I would like to know the difference between the following sentences bcz its very confusing to me.

1) A person may say:

Look at that bridge, it is so old that it would fall by next year.
Look at that bridge, it is so old that it will fall by next year.
Look at that bridge, it is so old that it may fall by next year.

I would like to know the sample context in which I can use them and why do we use would here as opposed to will if certain or may if not certain.

2) Who is at the door

That would be my friend John
That will be my friend John
That may be my friend John

The same confusion

  • Would doesn't work in your context (there's nothing "conditional" about the context within which something would happen). But will asserts a definite prediction about the future, whereas may simply asserts the possibility of the prediction coming true. Nov 7, 2018 at 16:04
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  • You have now changed the question. Had I not checked it, I would not have seen it. "That would be John" is in response to: Who would that be?
    – Lambie
    Nov 7, 2018 at 18:23
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    Hello I would like to know why is the would used in the following paragraph,if certain we could have used 'will' and if not' may' It is from the editorial section of a newspaper India's ease of doing business Harmonization of laws ,procedures and rates of taxes, will improve environment of compliance as all returns to be filled online ,input credits to be verified online reducing need to deal with different tax authorities .It would also discourage mere invoice shipping. I would be really grateful . Nov 8, 2018 at 4:21
  • @FumbleFingers linked qn doesn't have answers for this but a comment May 3, 2022 at 0:27

2 Answers 2


"Will fail" means it is going to happen. "May fail" means there is a possibility it will happen.

And would happen is not grammatical in your sentence.


Starting with the knock at the door, the sentence "That would be my friend John" is an answer to the (unasked but potentially asked)question "Who might that be?". If the unasked question to which the speaker thinks they are responding was "Who is that?", the speaker could say either "That is ...John" or "That will be ..John". The latter suggesting that the speaker was expecting John to call.

A native speaker could use any of these without exciting comment.

As to your bridge, none of the sentences sound like something a native speaker would say. The "by next year" is spurious precision without rhetorical effect.

One might say "Look at that old bridge! It might collapse any minute." In saying that, the speaker is not really suggesting that they believe the bridge will in fact collapse within a few minutes, but that they think it looks so precarious that collapse is a possibility.


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