Will vs Can: Difference and Comparison

An auxiliary verb also called a helping verb, is used with a primary verb to express its tone or mode. Will and Can are two auxiliary verbs.

They are misused because they sound similar, but understanding these auxiliary verbs’ differences is very important.

Key Takeaways

  1. Can refer to the ability to do something, while it will refer to the intention or determination to do something.
  2. Can is used to express permission, while will is used to express willingness or desire.
  3. Can is followed by a base verb, while will is followed by a base verb with the infinitive marker “to”.

Will vs Can

“Will” is used for demonstrating precise future behaviours and to ensure that an event or scenario will take place. E.g., They will arrive in ten minutes. While “can” means that someone has the authority to act. It permits someone or something to carry out the action. E.g., She can leave if she wants.

Will vs Can

The auxiliary verb ‘will’ expresses something that will happen. Will is also used to make forecasts, discuss decisions, and make commitments, offers, demands, and challenges.

The auxiliary verb ‘will’ and its negative form “will not” or “won’t” are modal auxiliary verbs.

The term ‘can’ is used to denote something that is possible. It is also used as a general statement to demonstrate one’s skills or ability to do something in the future or present. It is also used to ask for permission.

The negative form of the term ‘can’ is ‘cannot’ or ‘can’t’.

Comparison Table

Parameters of comparison  Will Can 
Use Will is used when a person talks about the future. Can is used when a person talks about the present or the future. 
Negative forms Will not or won’t Cannot or can’t 
Indication  Indicates future tense Indicates ability  
Parts of speech Noun or verb Helping verb 
Example I will work on Monday. I can help you with your projects. 

What is Will?

Will is a term used in English Grammar to show possibility. For example:

  1. The computer will start working as soon as your clear the storage
  2. The cupboard will open if you put in a bit of effort.
  3. The exam will be challenging.
  4. The weather will be bad for a few days, so prepare yourselves.

It is also used to express wishes and intentions. For example:

  1. I will start working with my mother soon
  2. You will need to push yourself harder the next time
  3. The teacher will be taking an oral exam next Tuesday

Will is used to making requests and to show one’s politeness. For example:

  1. Will you please do this for me?
  2. Will you be able to help me out?
  3. Will you go ahead with your presentation?
  4. Will you help me cross the road?

It is used to show determination or obligation. For example:

  1. You will be doing this before Saturday.
  2. Ramesh will come to my office no matter what.
  3. Riya will have to complete her work before her boss fires her.
  4. You will work here from today onwards.

Will also shows commitment. For example:

  1. It will be done in no time.
  2. The repairing work will not take much time, I promise.
  3. I will get good grades in the upcoming examination.
  4. I will get back to exercising as soon as I recover.

What is Can?

Can is used to make general statements that are possible. For example:

  1. Aron can cook for the entire family.
  2. You can make exquisite paintings.
  3. My mother can teach French.
  4. I can make good pasta.

It is also used to show one’s abilities. For example:

  1. Birds can fly very high.
  2. I can speak Urdu, Hindi, English, and French.
  3. Elephants can remember faces for a long time.
  4. Animals can see better at night than humans.

Can is used to make offers to people. For example:

  1. Can I help you with your work?
  2. I can hold the shopping bags for you.
  3. You can use my umbrella if you need it.
  4. Can I tell you the answer?

It is also used to ask for permission. For example:

  1. Can I please go to the washroom?
  2. Can you help me shift the table?
  3. Can you please drive me to the hospital?
  4. Can you keep silent?

Can is a modal verb that is the same for all subjects. No additional “s” is added in the third person will using can like other verbs. Its negative form is “cannot” or “can’t”.

Also Read:  Grief vs Mourning: Difference and Comparison

Examples of the negative form of can, that is, cannot:

  1. I cannot make arrangements for the party tomorrow.
  2. I can’t tell you the secret Reshma trusted me with.
  3. I cannot attend the event held by my society.
  4. I cannot bear the pain.

Main Differences Between Will and Can

  1. ‘Will’ is used when one is talking about the future. However, it is not the same for ‘Can’.
  2. ‘Will’ is a noun or verb, whereas ‘Can’ is a helping verb.
  3. The negative form of ‘Will’ is ‘Will not’ or ‘Won’t’, while ‘Can’ is ‘Cannot’ or ‘Can’t’.
  4. ‘Will’ always indicates future tense, whereas ‘Can’ indicates abilities.
  5. ‘Will’ shows commitment, while ‘Can’ shows skills.
Difference Between Will and Can
  1. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/dc0b/ac9b34a8a3ff4ac1aa8edd70c0e00f4651e6.pdf
  2. https://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI9316625/
  3. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED202217

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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