Lesson Transcript

Hi, everybody! My name is Alisha.
In this lesson, I'm going to talk about how to use "would for unreal situations" in the past and in the future. I'm going to talk about making statements and making some information questions.
Let's get started!
Okay, I want to begin by talking about using would for past situations.
So, for past and future situations, we use "would" to describe "unreal situations." So, "unreal" means something that did not happen, in this case, in the past. It's something that did not happen, but we want to talk about maybe something we think, in our case, we might have done if it were us in the past, or we might not have done. So, we maybe want to talk about changes to actions in the past. So, these are for situations that are not real, so they did not happen.
Let's look at the positive expression then.
So, when we make a positive statement using "would in the past," we're talking about a plan or an opinion or something similar about an unreal past situation. So, we make a statement with a pattern like this. We begin with [subject] "would have" and [the past participle form of the verb]. So, again, this is for the "past use of would."
So for example…
"I would have called you earlier."
Or "He would have given you more time," for example.
So this "have" plus past participle verb creates a past tense structure. So this part, this is a key difference between past and future uses of would. So here is how we make a positive statement. I'll show some examples in just a moment, some more examples.
First, let's look at how to make a negative statement here.
So a negative would express an alternate plan or opinion for an unreal past situation. So this means, for example, something happened. Maybe, for example, "I called someone." If I use the "negative form of would" to talk about that situation and I say "I would not have called that person," I'm giving an alternate plan. So this happened, I called someone, but when I'm talking about the situation later, I might want to say that it could have been a good idea to change that action, "I would not have called that person." So, we're talking about an alternate plan, something different, so some change to a past action. So, the change did not happen, so it's a unreal situation. It's not true, it's not real, but we want to describe maybe something we might have done differently in the past. So I'll show some examples in just a moment.
We make this by using, again, [the subject] followed by "would." To make it negative, we add "not." [Subject] "would not" and we use the same "have" plus [the past participle verb] , "would not have" [past participle verb].
So in my example just now, I said…
"I would not have called you"
Or, "He would not have come," for example.
When we're using the negative form, there's often some kind of other information, so we're talking about some, maybe, condition often with "if." So again, I'll show that in just a moment.
Finally, a simple pattern that you can use to make information questions for past-would situations is this; our Wh- question begins the questions, so "who," "what," "where," "when," "why," "how." So, our Wh-question begins followed by "would," [the subject] "have" again and [the past participle verb].
For example:
"What would you have done in that situation?"
Or "Where would he have gone?" for example.
So, we can build very basic "would questions" about the past with this kind of pattern.
Now, I want to look at a couple of pronunciation points that deal with these two sentence patterns.
First, when you're using this positive pattern, the pronunciation becomes something like this; subject plus this /d/ sound and /ve/ sound. So, what does this mean? Here the subject, the subject remains the same; "I" or "he" or "she" or "we," for example.
These D right here this D sound is the "would." So, we reduced the "would'' sound to /d/. So, this means "I'd," "he'd," "she'd," "we'd," "they'd." So it's the /d/ sound, a very quick /d/ sound.
Then, this V-E portion /ve/ sound comes from "have." So, "would have" becomes /dve/, in very past speech. "I'dve," "he'dve," "she‘dve," "they'dve," "we'dve," "you'dve," for example /dve/. So, this is one big point to listen for.
Another thing that will tell you if this is a past situation, a past statement is the type of verb that's used here. So if you're listening to this verb as well, you can hear, if the person uses a past participle verb in connection with this kind of pronunciation, you know that it's a "past would statement," not, for example, a "future would statement." So, there are a few hints to listen for here. "Would'dve" so there's this /dve/ sound and then there's this past participle verb sound. So, this is when you're making a situation… this is when it's connecting directly to a subject like "I'dve," "he'dve," "she'dve." So, when you're making a… this for a positive statement as well.
When you're making a negative; however, it becomes something like this. I've written here "wouldna." So, I don't have the subject here, but we would include the subject here again. So, "I wouldna," "he wouldna," "she wouldna." So we can imagine the subject remains here. I did not include it in this section because the pronunciation of the subject part doesn't really connect so much as it does with the positive.
In positive sentence structures, the subject, would, and have closely connect. In the negative structures, this connection is not quite as strong. So I "wouldna" perhaps, there's a little bit of a connection, but not as strong.
I want to focus instead here on this "na" part. So "would," we can see, remains the same, so for the negative sentence, would remains the same, [subject] "would." But here, this N is the "not" part. This is the "not" part, "wouldn." So, for example, maybe you know "wouldn't" which I'll talk about later. So this N sound is "not" part.
This A sound is the "have" part, "I wouldna.."
"I wouldna done that."
"She wouldna come."
"We wouldna called," for example.
So, this part right here, actually means "not have."
"I wouldna…"
"She wouldna…"
"They wouldna…"
"We wouldna…"
So this is another key difference between the negative form and the positive form in your pronunciation, so you can hear it's quite different. This is one thing to practice, of course, and to listen carefully for.
So, with this in mind, let's look at a few example sentences.
First, a positive sentence.
"I would have come, but I had to work."
So here, I could reduce this. I've made this a very clear sentence, "I would have come…" So, "I'dve come" would probably be the way a native speaker would pronounce this, just as I've introduced here. My subject is "I." I reduced would to /d/ and I make the /ve/ sound for "have." So, I would have come becomes "I'dve come, but I had to work." "I'dve come…" is how it sounds.
Let's look at another example with a different subject.
"He would have helped, but he was cooking."
Again, my subject, "he" connects to the "would" word which is reduced to /d/ and "have" becomes /ve/.
So, "He'dve helped, but he was cooking."
It's how a native speaker would say this.
So what do these sentences mean?
"I would have come but I had to work."
So, in this case, maybe come to an event for example.
"I would have come, but I had to work."
So, that means a past situation, maybe I wanted to come to the party or I wanted to come to the event, but I had to work."
So this communicates maybe the speaker had a desire or had a plan, a plan of some kind to do something in the past, but it did not happen. In this case, the reason is the speaker had to work.
"I would have come, but I had to work."
So we use "would" to express that.
You could say…
"I wanted to come, but I had to work."
That would communicate pretty much the same idea.
In this sentence…
"He would have helped, but he was cooking."
So, for example, maybe, would have helped cleaning, maybe, cleaning a house, but he was cooking. So again, in the past, "he" in this situation, maybe could have, it was possible or maybe he wanted to help, but he was cooking. There was some other responsibility. So, these are common patterns like we want to express a past action we might have changed, but that we were not able to do because of some other reason.
Let's continue on to a couple of negative examples now.
First, "She wouldn't have left early if she had known you needed help."
So here, we have our subject, "she," which I talked about here and then I have here "wouldn't," so I reduced "would not" together. You might see this as well, "wouldn't." This is "would" and "not." "Wouldn't have…" to make it even more natural, we would say, "she wouldna."
"She wouldna left early if she had known you needed help."
So in this case, she, in this situation, left early. She did leave early, that was the situation, the true situation. But the speaker in this case wants to explain that she, this person would not have, she would have changed this action if she had known this other person needed help. So perhaps, this a communication-related issue. So she, maybe would have stayed so that was the change in the action. She perhaps might have stayed if the "she" here knew this third party needed some help. So "wouldn't have," this means this person did leave, she did leave. So again, this is an unreal situation.
So, let's continue on to see another example of this then.
"We wouldn't have called the police if we hadn't thought the situation was dangerous."
Again, "we wouldn't" or "wouldna."
"We wouldn't have called the police if we hadn't thought the situation was dangerous."
Here, "we wouldn't have called the police." This means the speaker did call the police, the speaker did call the police. So we wouldn't have called the police means it's, or rather, it's attached here because the speaker is saying they thought the situation was dangerous. So "we would not have called the police," so in other words, we might not have or that would not have been our plan if we haven't thought the situation was dangerous. This is a past tense part too. This part is all in the past tense. So that means the speaker felt some past situation was dangerous and they're saying that's why we called the police. If we had not thought that situation was dangerous, we would not have called the police.
So this is kind of, it may seem to be a sort of confusing way to communicate this idea, but you may hear patterns like this from time to time to reinforce maybe someone's plan or someone's actions.
Okay, so, let's continue, with this mind then, let's continue on looking at how to use it for future unreal situations. When we use "would" for a future unreal situation, we're expressing like a potential, so it's something that could happen, there's a possibility, a potential action for an unreal situation in the future. So, a potential action or this can mean potentially no action. So, I'll explain with some examples here. Another point about this usage, we often or usually, I have here, use this in response to an "if" question, so if you were, if he were, for example, or we pair it with an "if" clause.
So, we saw this actually in this negative example sentences here. This is quite common when we're using it to talk about future unreal situations. So first, let's look at how to make this.
To make a positive statement, we use [subject] plus "would" plus [the present tense form of the verb]. So here, we see a key difference. When we're using the future form, we're not using "have." In the past, we use "have" and the past participle form of the verb. Here, we're using no "have," there's nothing here and the present tense form of the verb. When we make a negative sentence then, it's the same. We drop "have" and we're using the present tense, so there's no change to the verb here. In the negative form, we simply add "not."
Then, when we're making questions, we follow a similar pattern. We use our Wh-question; who, what, where, when, why, how, plus "would" plus our [subject] and again [a present tense verb]. So, as we did over here with the past form, let's look at the pronunciation points here. This is a little bit simpler.
When we use a positive statement, we can use [the subject] plus this "‘d" so "I'd," "he'd," "she'd," "we'd." When we use the negative form, we use wouldn't; "I wouldn't," "he wouldn't," "she wouldn't." So there are only these two to consider.
Let's see how we would use this to make us some questions and answers. I included a couple of example questions that are fairly common patterns I think, so you can see how to make some common questions with would.
For example:
"What would you do if you won the lottery?"
The lottery is a cash, a money prize, so you buy a ticket and there's a chance you win a big cash prize. That's called a lottery.
"What would you do" so here, we see, "if you won the lottery?" Here, we have this "if" part. So, this is a future unreal situation. It's possible, there's maybe a low chance of it happening, but we're talking about your future actions or maybe your future plans or opinions here.
So, "What would you do if you won the lottery?"
The speaker's response in this case…
"I would buy my parents a house."
So, you'll notice here, I'm not saying, "If I won the lottery, I would buy my parents a house." It's okay to say that, but it's also okay to drop it. When we understand the question, we don't have to repeat the question. You can if you want to practice, but a native speaker would respond like this and a native speaker would probably reduce this to "I'd."
"I'd buy my parents a house."
So, "I'd" shows it's a future unreal decision, a future unreal situation.
Another person, you might say…
"He would take a long vacation."
So if he won the lottery he would take a long vacation. So this is the speaker's idea about someone else's future plan, future unreal plan. So, we don't know that it's going to happen, it's kind of an idea or a guess about someone's choice.
Let's look at another question.
"What would you do if you lost your job?"
So you can see, there's this common, "what would you do if," "what would you do if," type patterns. And then here, we have the unreal situation in the future.
This is, sorry, these answers rather, these answers use the negative form though.
"What would you do if you lost your job?"
The speaker says…
"I wouldn't spend a lot of money."
So the speaker is saying, if I lose my job in the future, it's not a real situation, if it happened, my… my future action would be to not spend a lot of money. I would not spend a lot of money in that situation which is unreal right now. But if it happened, that's what I would do. We use "would" to talk about that possible situation.
Another example…
"She wouldn't be happy."
So if she lost her job, she wouldn't be happy. So that's talking about her condition actually. So we don't only have to describe, like our behaviors, our actions. We can also talk about our conditions, our emotional or our mental states.
"She wouldn't be happy."
She would be upset, for example.
So we can use something like this to respond to these "if" questions. "If" and "would" are commonly paired together.
So, this is a quick introduction to actually a kind of complex grammar point, but I hope that it helps you understand how to use "would for past and future unreal situations." If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to let us know in the comment section of this video. Thanks very much for watching this lesson and I will see you again soon. Bye-bye!


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Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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Thursday at 06:58 PM
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Hello Lu,

You are very welcome. 😇

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

Good luck with your language studies.

Kind regards,


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Friday at 06:48 PM
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Hello teacher,

I really enjoyed this video.

Thanks a million.

EnglishClass101.com Verified
Thursday at 01:16 PM
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Hello Mukti,

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I believe everyone would do something different if they won the lottery, there's no correct answer.

Feel free to shoot through any questions you have throughout your studies.



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Mukti Prakash Datta
Monday at 08:29 AM
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What would you do if you won the lottery ? I would buy my parents a house .

Not clear the answer, could you please explain .


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Wednesday at 01:56 PM
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Hello @MJVilla, @Farol, @Tomoyuki, @Sorm, @Rosamie, @Afifah and @Eddie,

Wow!! 👋 Thank you all for joining us from all over the world! What a pleasure!!

We have so many lessons and a lot of support for you here during your studies and are constantly updating the lessons on our site so please stay tuned! 👍

@Tomoyuki - 'if' and 'would' can be used in very different ways so no, they are not interchangeable.

@Sorm - 'was' is a past tense word while 'would' is a future/present tense word. The speaker is assuming the girl 'wouldn't' be happy in the future.

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Thursday at 11:31 PM
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Hi Alisha!!

You are so clear when you explain us.

Thanks a lot!

Thursday at 12:47 PM
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Thanks teacher for this class

Thursday at 01:24 AM
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I’m Tomoyuki

Thank you for a good lesson!

When we use “if”, is it better to always use “would”?

Sorm Chan Thoeurn
Wednesday at 01:44 PM
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I saw the sentence

What would you do if you lost your job?

I wouldn’t spend a lot of money

She wouldn’t be happy

I am suspect and answer this sentence

She wouldn’t be happy

What is different for this answer

She wasn’t be happy

Wednesday at 12:11 AM
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Good evening!

Thank you so much! all the videos are easy to learn and understand. The Reason why i am really interested to subscribe.

May i know, if it is possible to pay by monthly? not annually?

Hoping your positive response about this matter.

Thank you.