So far I have learned that 会 is used in order to refer to the future, and thus it is somewhat similar to English "will", like in the sentence:


Will you come tomorrow?

But, I have also come across some examples, in which 会 acts as an auxiliary verb but doesn't necessarily refer to the future.

Examples are:

  1. 我最不喜欢的季节是冬天。因为冬天的时候,我总是会感冒.

My least favorite season is winter because I always have a cold.

(It sounds more like a habit to me, than a reference to the future)

  1. 每天出门的时候,大家会看到各种各样的颜色。

Every time we go outside, people can see all kinds of different colors.

  1. 我的家里有一只小猫. 每天它都给全家带来很多欢乐。它会在房间里跑.

  2. 他有时间的时候,会陪着我一起在阳台上晒太阳。

  3. 用微信聊天的时候,年轻人会用表情包.

And so many examples like these.

To me, the sentences mentioned above refer to habits and the present time, not the future. So what's the purpose of 会 in these sentences? If it doesn't refer to the future, then what is its purpose?

4 Answers 4


Instead of viewing 会 as a future time marker, we can take it as a modal marker for irrealis and strong possibility. (会 has other modal usages, but they’re irrelevant to your examples) Some linguists think cross-linguistically present vs future lies in the modal realm rather than time.

This way the uses of the future time and the habitual are consolidated. Cross-linguistically, the use of irrealis to indicate habitual is not uncommon, though a more common way is to use the present time, like in English.

I think “irrealis and strong probability” can be better understood in the following way. (If you're familiar with the mathematical concept of stochastic process, it remarkably fits the discussion of irrealis)


At present, the world is on a certain state. But in the future the word might fall in many possible states. This is the irrealis part. Among the many possible states, in most states the event will happen. This is the strong possibility part. 明天你会来吗?It asks in most of the states of tomorrow, the event of 你来 happens or not. It’s most but not all because even if I answer with 我会来, when tomorrow truely comes, i.e. when the state of tomorrow realizes, the event of I come is not guaranteed to happen.


Instead of focusing on the state realized, we look at all the possible states before realizing. This is the irrealis part.

因为冬天的时候,我总是会感冒. In this example, at the time of winter, there are many possible states of world. The adverb 总是 indicates always. So in all the possible states, the event of I get cold always happens.

他有时间的时候,会陪着我一起在阳台上晒太阳。At the time when he’s free, there are many possible states. In most of them he accompanies me to enojoy the sun at the balcony. Same as the future example, it doesn’t necessarily mean when he’s free he always does so. 会 do one thing does not preclude the possibility of 会 do other things.

Other given examples can be analyzed similarly.

The strong possibility is the default mode. With some helpers it can be overridden. We’ve already seen 总是会 sets it to certainty. In the future usage, 可能会 override it with a much lower possibility. In the habitual case, adverbs are more varied. We can roughly rank a few by possibility, i.e. the percentage of states where the said events happens, 每天都会=总是会>会>常常会>有时候会.


I agree with previous answers indicating 会 is a marker of irrealis, ie likelihood or possibility.

Please also note, however, that the word "will" in the English language isn't a future marker either; it's a marker of irrealis, just like 会. Eg:

"I will get shouted at every time I walk in"

"John will be stuck in traffic right now"

"our dog will bark at any stranger coming through the door"

In those examples, "will" does not mark future tense, but non-past irrealis, that is to say, strong possibility either in the present or in the future. To mark strong possibility in the past, we use "would" (because English, unlike Chinese, likes to differentiate between tenses).

As 会 is used for both "will" and "would", as well as "can", you will (=are very likely to!) encounter it more often and in a much wider range of contexts in Chinese than you will the word "will" in English.


Usage of 会:

1. acquired ability
2. subjective possibility (similar but not identical to "will")
3. be good at doing sth

In addition:

每天出门的时候,大家会看到各种各样的颜色。(✖) [sounds a little strange]
每天出门的时候,大家能看到各种各样的颜色。(✔) [objective possibility]

我的家里有一只小猫,每天它都给全家带来很多欢乐,它会在房间里跑。(✖) [sounds a little strange]
我的家里有一只小猫,每天它都给全家带来很多欢乐,它经常在房间里跑。(✔)  [经常 means frequently]

Thanks for reading, if there is a chance, you are welcome to China!


Though not as variegated in meaning as Chinese 会, will has 3 basic meanings:

  1. will: what you want or intend: "I will go to the ball" said Cinderella.
  2. will: can: used to express capability or sufficiency "Accidents will happen." The back seat will hold 3 passengers. "You will go to the ball Cindy" said the Fairy Godmother.
  3. will: must: You will go to prison for five years. (Probably not your intention, and although you can, you probably wouldn't, by your own volition, go to prison!)

I believe 1. 2. and 3. below use 会 to stop the sentence sounding like an imperative or a question.

Ostensibly, 1. 2. and 3. in English are so-called Present Tense, but it is almost impossible to use the so-called Present Tense to indicate right now, so it defaults to the future, except when it is used for the past.

I would not agree that any of these are subjunctive, they are indicative, plain facts. An "if", at least an implied "if" is necessary for a subjunctive, or a wish.

I found other sentences with similar constructions.

  1. 每天出门的时候,大家会看到各种各样的颜色。can't remove 会,会=can/will
    Every day when we go out, we (can) all see many different colours.

On the way, you will see two rose bushes.

On the left-hand side of Pine Street, you will see the Town Hall.

We will see more scenery on foot.

  1. 他有时间的时候,(他)会 陪着我一起在阳台上晒太阳。can't remove 会 , 会=can/will
    When he has time, he accompanies me (and) together we soak up the sun on the balcony.

We decided he would walk me down the aisle.

They can accompany me, have some fun with me.

I will accompany you.

  1. 用微信聊天的时候,年轻人会用表情包。 can't remove 会 会=can/will
    Using WeChat to chat, young people will often use pictures.

When the call comes, I'll call you over the mike.

He will use an iron sceptre to rule them. (King Charles III ???)

What will a man exchange his soul for?

In 4. and 5. you may discard the 会。Possibly this 会 is:一定,应当:长风破浪会有时。but I can't get anyone to say definitely what it is!

  1. 冬天的时候,我总是 会 感冒。can remove 会 so what is it?
    Wintertime, I always catch a cold/ I'm sure to catch a cold.

We always let off fireworks.

I almost always refuse.

This one always shocks me.

  1. 它 会 在房间里跑。 can remove 会 so what is it?
    It scurries around the room. / It (will??) scurry around the room.

It leaves indelible stains on clothes.

He should arrive within the next half hour.

What a coincidence! I wasn't expecting to see you here.

As for the future, the future is not a probability, the future does not exist! All conceivable futures are merely conjecture, mind games. When a future becomes the past, it is a completely unavoidable certainty, albeit as yet unknown to you.

Thinking about time and space caused Professor Richard Conn Henry to write to the American Academy of Physics to tell them: "Everything is in the mind!"

  • For one thing, in 我的家里有一只小猫. 每天它都给全家带来很多欢乐。它会在房间里跑. 会 cannot be removed. Otherwise, it confuses time and also sounds incomplete. For another, I can't agree with this future theory. The future is not a probability per se, but a random variable from a stochastic process.
    – lilysirius
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 4:50
  • Well, my Chinese friends do not agree with you about the necessity of 会 in 它会在房间里跑。stochastic: "pertaining to conjecture" I think you just agreed with me!
    – Pedroski
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 23:07
  • Well, I still hold my view. Yet it's not "necessary" in the sense that it's not the best choice. It still sounds a bit unnatural. But it definitely beats the version without it, where it's connected with the previous sentence and also sounds unfinished. The focus changes abruptly. Contributing the problem is the default tense and aspect by the two sentences. The first one is habitual, describes an overall pattern. While 它在房间里跑 tends to be happening right now. It confuses in so many aspects that I don't know what it aims to express exactly. It'd nice if I could hear what your friends say.
    – lilysirius
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 23:43
  • "the future does not exist" this one I don't agree. The random variable of future taken from the stochastic process of the whole timeline does exist. It's just not realized. "All conceivable futures are merely conjecture, mind games." This one I also don't agree. What we know in mind is a subjective probability distribution of the random variable, which doesn't preclude the existence of the objective probability distribution.
    – lilysirius
    Commented Nov 5, 2022 at 23:48
  • We better move to another stackexchange for a discussion on the reality of the future! 我的家里有一只猫,它每天在房间里跑,给全家带来很多欢乐。
    – Pedroski
    Commented Nov 6, 2022 at 23:21

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