Pet Peeves #1: The Usage of “Would” In Indian English

Once a student of English Literature, I tend to be a bit of a stickler for correct usage of grammar. As a language teacher, I have learnt to turn a blind eye to some common mistakes my students make. But there are some things that bother me too much to be shoved to the back shelf – in French (I am a French teacher) and in English.

One of these many things is the rampant usage of would in Indian English. Every one from the humble clerk with warped notions of the Queen’s language, to the highly qualified and well-read entrepreneur seems to prefer “would,” much to the detriment of “will.” 

This often gets translated into French and becomes even more unpalatable, making me want to scream in frustration – and I’m normally a very patient teacher. But coming back to the usage of would in Indian English, here are some examples I’ve picked up from formal communication – emails I’ve received from colleagues and associates, and from people trying to sell me a service.

“I would be available all day tomorrow.”

“XYZ would be closed tomorrow.”

“We would be processing your request tomorrow.”

9 out of 10 times, the usage of would is incorrect and I have to suppress the urge to reply and ask “You would, but won’t because you could, but can’t?”

So what is the difference between would and will?

They are not, I repeat NOT synonyms. Sure, they are both forms of the verb ‘to be’ but that’s where the similarity ends.

WOULD is the past tense of the verb ‘to be’, used to talk about the past or in a hypothetical sentence.

Ex. It looked like it would rain, but finally it didn’t.
Ex. If I had known that the weather was so bad in Bangalore, I would have carried warmer clothes.

It is also used as an indicator of politeness.

Ex. Would you like a muffin to go with your cup of tea? / Would you mind helping me with the glasses?

WILL, on the other hand, indicates the future.

Ex. I will be available all day tomorrow. I will be in my office, so would you like to come over for a tête-à-tête ?

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