[modal verb] 1 — used to indicate what someone said or thought about what was going to happen or be done ▪ She said she would be leaving soon. [=she said, “I will be leaving soon”] ▪ She said (that) she would help me with my project. ▪ He thought (that) the drive would take about two hours. ▪ I had no idea where the path would lead me. ▪ They knew (that) I would enjoy the trip. ▪ I never thought that she would lie to me.2 — used to talk about a possible situation that has not happened or that you are imagining ▪ You would look good in a tuxedo. ▪ If I could leave work early, I would. ▪ It would be a shame to miss the party. ▪ What would you do if you won the lottery? ▪ You would be stupid to quit your job. = It would be stupid (of you) to quit your job. [=if you quit your job, you will be doing something stupid] ▪ Things would be different if I still had that job. ▪ If you lived closer, I would see you every day. ▪ If they were coming, they would be here by now.3 — used with have to talk about something that did not happen or was not done ▪ She would have won the race if she hadn't tripped. ▪ I would have stopped by your house had I known you were home. ▪ If you had told me that you were coming, I would have picked you up at the airport.4 — used to say what you think someone should do or to ask for someone's opinion about what to do ▪ If I were you, I would go to the hospital. [=I think that you should go to the hospital] ▪ I would take the train instead of driving into the city. ▪ I would turn back if I were you. ▪ What would you do in my situation?5 — used to say that you want to do or have something ▪ We would like to help [=we want to help] in any way we can. ▪ I'd like to help, but I'm too busy. ▪ She would like to attend college, but she can't afford it right now. ▪ I would rather have ice cream than cheesecake. = (more commonly) I'd rather have ice cream than cheesecake. ▪ I'd rather not go out this evening. [=I don't want to go out this evening] ▪ I would sooner die than be enslaved. ▪ I'd sooner starve than eat that disgusting food.6 — used to ask a polite question or to make a polite request, offer, invitation, etc. ▪ Would you please help us? ▪ Would you care for some tea? ▪ She asked if I would have dinner with her. ▪ Would you mind making a little less noise? = Please make a little less noise, would you? ▪ Would you come this way, please? [=please come this way] ▪ Would it be all right if we left a little early? ▪ I would like to see the wine list. ▪ Would you like to join me for dinner? ▪ Would anyone like more coffee?7 a — used to say that you are willing to do something ▪ I would be glad/delighted to help. = I'd be glad/delighted to help. ▪ I would do anything to protect my children.
b — used in negative statements to say that someone was not willing to do something ▪ He would not help us. = (more commonly) He wouldn't help us. [=he refused to help us]8 — used to express a wish ▪ I wish that he would call me more often. = I wish he'd call me more often.9 — used to express your opinion ▪ I would hate to have that job. ▪ I would love to be in her position.10 — used to talk about something that always or often happened in the past ▪ When my friend still lived here, we would eat lunch together every day. ▪ She would always take the nine o'clock bus. = She'd always take the nine o'clock bus.11 — used with so (that) to explain why something was done ▪ I packed the vase carefully so that it would survive the trip. ▪ We left early so we would be sure to arrive on time.12 — used to say what you think is probably true ▪ I would say that he looks to be around sixty. [=he looks like he might be sixty years old, but I'm not sure] ▪ I would think/hope that he was telling the truth, but I really don't know. ▪ “How long will it take?” “I would imagine it will take about an hour.”13 — used to say that something is possible or likely ▪ I think my swimming pool would [=could] hold 20,000 gallons of water.14 — used to express your displeasure with behavior that you think is typical of someone ▪ “He said that you were the one who made the mistake.” “He would say that, wouldn't he? What a jerk.”15 old-fashioned + literary — used to say that you wish something was true, had happened, etc. ▪ I would [=wish] I were young again. — usually + that ▪ I would [=wish] that he had lived. = Would that he had lived.
b — used in negative statements to say that someone was not willing to do something ▪ He would not help us. = (more commonly) He wouldn't help us. [=he refused to help us]
how would I/we know
— used to say that you do not know the answer to a question and are surprised that you were asked it ▪ “Where did they go?” “How would I know?”