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 verbs synonyms?
The answer is no. Sometimes, using the verb ‘will’ in a statement becomes more appropriate, and other times when the most fitting verb for a statement is ‘shall.’
However, using ‘will ‘to express your plans and expectations is the standard choice.
- “Will” and “shall” are both modal auxiliary verbs used to express future actions, but “will” is more common and less formal than “shall.”
- 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).
- 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.”
Want to save this article for later? Click the heart in the bottom right corner to save to your own articles box!
Examples: 1) I ‘will’ surely complete all the assignments. 2) ‘Shall’ we dance?
|Parameters of Comparison||Will||Shall|
|Point of view||Used in 2nd and 3rd person most of the time||Used in 1st person most of the time|
|1st Person use||Used in first person to indicate determination||Used in first person to indicate politeness|
|Politeness||Less polite||More Polite|
|Commonness||Commonly used in statements||Rarely used in statements|
When to Use Will?
‘Will’ is a helping verb. It’s used about 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.
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 intend 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 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 has a habit of it.
- She will divorce him too.
When to Use Shall?
You use shall when discussing your plans, events, or expectations in the first persona.
You may also use it when discussing solid intentions and obligations or giving instructions in the second or third persona.
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 following the policies set by the IRS.
Main Differences Between Will and Shall
- Will is used whenever someone wants to talk about their future actions, to predict something, or to convey an intention.
- Conversely, Shall is used whenever someone wants to talk about a planned future action. It may also be used when asking questions or wishing to know something about someone.
- Shall is rarely used in America, but it’s widespread among the British, who use the two verbs interchangeably.
Rules Governing the Use of Shall and Will
Some rules dictate how to use “shall” and “will” in sentences. For instance, when expressing simple futurity, you must 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:
- We shall attend the funeral tonight ( for a simple statement).
- We will attend the funeral tonight (to show determination).
- They shall attend the funeral tonight(a command).
- 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 it will make it sound polite.
It’s to be noted that these rules are nothing more than a brilliant invention that makes sense, but they do not depict the message being conveyed by a careful speaker.
In most cases, people use will and shall interchangeably, which still sounds correct despite having 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.
I’ve put so much effort writing this blog post to provide value to you. It’ll be very helpful for me, if you consider sharing it on social media or with your friends/family. SHARING IS ♥️
Emma Smith holds an MA degree in English from Irvine Valley College. She has been a Journalist since 2002, writing articles on the English language, Sports, and Law. Read more about me on her bio page.
2 thoughts on “Difference Between Will and Shall”
You made it simple for me. I always get confused between Will and shall
Glad to help you