another verb?[YSaerTTEW443543]

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Thank you, everyone, for your informative replies! I am trying to make a conclusion.

Hi Amy,

Your example

isn’t an example of ‘past simple’. It is the past subjunctive and that’s why I am not in favour of calling ‘would’ the past simple of ‘will’. I know it has this literary function of ‘used to’ in a sentence like: When she was a child, her mother would read her bedtime stories, but how can you justify ‘won’ as past simple to someone learning the language unless you make reference to indicative and subjunctive moods? ‘If I won’ didn’t happen in the past. It never happened. It is purely putative.


Alan, it is my policy to cover my mouth when coughing. I will no doubt do it in the future, and no doubt, I _____ do it in the past.
If would isn’t the past tense of will, what is?

It’s less filling; it tastes great. Just because your wife brings home te bacon doesn’t mean she can’t fry it up in a pan. Certs is a candy mint. Certs is a breath mint. It’s two, two, two mints in one. And “would” can moonlight in as past tense of will, as a modal verb (conditional), as a modal verb (intention), if it wants to; after all, it’s free, white, and 21…

Very amusing but my point I fear is either fried in the pan, overcome by the smell of mint or trapped in your hand as you cough!