Shall vs. will

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In the future tense, the use of shall and will is easily distinguished. One is always expected to use will.

In questions, it is still appropriate to use shall for first person singular (I) and plural (we). However, using shall usually carries a subtext of comedy or irony. Most use will in all cases.

The original usage of will and shall was able to carry more meaning. If a person wanted to have what he or she said carry a sense of duty or honor, he or she would use shall for the second and third person, and will for the first person. In today’s usage, the meaning would be lost on most.


On Thursday night, an N.B.A. team will select Jabari Parker, a 19-year-old basketball prodigy, with one of the top picks in the 2014 draft. [New York Times]

Once the Brazilian crop is harvested, people will have a better idea of the damage and the implications for the world market, he adds. [Christian Science Monitor]

My favorite example happened whilst DJing an end-of-summer pool party of a large vodka company that shall remain nameless. [Huffington Post]

Thou shalt not steal. [Bible]

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? [William Shakespeare]

We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender. [Winston Churchill]

When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. [Ansel Adams]

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