Unit 5.1

Past form of Will

Introduction

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

The past form of will is would. It is a type of modal auxiliary verb used to talk about past actions.

Form

Would is a modal verb that serves as the past form of will.

It has three forms: affirmative, negative and interrogative.

Affirmative

The structure of would in the affirmative form is:
Subject + would + main verb (base form)

Negative

The structure of would in the negative form is:
Subject + wouldn’t + main verb (base form)

Interrogative

The structure of would in the interrogative form is:
Would + subject + main verb (base form)

 

NOTE: It is better to use ‘used to‘ instead of ‘would‘ in questions about past repeated habits.

Example

  1. I knew that she would succeed in life. 
    He was late for work because his car wouldn’t start.
    Our mother wouldn’t let us go to the party.
  2. When he was in school, he would always forget to do his homework. 
    Would
    she sing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush when she was younger?

    When we were children, we would go camping every weekend with our family. 

Use

We use would as the past tense of will to:

  1. talk about willingness/unwillingness in the past;
  2. talk about repeated past actions and habits that do not happen anymore.

Summary

Would is the past form of the modal verb will and it is used to talk about past actions.

We find it in three forms: affirmative, negative and interrogative. The interrogative form is very unusual and is often substituted by ‘used to‘.

For example:

— Affirmative: “She would always send us postcards from her travels.” = it is a repeated past action that does not happen anymore.
— Negative: “My parents wouldn’t lend me the car, so I had to take the bus.” = it is an example of unwillingness in the past. 
Interrogative: Would she play tennis when she was young?” = better to replace it with “Did she use to play tennis when she was young?”

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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