Here is the sentence from the test

Without the Sun there _____________ no light, no heat, no energy of any kind.
a) will be
b) would be
c) will

The answer is obviously "b" because it is second conditional. However in another sentence

Oxygen is an element of greatest importance to the Earth as all living things __________ without it.
a) would die
b) will die
c) will be dying

the correct answer is "b" and not "a". I don't understand why, because both sentences are constructed similarly, even the "without" preposition appears in both of them.

  • 1
    Scenarios where the first question could take either will or would are certainly possible. This is harder with the second question though.
    – tchrist
    Sep 28, 2014 at 4:23

3 Answers 3


Multiple choice tests posted here are always very disheartening; the test-writers don't seem to have a great grasp of English grammar. The short answer is that you are right and the test is wrong.

The long answer is that both are acceptable, but that "would" is much more common.

"Would," as you said, introduces a hypothetical.

All animals would die without oxygen.

This sentence invites the listener to imagine a world without oxygen, and to conclude that in that world, all animals would die.

All animals will die without oxygen.

This sentence informs the listener that an animal that doesn't have access to oxygen will die. It can only be used if the prospect of animals being deprived of oxygen is realistic.

For example, if your mother informed you that she was going to leave the pet dog in the airtight elevator, you could protest

He will die without oxygen!

  • 6
    And indeed, if we're talking about the future 5 billion years from now, (a) is the correct choice for the first question as well. Sep 27, 2014 at 15:40
  • +1 So: invites then concludes "in that hypothetical conditions = imaginary world"--- informs of "possible conditions= realistic world".
    – learner
    Oct 26, 2014 at 5:55
  • In that case, to explain the more realistic condition we write going to rather than will. Like, They are going to throw a party next week is more certain than They will throw a party next week.. Now which one I will use? will, are going to or would?
    – Encipher
    Jan 14, 2020 at 23:32

We have given the simple answer of above question.

Would rule : Uncertainty condition. Will rule : certain condition.

  • I'd think of your saying of "uncertain" here as 50% and as such it's "possible" for me. So I would use the first conditional. But I like using the word "remote" for unlikely scenarios (conditions). That's below 50%. But I like your using of the word: "conditions". So there we use: likely/unlikely conditions - possible/remote conditions.
    – learner
    Oct 26, 2014 at 5:41

I don't think it's option a which is obvious but option b. Both the sentences are universal truth or facts. And you'll use simple future tense for both. "Would" would only apply if the sentence is like

If Earth were without water, there would be no life.

  • 1
    You mean if Earth were without water, there would be no life. Contrast that with saying that once earth is without water, there shall (inevitability, not just simple future) no more life. In general, hypotheticals require the special were in the protasis, at least in educated registers.
    – tchrist
    Sep 28, 2014 at 4:25

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