I'm a little confused by "would" in this sentence. Speaker A is asking a question, the B's response uses "would". In this sentence, is "would" a past form of "will?"

A: What is the difference between these two sentences?

  • If I win this race, I will buy a big house.
  • If I won this race, I would buy a big house.

B: Both sentences could only be said before the race. As to the difference in meaning, my answer (like everyone else's, in this case) would be that in the first sentence the speaker speaks as though he believes that it is possible that he will win the race; in the second, he speaks as though he believes that he will not win the race.

  • The difference is that your first example with present tense "will" is an 'open' conditional, while the one with the modal preterite "won" is a remote conditional. A remote conditional is one where the condition is not fulfilled or presented as a relatively remote possibility. An open conditional is one which is neutral as to whether the condition is or will be met.
    – BillJ
    Aug 22, 2022 at 14:20
  • @BillJ The OP's question isn't about the open/remote conditional sentences, but the use of "would" in "My answer would be that..."
    – gotube
    Aug 22, 2022 at 15:03
  • Ah, yes. So it is!
    – BillJ
    Aug 22, 2022 at 15:35
  • Note that B's answer to the embedded question is wrong. "If I won this race..." could be stated during the race to express what the speaker, who might for example be just a spectator watching the race, would do in a hypothetical situation in which the speaker participated in and won the race.
    – cruthers
    Aug 23, 2022 at 18:42

2 Answers 2


Here, "My answer would be..." is a more polite form of "My answer is...". They mean exactly the same thing.

It's similar to the difference between these two:

Can you pass the salt?
Would you pas the salt?

where the second one means the same, but is more polite.


Yes, "would" is the preterite form of "will".

One possibility is that B's answer with "would be" is an implicit conditional interpreted as "If I was asked (or "if you're asking me") , my answer would be ...".

An alternative, and more likely, interpretation is that preterite "would" is being used in a less self-assured way to express a vague element of tentativeness or diffidence.

  • In English, is the use of a implicit conditional more polite than uses a direct way "is?"
    – Jembot
    Aug 22, 2022 at 23:52

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