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Think for thyself one good idea, but known to be thine own, is better than a thousand gleaned from fields by others sown.
Alexander Wilson
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would (Simple past of will.)

  1. Indicating in action or state that is conditional on another.
    We would be warmer if you hadn't opened the window!
    Bill said he would go if it didn't rain.
  2. Indicating futurity relative to a past time.
    We didn't know it yet, but those would be his last words.
    We sat on the bench, wondering if the bus would be late this time.
    The waiter said he would be right back.
  3. Indicating an action in the past that happened repeatedly or commonly.
    In the winters, we would sit by the hole on the frozen lake and fish for hours.
  4. Used to express a polite request.
    Would you please turn off the TV?
  5. To wish, to desire; often with implied first-person singular subject; see usage notes.
    Would that it were true.
    • 1843, G. H. Barlow, "Concluding Remarks of the Introductory Address Delivered at Guy's Hospital, at the Commencement of the Medical Session, 1843 44", in Thomas Wakley (editor), The Lancet for 1843-1844, Volume I, John Churchill (printer), page 242:
      I would, indeed, if it were possible, that you were each of you conversant with the whole world of natural science, finding yourself at home and at ease in every region; but I would that you were so in order to be chiefs in your own particular province.


  • 1974, United States, Congress, Committee on the Judiciary, House - Watergate Affair, 1972-1974, Statement of Information: Hearings Before the Committee on the Judiciary, page 133:
    [] the President said there would be no difficulty about raising the money and you say the only difference in the tape is that the President also added that but that would be wrong.

Usage notes

  • As an auxiliary verb, would is followed by the bare infinitive (without to):
    John said he would have fish for dinner.
  • Historically, would is the past tense of will, and this may still be seen in some of its uses.
  • Would is frequently contracted to 'd, especially after a pronoun (as in I'd, you'd, and so on).
  • Indicating a wish, would takes a clause in the past subjunctive (irrealis) mood; this clause may or not be introduced with that. A call to a deity or other higher power is sometimes interposed after would and before this clause, as in Would to God that [] ; see the citations page for examples.



Note: many languages express some meanings of would using a mood or tense rather than by a particular word.

Related terms

See also

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