Shall vs. Will

What's the Difference?

Shall and will are both modal verbs used to express future actions or intentions. However, they differ in terms of formality and usage. Shall is typically used in formal or legal contexts, and it is often used to express obligations or requirements. On the other hand, will is more commonly used in everyday speech and writing to express simple future actions or predictions. Will can also be used to express willingness or determination. While both shall and will can be used interchangeably in some cases, their usage can vary depending on the context and the speaker's intention.


UsageUsed to express a requirement or obligationUsed to express a future action or intention
Legal ImplicationsCommonly used in legal documents to impose obligationsLess commonly used in legal documents
FormalityConsidered more formalConsidered less formal
SubjectivityCan imply a stronger sense of obligation or certaintyCan imply a weaker sense of obligation or certainty
Future PredictionsNot commonly used for future predictionsCommonly used for future predictions
AuthorityUsed to express authority or give commandsCan be used to express authority, but less commonly

Further Detail


When it comes to expressing future actions or events, two commonly used modal verbs in the English language are "shall" and "will." While both words are often used interchangeably, they do have distinct attributes and nuances that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the differences and similarities between "shall" and "will" to gain a better understanding of their usage and implications.

Definition and Usage

Let's start by defining the two modal verbs:

  • Shall: Shall is primarily used to express a future action or event that is mandatory, obligatory, or required. It is often used in legal or formal contexts, as well as in rules, regulations, or contracts.
  • Will: Will, on the other hand, is used to express a future action or event that is voluntary, intentional, or based on personal choice. It is the more common and versatile of the two modal verbs.

Now, let's delve deeper into the attributes of each modal verb.


Shall is often associated with the following attributes:

  1. Mandatory: When using "shall," the speaker or writer is indicating that the action or event is required or necessary. For example, "You shall attend the meeting tomorrow."
  2. Formal: "Shall" is commonly used in formal or legal contexts, such as contracts, laws, or regulations. It adds a sense of authority and seriousness to the statement. For instance, "The tenant shall pay the rent on the first day of each month."
  3. First-person: "Shall" is often used in the first-person form (I and we) to express an intention or offer. For example, "I shall do my best to complete the project on time."
  4. Questions and suggestions: "Shall" is frequently used in questions and suggestions, especially in British English. For instance, "Shall we go for a walk?" or "Shall I help you with your bags?"
  5. Less common in everyday speech: While "shall" is still used in certain contexts, it has become less common in everyday conversation, particularly in American English. It is more prevalent in British English.


Now, let's explore the attributes associated with "will":

  1. Voluntary: When using "will," the speaker or writer is expressing a future action or event that is based on personal choice or willingness. For example, "I will help you with your homework."
  2. Intentional: "Will" is often used to convey a planned or intended action. It implies a level of certainty or determination. For instance, "She will start her new job next week."
  3. Predictions and assumptions: "Will" is commonly used to make predictions or assumptions about the future. It suggests a high degree of probability. For example, "It will rain tomorrow."
  4. Offers and promises: "Will" is frequently used to make offers or promises. It indicates a willingness to do something for someone else. For instance, "I will buy you a gift for your birthday."
  5. More common in everyday speech: Unlike "shall," "will" is widely used in everyday conversation and informal writing. It is the default choice for expressing future actions or events.

Usage Examples

Let's now examine some usage examples to further illustrate the differences between "shall" and "will":

Shall Examples

  • "All employees shall attend the mandatory training session."
  • "The tenant shall vacate the premises by the end of the month."
  • "Shall we proceed with the next item on the agenda?"
  • "Shall I book a table for two at the restaurant?"

Will Examples

  • "I will meet you at the airport tomorrow."
  • "She will graduate from university next year."
  • "It will be a sunny day at the beach."
  • "I will help you move to your new apartment."


In conclusion, while "shall" and "will" are both modal verbs used to express future actions or events, they have distinct attributes and implications. "Shall" is often associated with mandatory or formal contexts, while "will" is more commonly used in voluntary or everyday speech situations. Understanding the differences between these two modal verbs can help us communicate more effectively and accurately convey our intentions or requirements.

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