Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to: navigation, search


Alternative forms[edit]




  1. As a past-tense form of will.
    1. (obsolete) Wished, desired (something). [9th-19th c.]
    2. (archaic) Wanted to ( + bare infinitive). [from 9th c.]
      • 1852, James Murdock, trans. Johann Lorenz Mosheim, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, II.7.iii:
        The Greeks, especially those who would be thought adepts in mystic theology, ran after fantastic allegories [...].
    3. Used to; was or were habitually accustomed to ( + bare infinitive); indicating an action in the past that happened repeatedly or commonly. [from 9th c.]
      • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 4, The Celebrity:
        No matter how early I came down, I would find him on the veranda, smoking cigarettes, or otherwise his man would be there with a message to say that his master would shortly join me if I would kindly wait.
      • 2009, "Soundtrack of my life", The Guardian, 15 Mar 09:
        When we were kids we would sit by the radio with a tape recorder on a Sunday, listening out for the chart songs we wanted to have.
    4. Used with bare infinitive to form the "anterior future", indicating a futurity relative to a past time. [from 9th c.]
      • 1867, Anthony Trollope, Last Chronicle of Barset, ch. 28:
        That her Lily should have been won and not worn, had been, and would be, a trouble to her for ever.
      • 2011 November 5, Phil Dawkes, “QPR 2-3 Man City”, BBC Sport:
        Toure would have the decisive say though, rising high to power a header past Kenny from Aleksandar Kolarov's cross.
    5. (archaic) Used with ellipsis of the infinitive verb, or postponement to a relative clause, in various senses. [from 9th c.]
      • 1724, Daniel Defoe, Roxana, Penguin p. 107:
        He sat as one astonish'd, a good-while, looking at me, without speaking a Word, till I came quite up to him, kneel'd on one Knee to him, and almost whether he would or no, kiss'd his Hand [...].
      • 1846, "A New Sentimental Journey", Blackwoods Magazine, vol. LX, no. 372:
        If I could fly, I would away to those realms of light and warmth – far, far away in the southern clime [...].
    6. Was determined to; loosely, could naturally have been expected to (given the tendencies of someone's character etc.). [from 18th c.]
      • 1835, Charles Dickens, Sketches by Boz, V:
        Then he took to breeding silk-worms, which he would bring in two or three times a day, in little paper boxes, to show the old lady [...].
      • 2009, "Is the era of free news over?", The Observer, 10 May 09:
        The free access model, the media magnate said last week, was "malfunctioning". Well he would, wouldn't he?
  2. As a modal verb, the subjunctive of will.
    1. Used to give a conditional or potential "softening" to the present; might, might wish. [from 9th c.]
      • 2008, Mark Cocker, "Country Diary", The Guardian, 3 Nov 08:
        It's a piece of old folklore for which I would love to find hard proof.
    2. Used as the auxiliary of the simple conditional modality (with a bare infinitive); indicating an action or state that is conditional on another. [from 9th c.]
      • 2010, The Guardian, 26 Feb 2010:
        Warnock admitted it would be the ideal scenario if he received a Carling Cup winners' medal as well as an England call-up [...].
    3. (chiefly archaic) Might wish ( + verb in past subjunctive); often used (with or without that) in the sense of "if only". [from 13th c.]
      • 1859, John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress,
        I presently wished, would that I had been in their clothes! would that I had been born Peter! would that I had been born John!
      • 1868, Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, ch. 23:
        I would she had retained her original haughtiness of disposition, or that I had a larger share of Front-de-Bœuf's thrice-tempered hardness of heart!
    4. Used to impart a sense of hesitancy or uncertainty to the present; might be inclined to. Now sometimes colloquially with ironic effect. [from 15th c.]
      • 2009, Nick Snow, The Rocket's Trail, p. 112:
        “Those trials are being run by the American army so surely you must have access to the documents?” “Well, yeah, you’d think.”
      • 2010, Terry Pratchett, "My case for a euthanasia tribunal", The Guardian, 2 Feb 2010:
        Departing on schedule with the help of a friendly doctor was quite usual. Does that still apply? It would seem so.
    5. Used interrogatively to express a polite request; are (you) willing to...? [from 15th c.]
      Would you pass the salt, please?
    6. (chiefly archaic) Might desire; wish (something). [from 15th c.]

Usage notes[edit]

  • As an auxiliary verb, would is followed by the bare infinitive (without to):
    John said he would have fish for dinner.
  • 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. Most commonly in modern usage, it is followed by the adverb rather, as in I would rather that he go now. A call to a deity or other higher power is sometimes interposed after would and before the subjunctive 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[edit]

See also[edit]