13 January 2014

What is the difference between shall and will?

People may sometimes tell you that there is no difference between shall and will, or even that today nobody uses shall (except in offers such as "Shall I call a taxi?"). This is not really true. The difference between shall and will is often hidden by the fact that we usually contract them in speaking with 'll. But the difference does exist.

Difference between shall and will

Shall is not used often in modern English especially in American English. In fact, shall and will have the same meaning and are used to refer to the simple future. They are use as follows:

·         will is used with all persons 

I, you, he, she, it, we, they
go there

·         shall is used with the first person singular and plural

I, we

·         The short form of will and shall is 'll

I, you, he, she, it, we, they
will or 'll
call you

I, we
shall or 'll
call you

· In the negative, the short forms of will not and shall not are won't and shan't respectively

I, you, he, she, it, we, they
give up

I, we
give up

Uses of shall

It should be noted that shall is often used to make suggestions, offers or ask for advice. It is used in questions as follows:
  • ·         Shall we stay or go out?
  • ·         Shall we dance?
  • ·         Shall I get his phone number if I meet him?
  • ·         What shall I do to get rid of my acne?

As said above shall is used with first person singular and plural (I and we.) But there is a very special use of shall with other persons to make a promise, command or threat as noted below:
  • ·         You shall not get in! (Command)
  • ·         You shall pay for it. (Threat)
  • ·         You shall get your money back soon. (Promise)

In American English shall is mainly used in formal or legal documents:
  • ·         You shall abide by the law.
  • ·         There shall be no trespassing on this property.
  • ·         Students shall not enter this room.
Uses Of Will

Older textbooks often refer to 'will' as 'the future tense' and this has confused a lot of learners.
It is important to remember that when we talk about the future we cannot always use 'will' and that when we use 'will' we are not always talking about the future.

Here 'will' is clearly referring to the future.
  • If I speak to her, I'll tell her about it.
  • I'll probably visit Sue when I go to Oxford.
  • Next birthday she'll be 32. Or so she says.
In these examples, however, 'will' is referring to events happening at the present.
  • The car won't start.
  • If that's the phone, I'll get it.
  • Will you have another cup of coffee?
When we use 'will' referring to the present, the idea being expressed is usually one of 'showing willingness' or 'will power'.
  • My baby won't stop crying. I've tried everything and I'm really exhausted.
  • I am the boss. You will do as I say.
  • I need quiet to write this but he will keep on talking to me. I wish he would leave me alone.
We use 'will' for requests, orders, invitations and offers.
  • Will you give me a hand?
  • Will you please take a seat?
  • Will you have some cake?
  • I'll help you.
We use 'will' to make promises or threats.
  • I'll do it at once.
  • I'll phone him back immediately.
  • I won't forget this.
  • I'll get my own back some day.
We use 'will' for habit.
  • A cat will always find a warm place to sleep.
  • My car won't go any faster than this.
We use 'will' for deduction.
  • I expect he'll want us to get on with it.
  • The phone's ringing. That will be Mark

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