Will vs. Shall

'Will' and 'shall' are modal verbs used to discuss the future. They are often confused since they are interchangeable. In this lesson, we will learn about them.

"Will" vs. "Shall" in the English grammar

What Is Their Main Difference?

'Will' and 'shall' are modal verbs mainly used to discuss the future. As the two are interchangeable in most cases, they get confused by learners. The main difference between them is that 'shall' is more formal than 'will.'

'Will' is a modal verb that talks about the future. As a modal, it is also used to prediction, request something, talk about willingness, etc. Take a look at the following examples:

They will listen to your advice.

Nina will attend the party.

'Shall' is a modal verb used to talk about the future, necessities, give suggestions, and make offers. Have a look:

We shall discuss this matter in the next meeting.

I shall meet them again next week.

Similarities

Talking about the Future

'Will' and 'shall' are used interchangeably to discuss future events. Note that 'will' is used in everyday contexts while 'shall' is used in formal contexts. Have a look:

I will take a look at your resume.

I shall take a look at your resume.

Contraction

Both 'will' and 'shall' contract as 'll. This form comes after the pronoun instead of 'shall' and 'will' and is used in speaking to avoid longer sentences. For example:

I'll meet them again next week.

I'll take a look at your resume.

Negation and Question

The negation process of 'will' and 'shall' includes adding 'not' to them as illustrated below:

  • WillWill notWon't
  • ShallShall notShan't

Take a look at the following examples for clarity:

We won't stay for long.

They shan't succeed in this quest.

For creating interrogative sentences, we invert the modal verb. Check out these examples:

She will visit her parents. → Will she visit her parents?

I shall take you out for dinner. → Shall I take you out for dinner?

Giving Suggestions

'Shall' and the personal pronoun 'we' are used in the question form to make a suggestion. In this form, we are politely stating what to do next. Take a look:

Shall we go home?

Shall we call a cab?

We also use 'will' to give suggestions. In this case, it is often followed by 'if you want.' For example:

I will make some tea if you want.

She will assist you if you want.

Differences

Requests

We use 'will' to request something from others. Have a look:

Will you pass me the salt?

Will you close the door, please?

Talking about Necessities

We use 'shall' in formal contexts, including 'documents' or 'official contexts' to indicate obligation and necessity in guidelines. For example:

Both parties shall present their plans as soon as possible.

The guilty shall be held for trial.

Talking about Assumptions

We use 'will' to express assumptions that may or may not be accurate. These assumptions may be about the past, present, or future. Have a look:

We are not on good terms. She won't talk to me.

She will be here soon.

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