shall vs will


should we write "I shall" or "I will"?

asked Jun 16 '13 at 05:10 Scarlet Darwin Contributor

1 answer


This is a big question.


In British English: Shall for Giving Information About the Future


Others may want to add to what I write here, but it is my understanding that some British speakers use I will or He will and I shall or He shall with no difference in meaning, to refer to future activities, usually made spontaneously at the moment of speaking in most situations (as opposed to previously-decided or planned events for which I am going to fly to Rome tomorrow or I am flying to Rome tomorrow are better choices in both British and American English).


In American English: Shall for Giving Information About the Future


Shall is not common in American English for giving information about the future.  Will, Be Going to, or a Present Continuous verb are generally used.  (See the difference in meaning above.)


In British English: Shall or Will for Promises and Threats; in American English, Will only


Will is also used to make promises or threats, for example:


If you do that again, you'll be sorry!  [threat]

I am sorry.  I won't do that again: I promise.  [promise]


(Shall is sometimes used in British English for promises and threats, but not as often as will is.)


In both British and American English, How to use will and shall for Offers, Seeking Instructions or Decisions, or Making Suggestions


For these kinds of situations, will is typically used to show willingness, for example


A: The doorbell is ringing, and I am not dressed yet!
B: Don't worry, I'll get it.


I will help you with your homework, if you like.


But, in both BrE and AmE, shall is commonly used in questions of this type.  For example, here are question forms of the above examples -- please notice that shall is natural in the questions below, but will is natural in the statements above:


A: The doorbell is ringing, and I am not dressed yet!
B: Shall I get it?


Shall I help you with your homework?


Shall we dance?


Let's have one more drink, shall we?


I hope this helps.

link edited Jun 16 '13 at 10:21 Shawn Mooney Expert

Excellent answer to a deceptively complicated question, Shawn. "You SHALL go to the ball, Cinderella!"

Michael CranfieldJun 16 '13 at 10:48

this truly is an excellent explanation Mr.Shawn. Thanks a lot.

Scarlet DarwinJun 17 '13 at 15:42

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