Unit 5.1

Would: Modals of Ability

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A modal verb is a type of auxiliary (helping) verb that has no meaning on its own but it modifies the main verb, changes its meaning and gives more details about the action.

The verb would is a modal verb used to express willingness in the past, polite request, preferences/desires, offers and invitations.


The modal verb would is used as an auxiliary verb and has three forms:


Its structure, in the affirmative form, is:
Subject + would + verb + …

  • The short form affirmative of would is ‘d.
Subject would Verb
I would work
You would work
He would work
She would work
It would work
We would work
You would work
They would work


Its structure, in the negative form, is:
Subject + would + not + verb + …

  • Short form of the negative form is wouldn’t.
Subject would + not Verb
I would not work
You would not work
He would not work
She would not work
It would not work
We would not work
You would not work
They would not work


Its structure, in the interrogative form, is:
Would + subject + verb + …?

Would Subject Verb Question Mark
Would I work ?
Would you work ?
Would he work ?
Would she work ?
Would it work ?
Would we work ?
Would you work ?
Would they work ?


  1. Willingness in the past
    • She would play the piano
    • She wouldn’t play the piano.
    • Would she play the piano?
  2. Polite request
    • Would you open the window, please?
  3. Preferences/ desires
    • I would like to have some coffee.
  4. Offers and invitations
    • Would you come to my party?


We use would to express:

  1. Willingness in the past: to be able to do something in the past;
  2. Polite requests: to make polite requests;
  3. Preferences/desires: to talk about preferences or desires;
  4. Offers and invitations: to make an offer or to invite someone.


The modal verb would expresses willingness in the past, polite request, preferences/desires, offers and invitations.

The structures are:

  • Affirmative: Subject + would + verb + …
  • Negative: Subject + would + not + verb + …
  • Interrogative: Would + subject + verb + …?

For example:
— Affirmative: “She would play the piano.”
— Negative: “She wouldn’t play the piano.”
— Interrogative: “Would she play the piano?

NOTE: The form is always the same, even for the third person singular.

Let’s revise this content within the {Form} section. Take a look at the {Example} section that shows its use within a context.

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