Would can be used to describe what people are willing to do. This can also be seen as including an unspoken condition.

Tony would lend you his car. (... if you asked him ...)

Only a real fan would pay that much for a ticket (Only if someone was a fan would they pay ...)

--Page 78 (Macmillan - Inside Out English Grammar in Context Advanced)

Is this particular usage of "would" normal to see or hear?

Can I think of "would" here as being the short version of "would like to"?

1 Answer 1


It is not an elliptical or shortened version of would like to. It is rather a different, older sense of will meaning be willing to.

The modal auxiliary verb will developed from an Old English lexical verb which meant approximately want, desire. Today the modal has three distinct senses:

  • futurive, signifying future time reference

    Tomorrow John will go to London.
    John said yesterday that he would finish the job when he finds time.

  • dynamic, signifying persistent action

    When I was a child I would often read for hours every day.
    If you will keep teasing her you must expect her to get angry. (In this use, where it means approximately "If you insist on teasing her", will is strongly stressed.)

  • volitive, signifying willingness

    If they would only listen they might learn something.
    If you will bring beer, I will bring chips.

The dynamic and volitive uses may include future reference.

  • Bottom line: like indicates desire, and would doesn't have that connotation.
    – jimsug
    May 30, 2014 at 14:08
  • 1
    I got it. I mixed "willingness" with "desire". My mistake! @jimsug
    – Kinzle B
    May 30, 2014 at 14:11
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    The would=desire sense was more common in Shakespeare's day - "I would you were set, so your affection would cease.". I like that passage because a couple of lines later he has "Speed" rubbishing "Valentine's" love letters by asking "Are they not lamely writ?" There's certainly nothing lame about Shakespeare's use of the vernacular! May 30, 2014 at 14:47

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