Difference Between Will and Can

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

They are often used incorrectly because of sounding similar but understanding the difference between these two auxiliary verbs is very important.

Will vs Can

The main difference between Will and Can is that while ‘Will’ forecasts the future and denotes future happenings, ‘Can’ is generally used to talk about the present and also future. ‘Can’ is a helping verb, whereas ‘Will’ is a verb or, at times, noun. ‘Will’ is also used while ordering, and ‘Can’ is used while taking permission or being polite.

Will vs Can

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

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

The term ‘can’ is used to denote something that is possible. It is used as a general statement to also 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 Between Will and Can

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 that is used 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 a little more effort
  3. The exam will be tough
  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 really good 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”.

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 the negative form of ‘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


There are only a few different types of English verbs. The common English verb write, for example, has the following forms: write, writes, wrote, written, and writing.

However, these types do not always suffice to convey all of the meanings. For example, simple forms of the verb cannot convey concepts like questioning, time, wish, willingness, and obligation.

Auxiliary verbs come in handy and in order to express these ideas, it is used.

Auxiliary verbs, also known as supporting verbs or helping verbs, provide additional functional or grammatical sense to the clauses in which they are used. They carry out their duties in a variety of ways. Will and Can are two such modal auxiliary verbs.

Since the same modal verb may be used to denote the number of functions, and since there may be multiple modal verbs that can mean the same, a non-native English speaker can either use the wrong modal verb or overuse the same modal verb when an alternative verb would have been more appropriate.

So, knowing the difference and usage of ‘Will’ and ‘Can’ is really important for a non-English speaker.


  1. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/dc0b/ac9b34a8a3ff4ac1aa8edd70c0e00f4651e6.pdf
  2. https://scholarworks.umass.edu/dissertations/AAI9316625/
  3. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED202217

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