If I was to be asked a question like: "What will the witches look like?", how will I respond to it would I say The witches would look like... or The witches will look like....

The example shows someone asking me how I will plan for something, so surely if your planning something you would be be doing it in the future (tense). However why does would sound right in my head?

  • "Would" in a phrase like "I would like" is used to soften the expression, as a matter of politeness. This has recently been discussed elsewhere on this site. In the case of what the witches will look like, if the question is posed using "will," properly the response will use "will" as well. "Would" might sound better to you because, in fact, there are no witches. What would witches look like [if there were witches]? They would look like ...
    – user66965
    Apr 18, 2016 at 19:25
  • "Would" is not a good choice. There is no modal remoteness meaning here, but simply a statement about a future event. "Will" is therefore the correct choice. Btw, English has no future tense, just various ways of talking about the future.
    – BillJ
    Apr 18, 2016 at 19:36
  • Understand that "like" in "what will the witches look like" is an entirely different word from "like" in "I would like". In the second case "like" is a verb, and I think it's a preposition in the first case. The two uses have significantly different meanings, and you cannot apply analysis of one use to the other.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 18, 2016 at 22:35

2 Answers 2


How 'would' you respond? You should use 'will'. The question asked about the predicted actual future (the one that you will experience). It did not ask about the future of some other (parallel or branching) universe in which something odd happens (or happened). In that case the question would have used 'would' (as I just did, in positing a universe where the question was altered).


The proper answer is The witches will look like.... because you don't usually use "would" in this case unless there's a conditional. For example, if the witches suddenly gained thirty pounds, they would look like....

Since the question you're responding to does not mention some kind of condition that would cause the witches to look a certain way on a specific occasion, the best word to use here is will. I should also mention that the question uses will, so it is best to respond using will. Perhaps, if the question was reworded to be What would the witches look like if they wore different clothes? then would is a better choice when answering here than will.

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