FUTURE(7): WILL AND SHALL(interpersonal use)

1 difference between will and shall

When forming the future tense, you can get away with using just will and ignoring shall.
In contemporary American English, the auxiliary shall is rarely used. In British English, shall and will are often used interchangeably with no difference in meaning in most circumstances. However, these days , the use of shall is becoming rarer and it is safe to use will every time. Shall, though, is still used in questions about the future that makes offers and suggestions or ask for advice, as in:
What shall we do if they don’t come soon? (asking for advice)
It’s too warm in here. Shall I open a window? (making an offer)
Shall we try to finish the project today? ( making a suggestion)
It should also be noted that in Britain, the very formal written English used in drafting laws and regulations require the use of shall with a 3rd person subject for stating requirements. Shall expresses an obligation, as in:


“An average of 40% shall be deemed a pass at Honors level.”
“Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay.”

The traditional rule in standard British English is that shall is used with the first person pronouns ( I and We ) to form the future tense, while will is used with the 2nd and 3rd person forms ( you, he/she/it, they ), as in:

I shall be on time. Don’t worry.
They will not have enough food for the week.
However, when it comes to expressing a strong determination to do something, the roles are reversed. Will is used with the 1st person, and shall with the 2nd and 3rd, as in:

I will not tolerate his irresponsibility.
You shall pay for this atrocity!
They shall be downtrodden if we don’t act now.

We can also use shall/will + infinitive to express interpersonal meanings; to express our intentions and attitudes towards other people, as when we are offering, making requests, promising or threatening.

Shall I carry your bags? They’re too heavy for you.
Will you keep the windows open, please?
I will stop smoking!
You’ll be sorry if you don’t stop teasing her!

2 expressing decisions : will
We use will when volunteering to do something or deciding at the time of speaking to do something, as in:

Allain: I need a pencil. ~ Alexandra: I’ll lend you mine.
There’s Father at the gate. I’ll go and meet him there.
Shall is not used this way: This carpet can go at . ~ Are you sure? I’ll buy it then.(Not I shall buy...)

Note: The simple present is not normally used to announce spontaneous decisions( made at the time of speaking), as in:

Alex: The car is very dirty.~ Allain: You’re right. I’ll wash it after lunch today.
Come on, I’ll help you with those bags. (seeing that someone is struggling with their shopping bags)

To express decisions previously made, we generally prefer going to.... or the present progressive.

We’re going to get married. (referring to a past decision)
After the concert, we’re going to the resto.
I’m going to make the supper every Sunday.( This is already planned and organized.)

3 promises and threats: will

We often use will / ‘ll in promises and threats, as in:

I’ll call when I arrive (promise)
Don’t worry, Mother. I’ll be more careful.(promise)
I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house down!( Threat from the Big Bad Wolf)

4 refusals: won’t

Will not or won’t is used to refuse, or to talk about refusals, as in:

Allain: I can’t open this bottle of wine. ~ Alex: Yeah, the cork won’t come out.
The young child won’t come out of the room. He’s scared.

5 asking for instructions and decisions: shall

Questions with shall I / we are used ( in both American and British English) to ask for instructions or decisions, to offer services, and to make suggestions, as in:

Shall we attend the commemoration rites in these clothes?
What time shall I tell the visitors to start dinner?
Let’s go and visit grandma, shall we ?

6 giving instructions and orders : will

We can use will you...? to tell or ask people to do things. ( In polite requests Would you....is preferred).

Will you please fill the bathtub with warm water now?
You will go shopping with me today, won’t you?
Will you pull down that curtain? The sun’s coming in too much.
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