the difference between words: will and shall

http://cinephile.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/shall-we-dance.jpg?w=302&h=450

I had a request from someone last week to go over the difference between “will” and “shall”, so that’s what I want to write about in my blog for today.

Basically, the difference between these two words is formality: the word “shall” is much more formal than “will”, so it’s much more common for people to use “will”. For example:

A: Please finish writing the report by tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

B: Ok, I’ll do that.

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A: Please finish writing the report by tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

B: Of course, sir. I shall do that.

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We have to leave now, or we’ll be late.

We have to leave immediately, or we shall be late.

In these cases, the use of “shall” is extremely formal and sounds a bit strange in most conversations with friends or family members. Therefore, I would recommend using “will” instead.

However, the word “shall” can be used naturally in some other situations. For instance, it can be used to make offers to people, especially in a formal business situation. These sentences are very polite, so if you want to sound more casual, you can use the word “can” instead. For example:

Shall I take your coat?   (Can I take your coat?)

Shall I get you a drink?  (Can I get you a drink?)

Shall I make a reservation at the restaurant for you?  (Can I make a reservation at the restaurant for you?)

We also use “shall” when making plans with another person and we’re trying to decide on certain details. Again, it’s a little formal but not too much; many people use “shall” in this situation. However, if you want to sound more casual, you can use “should” instead. For example:

What shall we do today?  (What should we do today?)

Where shall we meet?  (Where should we meet?)

What time shall we meet tomorrow?  (What time should we meet tomorrow?)

Who shall we invite to the party?  (Who should we invite to the party?)

The word “shall” is also commonly used when making a suggestion to another person in the form of a question. For example:

Shall we dance?

Shall we leave now?

Shall we go for a walk?

In these cases, the person wants to do the thing (dance, leave, go for a walk), but using normal suggestion patterns like “let’s” or “why don’t we…” could sound too strong. So, the person uses “shall” instead because it sounds more polite.

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1 Comment »

  1. Svrao Said:

    What is the difference between words back and ago?


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