English Grammar Guide

Conditional use of 'Would'

Formation of the conditional

The conditional is formed using the modal 'would' in front of an infinitive (without 'to'). The conditional is used in three main contexts:

1) Polite requests / questions

  • We would like the menu, please.

  • Would you mind opening the door, please?

2) To talk about what was the 'future in the past':

  • She said she would come to the party.

  • I thought he would arrive before me.

3) To talk about hypothetical situations, using 'if'
When 'if' is followed by a past simple verb, the conditional form follows in the second clause (or the opposite).

  • If I wasn't so busy, I would do my homework.  >  I would do my homework if I wasn't so busy.

  • If you worked harder, you would get promoted.   >  You would be promoted if you worked harder.

The 'if' in hypothetical expressions can be implicit:

  • In your position (= if I were you), I wouldn't have stayed.