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We “Shall” Use “Will” Correctly

Although the word shall remains in the dictionary and has more than eight definitions, we almost never use the word. We use will instead.

Is that correct? Well, my dictionary has a note on the matter. To paraphrase, the rules for using shall vs. will have not been followed, especially not in the United States. It is more often followed in Great Britain, though not always, either.

So, here are the basic rules: The verb shall expresses determination (We shall overcome), command (You shall love the Lord…) or inevitability (We shall see). The verb will expresses, desire (Call it what you will), natural tendency (He will tend to get angry over nothing) and capability (The car will seat up to five). But over time, it also has come to refer to determination (I have decided to go and go I will) and inevitability (You will do as I say).

Will also can be a noun with many meanings, including desire that’s either singular (When there’s a will, there’s a way) or collective (the will of the people). It also refers to a last testament, i.e., written instructions that dispose of a deceased person’s estate. But I’m more interested in the verb.

Long story short, use shall for determination but be prepared for people to think you sound pretentious and haughty. Use will for everything else.

Until next time! Use the right words!


July 26, 2012 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,


  1. I also like to use shall in a question. “Shall I check with her first?” “Shall we go now?”


    Comment by Anne Davies | July 26, 2012 | Reply

    • Hi Anne. Thanks for the comment. You’re using shall correctly in these two cases.


      Comment by usingtherightwords | July 27, 2012 | Reply

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