Difference Between Will and Shall

Both verbs ‘shall’ and ‘will’ refer to the future. Although rarely used in contemporary American English, the verb shall is often used interchangeably in British English. So does that make the two verb synonyms?

The answer is no. There are times when using the verb ‘will’ in a statement becomes more appropriate and there are times when the most fitting verb for statement is ‘shall.’

However, using ‘will ‘to express your future plans and expectations is the standard choice between the two.

Will vs Shall

The difference between Will and Shall is that “Will” is used to show willingness for something and shall is used in questions. Will can be either used for requests or orders while shall is used to give offers or suggestions, and it can also express assertion or strong intention.

Will vs Shall

Examples: 1) I ‘will’ surely complete all the assignments. 2) ‘Shall’ we go for dance?

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonWillShall
Point of viewUsed in 2nd and 3rd person most of the timeUsed in 1st person most of the time
1st Person useUsed on first person to indicate determinationUsed in first person to indicate politeness
PolitenessLess politeMore Polite
CommonnessCommonly used in statementsRarely used in statements

When to Use Will?

Will’ is a helping verb. It’s used in reference to the future to show desire, intention, capacity or habit. It’s also used to predict what will be happening or to forecast something.

Furthermore, “will” can be used to give orders or declare something.

Examples:

1) To discuss something or events that are about to happen, particularly those you’re sure of:

  • The bus will arrive at 10 am.
  • He will report to your office before the end of the day.
  • They will be traveling tomorrow morning.

2) To express something that you’re intending or wish to do.

  • I will pay my rent tomorrow.
  • I will submit my contribution before the end of the month.
  • I will make up to you for all the inconvenience caused.

3) To Request for Something

Here, Will is used at the beginning of a statement, which turns it into a question.

  • Will you iron the clothes for me?
  • Will you help me take this kid to school?
  • Will you honor your promise this time around?

4) To command or Give Orders

Will can also be used to issue strong orders.

  • Will, you shut up?
  • Will you behave yourself?

5) To express a habit when used in the third person.

  • She will mess it up. She’s has a habit of it.
  • She will divorce him too.
Will

When to Use Shall?

You use shall when you’re talking about your future plans, events, or expectations in the first persona.

You may also use it when you’re talking about strong intentions, obligations or when you’re giving out instructions in the second or third persona.

Examples:

1) To talk about the future.

  • I shall forgive you if you apologize.
  • I shall be hitting you every time you disrespect me.
  • We shall attend the event.

2) To give a suggestion or ask something

  • Shall we have mushrooms for dinner?
  • Shall we attend the party?
  • Who shall I send this letter to?

3) To indicate assurance or the certainty of something happening

  • They shall be at a wedding on Saturday.
  • They shall attend the meeting.
  • We shall meet and sort this out once and for all.

4) To offer someone something

  • Shall I serve you coffee?
  • Shall I shut the door?

5) Shall comes in handy when you want to sound more polite for a statement made in the first person

  • Shall we talk? (This sounds polite).
  • Will we talk? (This sounds commanding).

6) Shall is also common in legal statements, made in the third persona

  • Taxes shall be paid on time, in accordance with the policies set by the IRS.
Shall

Main Differences Between Will and Shall

  1. Will is used whenever someone wants to talk about their future actions, to predict something, or to convey an intention.
  2. Shall, on the other hand, is used whenever someone wants to talk about a planned future action. It may also be used when asking a question or when you wish to know something about a person.
  3. Shall is rarely used in America, but it’s very common among the British, most of whom just use the two verbs interchangeably.

Rules Governing the Use of Shall and Will

There are rules that dictate how you’re supposed to use shall and will in a sentence. For instance, when expressing simple futurity, you’re required to use shall after we or I and ‘will’ after everything else.

However, while expressing a command or determination, the rules demand that you use will after we or I and ‘shall’ after everything else.

Examples following the rules:

  1. We shall attend the funeral tonight ( for a simple statement).
  2. We will attend the funeral tonight (to show determination).
  3. The shall attend the funeral tonight(a command).
  4. They will attend the funeral tonight (just a simple statement).

As you can see, using shall while making a statement in the first persona makes you sound more polite.

However, when you use shall in the third persona, the statement comes off as commanding while using will makes it sound polite.

It’s to be however noted that these rules are nothing more than a brilliant invention that makes sense, but they do no depict the real message being conveyed by a careful speaker.

In most cases, people just use will and shall interchangeably and it still sounds correct, despite bearing a different meaning.

For a native speaker, these rules are so natural. That makes it easy for them to remember them whenever they’re making a statement.

Difference Between Will and Shall

References

  1. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f3d3/c1ce0ed4be55e33d9e30fee6e996736d9b8e.pdf
  2. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/english-today/article/i-shall-and-i-will/EDE409372C337849E5A6B52D4A932834
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