Modal auxiliaries are helping verbs that connect with normal/ordinary verbs to express a meaning, ask a question or negate. Modal auxiliaries are never used with the main auxiliaries; be, have and do, and do not make sense on their own, therefore, they must be connected with a normal verb in order to make sense. Modal verbs also never change form (they cannot be conjugated). Dictionary definition according to Merriam Webster: ”an auxiliary verb (such as can, must, might, may) that is characteristically used with a verb of predication and expresses a modal modification and that in English differs formally from other verbs in lacking -s and -ing forms”.
We mainly use ‘would’ for conditional use. In English, there are four: zero, first, second and third conditional. Only the conditionals two and three require the usage of ‘would’ but we will outline all four conditionals nevertheless.
(1) Zero conditional: used to present facts or real situations in the present. ( if + present simple, …present simple);
- If I light a match, it burns.
- If you boil water, it reaches 100 degrees Celsius.
- If you attack animals they get angry.
(2) First conditional: used to present facts or real situations in the future ( if + present simple + will + infinitive);
- If you go to school, I’ll buy you a present.
- If you eat too many calories, you’ll get fat.
- If he comes early, we’ll be happy.
(3) Second conditional: used for hypothetical or imaginary situations in the past or future ( if + past simple + would + infinitive);
- If you lived closer to home you’d be able to commute faster to work. (‘d = contracted form of ‘would’.
- If only she knew about the living circumstances, she wouldn’t be living there today.
- If Harry took the daily commute to London at 5.00 am he would arrive much earlier.
(4) Third conditional: Used for absolute hypothetical or imaginary circumstances in the future, present or past (if + past perfect + would + have + past participle);
- If we had lived in New York we would have met so many interesting people.
- If only I had been born in the first century I would have lived throughout some of the Roman Empire.
- If I had won the lottery I would have given you at least half of my winnings.