Will vs Shall: Difference and Comparison

In modern English, “will” is commonly used to express future actions for all persons (I/we/you/he/she/it/they) and is used for predictions or statements about the future. “Shall” is less common and used for first person subjects (I/we) in formal or traditional contexts, such as offers, suggestions, or formal requests.

While “will” is the default choice for most situations, “shall” still exists in formal or legal writing and some British English dialects.

Key Takeaways

  1. “Will” and “shall” are both modal auxiliary verbs used to express future actions, but “will” is more common and less formal than “shall.”
  2. Traditionally, “shall” is used with first-person pronouns (I, we) to indicate future actions, while “will” is used with second- and third-person pronouns (you, he, she, it, they).
  3. In modern usage, “will” is widely used for all subjects, whereas “shall” is increasingly rare and reserved for formal or legal contexts or to emphasize strong determination or obligation.

Will vs Shall

“Will” indicates simple future actions or intentions, while “shall” indicates future actions with a sense of determination or to make suggestions. “Will” is used more commonly in spoken English, while “shall” is more common in formal or written English. Example: “I will go to the store” vs. “We shall proceed with the plan.”

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

Comparison Table

Aspect“Will”“Shall”
UsageCommonly used for all persons (I/we/you/he/she/it/they) to express future actions and predictions.Less common, primarily used for first person (I/we) in formal or traditional contexts for future actions and formal requests or suggestions.
First Person (I/we)“I will go to the store later.”“I shall meet you at the restaurant.”
Second Person (you)“You will receive the package tomorrow.”Not commonly used; “will” is preferred.
Third Person (he/she/it/they)“She will arrive soon.”“He shall report to the supervisor.”
Offers/Suggestions“Shall I help you with your luggage?”Less common in everyday conversation; “will” can be used as well.
FormalityLess formal in most cases.More formal in some contexts, especially in legal documents and formal writing.
Regional VariationsWidely used in both American and British English.Less common in American English but still used in some British English dialects and formal British writing.

When to Use Will?

Will” is a modal auxiliary verb in English that is used to express various aspects of the future. It is a versatile and commonly used verb in the English language. Here are the main ways “will” is used:

  1. Expressing Future Actions:
    • “Will” is most commonly used to express future actions or events.
    • It can be used with all persons (I/we/you/he/she/it/they).
    • Example sentences:
      • I will visit my grandmother tomorrow.
      • They will have a meeting next week.
      • She will finish her work before lunch.
  2. Making Predictions or Assumptions:
    • “Will” can be used to make predictions or express assumptions about future events.
    • It implies a degree of uncertainty or speculation.
    • Example sentences:
      • I think it will rain later.
      • He will probably be late.
      • She will likely pass the exam.
  3. Offering Assistance:
    • “Will” can be used to offer help or assistance to someone in the future.
    • It is used in questions to make offers.
    • Example sentences:
      • Will you help me carry these bags?
      • I will give you a hand with your project.
      • Will anyone else be joining us for dinner?
  4. Expressing Willingness or Volition:
    • “Will” can indicate a willingness or intention to do something in the future.
    • It is used to show a personal decision or choice.
    • Example sentences:
      • I will do my best to finish the report.
      • She will volunteer at the local shelter.
      • They will attend the conference because they want to.
  5. Making Promises or Commitments:
    • “Will” is used to make promises or commitments for future actions.
    • It conveys the speaker’s intention to follow through.
    • Example sentences:
      • I will call you as soon as I get home.
      • We will meet at the park at 3 PM.
      • He will never forget your birthday again.
Will

When to Use Shall?

“Shall” is a modal auxiliary verb in English, but its usage is less common in modern spoken English compared to “will.” “Shall” is used in specific contexts and has specific purposes:

  1. Making Formal Offers or Suggestions:
    • “Shall” is used to make formal offers or suggestions.
    • It can be used with first-person subjects (I/we).
    • Example sentences:
      • Shall I assist you with your luggage?
      • Shall we go to the theater tonight?
  2. Expressing a Future Action with First Person (I/we):
    • In some formal or traditional contexts, “shall” can be used with first-person subjects (I/we) to express future actions or intentions.
    • Example sentences:
      • I shall meet you at the appointed time.
      • We shall discuss this matter further during the meeting.
  3. Legal and Contractual Language:
    • “Shall” is used in legal documents, contracts, and agreements to indicate obligations or requirements.
    • It is used to specify what parties are required to do in the future.
    • Example sentences:
      • The tenant shall pay rent on the first of every month.
      • The company shall deliver the goods by the specified date.
  4. Formal Written English:
    • In formal written English, particularly in British English, “shall” may be used in various contexts, including directives, rules, and formal announcements.
    • Example sentences:
      • All passengers shall remain seated until the aircraft has come to a complete stop.
      • The committee shall convene next week to discuss the proposed changes.
when to use shall

Main Differences Between Will and Shall

  1. Usage:
    • “Will” is commonly used to express future actions or events for all persons (I/we/you/he/she/it/they) and is used for predictions or statements about the future.
    • “Shall” is less common in modern English and is primarily used for first-person subjects (I/we) to express future actions or make formal offers, suggestions, or requests.
  2. Persons:
    • “Will” can be used with all persons (I/we/you/he/she/it/they) to discuss future actions.
    • “Shall” is mainly used with first-person subjects (I/we) but can also be used with second- and third-person subjects in some formal or traditional contexts.
  3. Formality:
    • “Will” is the default choice in everyday spoken and written English for discussing the future. It is less formal.
    • “Shall” is considered more formal and is used in formal writing, legal documents, contracts, and certain traditional contexts.
  4. Offers and Suggestions:
    • “Will” can be used to offer help or make suggestions in both formal and informal situations.
    • “Shall” is used for formal offers and suggestions, especially when addressing others.
  5. Legal and Contractual Language:
    • “Shall” is commonly used in legal documents, contracts, and agreements to indicate obligations, requirements, or conditions.
    • “Will” is not used in the same way in legal or contractual language.
  6. Regional Variations:
    • “Will” is widely used in both American and British English.
    • “Shall” is less common in American English but is still used in some British English dialects and in formal British writing.
Difference Between Will and Shall

Last Updated : 13 February, 2024

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