Last week our teacher gave us an assignment to find a usage for the word "will" in a sentence about past.

He also told us that it doesn't have anything to do with would and it's rarely used.

  • 1
    he last updated his will last year
    – JMP
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 13:47
  • It's easy to use a noun - 'He no longer had the will to live and he succumbed' but I think your requirement is for a verb.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 13:48
  • 'Will' is not always used as a modal. 'Did you will for this to happen?' shows the will = wish = desire intransitive verb incarnation. There are other non-modal usages: 'Did she will (= leave) her estate to charity?' / 'Did the ancient rulers will (= decree) this?' Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 14:37

2 Answers 2


Your teacher gives you some interesting puzzles to solve!

Anyway, one of the functions of will is to express confidence or certainty about a situation. This situation can be in the past. So, if you come home after school and your mother says:

Someone phoned this morning, but I couldn't answer because I was in the shower.

You can reply:

Oh, that will have been my teacher. He said he tried to call you, but no luck.

You can use the will+perfect construction in a similar way in sentences such as:

You will have recently received a letter from the school about your son's behaviour in class.

You can impress your teacher by telling him or her that this use of will is called epistemic modality by The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (p188). It gives the example:

They will have made their decision last week.

  • This modality uses 'will' to predict what must have happened in the past.
    – AmI
    Commented Oct 8, 2017 at 18:23
  • +1 There's also the lexical verb will as in "I willed them to stop" etc Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 10:54

That's a crazy request by your teacher unless you use will as a noun: as in your/my "will". That's as in an intent or desire to do something, or a piece of paper that lets your lawyer know which kid you loved the least.

As a noun, use any of these:

  1. It was my will to (do something).
  2. Were it my will to do so, I would have (done something).
  3. In my will, I left my mistress everything.

I'm guessing your teaching wants a verb usage... So, you'd need an introductory clause*.

Example 1: "Yesterday, I told the flight attendant that I will smoke in the lavatory."

Example 2: "Two years ago, I told my teacher that I will finish my dissertation. And I have."

*An introductory clause provides background information for the main bit of a sentence. Here we put that information in the past.

Bottom line: "will" is for future tense, so an introductory clause is the only way to put it in the past.

Anyone know another way? I can't think of one.

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