Would for Imaginary Situations

How to Use Would

There are many different uses of would, but on this page you'll learn to use would when talking about imaginary situations.

What is an imaginary situation?

An imaginary situation is something unreal, you just create it in your mind.

You think or dream about something or you wish it. For example, you don't have so much money but you think of a situation that you have a lot of money, you wish to have a lot of money and you think about the things you want to do with that money.

Let's say, you want to buy a car and go on a holiday with that money. You say: I would buy a car. I would go on a holiday. You just imagine a situation that you have a lot of money.

Let's talk about another example to explain the use of would:

Do you like watching movies? Well, I am not such a good watcher of movies, therefore I don’t usually recommend movies to my friends, but when I like a movie, I tell about this to my friends.
Have you watched the movie The Bucket List?

The Bucket List is a 2007 American comedy-drama movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. The movie is about two men who are terminally ill cancer patients. They share a hospital room together but then they decide to leave the room and do the things they have always wanted to do. They have a wish list- the bucket list. And they try to do the things on the list before they kick the bucket.

What are the things on their bucket list?

- Witness something majestic
- Drive a Mustang Shelby
- Skydiving 
- Get a tattoo
- Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world … and so on…

Now imagine the doctor told you that you have six months to live. What would you do? What would you write on your bucket list now? Me?

  •  I would dye my hair pink and blue.
  •  I would jump on a trampoline. – again.
  •  I would surprise someone… and so on. (Come on I can’t share all my list here.)

In these sentences I used would to talk about my imagination.

We use would for imaginary situations that are in the present or future. 
The situation is not real, it might or might not happen.

For example; I said: I would dye my hair pink and blue.

Is my hair pink and blue now? NO.
Do I want to dye my hair pink and blue? YES.
Do I imagine it? YES.
Will I dye my hair? MAYBE.

Let’s see more examples:

  • I would exercise more but I don’t have time for it.(I imagine a situation that I exercise  more.)
  • I would have dinner with you but I need to leave now.
  • I imagine being on top of a mountain now, I would meditate every night.
  • I live in the city, but in my dream house, I would be in the countryside and grow avocados in my garden.
  • She would choose this dress with red dots. (Your friend wants to get a dress for her girlfriend and asks you which one is a better idea.)
  • A: Imagine a garden covered with thick, green lawn and beautiful flowers. B: That would be amazing!

Would with Conditional Sentences

We use conditional sentences to talk about some conditions and their results.
There are three types of conditional sentences: Type 1, Type 2 and Type 3.
Here I want to talk about Type 2 conditionals.

There are two parts of a conditinal sentence: If clause and main clause.
In Type 2 conditional sentences, we talk about imaginary (unreal) situations in the present or future. 

We use would in the main clause part of the Type 2 conditional sentence.

We use if + past simple, would + infinitive.

For example:

  • If I had money, I would buy a new computer. (In reality, I cannot buy a new computer because I don’t have money.)

We use Type 2 conditional sentences to talk about imaginary situations. In spoken language, most of the time, we omit the if clause part of the sentence and just use the main clause with would.

Look at the examples again:

Let's say we imagine a situation that we have more time and we talk about it with a friend. We say:

If I had time, I would exercise more. 

When we talk to our friend, we can omit If I had time and only say, I would exercise more, because the person that we are talking to already knows or guesses this part of the sentence from what we previously talked. – most probably we were complaining to the person that we do not have time for anything, we dream of doing more exercises, etc.

We omit the first part of the sentence but the person that we are talking to still understands what we mean. 

Let's see more examples:

  • When we imagine being on top of a mountain and talk about it to a friend, we can say:

I would meditate every night. (Normally the sentence is like If I were on top of a mountain, I would meditate every night. But we omit 'If I were on top of a mountain' part of the sentence.)

  • When we imagine having only six months to live and talk about it to someone, we can say:

I would go to Iguazu Falls in Argentina. (We omit 'If I had only six months to live' part of the sentence.)

Now It’s your turn. Write down 3 things you would do if you had only six months to live. What’s on your bucket list?

How to Form Would

Would is a helping verb. In English we have helping verbs (auxiliary verbs) and main verbs.
When we use would in a sentence, we use it with a main verb. The main verb is in the infinitive form.

would + infinitive form of the verb

  • I would tell him the truth. (If I were you, I would tell him the truth.)

Positive Sentences (+)

To form positive sentences with would, we use would with the infinitive form of the verb.

would + infinitive

  • If I had time, I would travel to South Africa.
  • If he were rich, he would buy a BMW.
  • If we had enough space,we would put a dinner table in the middle of the living room.
  • If I had a chance, I would learn how to fly a helicopter.
  • If you helped me, I would finish my homework earlier.

Contractions (Short forms):

We usually use I’d as the short form instead of I would in a sentence.

Short form of would with different subject pronouns:

I would = I’d 
You would = you’d 
He would = he’d
She would = she’d
It would = it’d
We would = we’d
They would = they’d

Negative sentences (-)

To form negative sentences, we use not with would.

would + not + infinitive

  • If I were born again, I wouldn't worry about small things in life.
  • If I had more money, I wouldn't buy this phone.
  • If my mother knew the price, she wouldn't let me buy this dress.
  • If I had some cash with me, I wouldn't pay with credit card.

Questions (?)

To form questions, we use would at the beginning of the sentence.

Would + subject + infinitive?

  • Would you come to the movies with me?
  • If you had time, would you help me with the housework?
  • If you had another chance, would you apologise to her?

We also use would with the question words, what, who, where, when, etc. in questions.

  • What would you do in this situation?
  • What would you do if you had 3000 dollars?
  • Where would you live?
  • Who would you invite to your new house?
  • How would you spend your money?

Ready to Practice?

Click here to try an exercise about would for imaginary situations.

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