Confused between “will” and “shall”? This is for you.

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We’re back with our Thursday posts!

Last month we did Facebook live sessions instead of our normal post with tips and lessons. So it feels like it’s been a while since I’ve written post on the blog.

Today I want to answer a question that we’ve been asked several times:
What is the difference between “will” and “shall”?

When you’re talking about the future, in most cases you would use “will”.

Here are situations where you use “will”

a) to describe the future.
He will send us the report before 6PM today.

b) to make a prediction.
Climate change will impact the health of all life on Earth.

c) to express a decision made at the moment of speaking.
I’ll have plain water with my meal, please.

d) to make a request.
Will you come with me to the dentist?

e) to make promises and offers.
will call you tonight.

So when do we use “shall”?

In modern English we usually prefer “will” for sentences. However, we still use “shall” to form questions with “I” and “we”, especially in British English.

For example, to make offers or suggestions with “I” or “we”:

Shall I call for a meeting?
Who shall we invite to the meeting?

“Shall” is also used to express formal obligations or to describe the future very formally.

The tenant shall pay the agreed amount on the first day of every month.
The tests shall be carried out by an independent body.

So what’s the rule?

Before you start scratching your head in confusion, I’ll keep it simple for you. Use “will” for most sentences about the future. Use “will” for requests too.

If you want to make an offer or suggestion with “I” or “we”, use “shall” in the question form. For very formal statements, especially to describe obligations, use “shall”.

I hope you found this helpful. We’ll talk to you again soon!

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Hi there!

We’re Azimah, Amnah and Aisya from Malaysia. We created My English Matters as an online platform to help people improve their English.

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