Would – English Grammar in Use
We use this modal auxiliary when we imagine a situation or action (=we think of something that is not real):
It’d be nice to buy a new car, but we can’t afford it.
I’d love to live by the sea.
A: Shall I tell Chris what happened?
B: No, I wouldn’t say anything.
We use would have (done) when we imagine situations or actions in the past (=things that didn’t happen):
They helped us a lot. I don’t know what we’d have done.
I didn’t tell Sam what happened. He wouldn’t have been pleased.
I would call Lisa, but I don’t have her number. (now)
I would have called Lisa, but I didn’t have her number. (past)
I’m not going to invite them to the party. They wouldn’t come anyway.
I didn’t invite them to the party. They wouldn’t have come anyway.
We often use this modal auxiliary verb in sentences with if (see Units 38-40):
I would call Lisa if I had her number.
I would have called Lisa if l,d had her number.
Compare will (‘ll) and would (‘d):
I’ll stay a little longer. I’ve got plenty of time.
I’d stay a little longer, but I really have to go now. (so I can’t stay longer)
I’ll call Lisa. I have her number.
I’d call Lisa, but I don’t have her number. (so I can’t call her)
Sometimes this modal auxiliary is the past of will/won’t. Compare:
TOM: I’ll call you on Sunday. –> Tom said he’d call me on Sunday.
AMY: I promise I won’t be late. —> Amy promised that she wouldn’t be late.
0 Lisa: Damn! The car won’t start. —> Lisa was annoyed because her car wouldn’t start.
Somebody wouldn’t do something = he/she refused to do it:
I tried to warn him, but he wouldn’t Listen to me. (= he refused to listen)
The car wouldn’t start. (= it ~refused, to start)
You can also use would to talk about things that happened regularly in the past:
When we were children, we lived by the sea. In summer, if the weather was fine, we’d all get up early and go for a swim. (=we did this regularly)
Whenever Richard was angry, he’d walk out of the room.
With this meaning, would is similar to used to (see Unit 18):
Whenever Richard was angry, he used to walk out of the room.