Friday, October 10, 2014

Shall or Will (Confusing Words Part 10 of 12)

I struggled in eighth grade to grasp the difference between shall and will. However, the definition I learned no longer holds true. I think it's probably because most people (including writers) don't know the difference. I'm going to give it because I still like the subtle differences in meaning—even if not everyone else does.

Use shall in the first person to express the future. (I shall visit you in the spring). Use will in the second or third person. (They will visit me in the spring.) That's easy enough but the subtly comes when we want to express a command or strong determination. Then we reverse the rule.

I will not go back to that place. You shall make a dreadful mistake if you marry Bart.

Please note that even Churchill said it wrong: "We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds . . . we shall never surrender."

Most people won't know the difference, 
but I will use shall correctly.


  1. Thank, Cec. I didn't learn that rule in school, so I've always been confused. Now I just have to remember it!

  2. I was taught a different rule. In high school I was taught to use shall as if it were more imperative or absolute. Will was more a matter of choice.

  3. Thank you, Cec, I don't remember hearing that rule.


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