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Old 02-25-2007, 10:20 AM   #1
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Default "Shall" and "Will" Revisited

I recently purchased An Advanced English Grammar by Kittridge and Farley, Ginn and Company, Boston, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Palo Alto, Toronto, London, 1913. This book is fantastic and easily the best grammar I have ever reviewed in English. (I had to plunk down 40 cents to get it, but it is in very good condition).

It sets out complete explanations on all aspects of grammar, including the subjunctive mood, the meanings of subordinate clauses, the bases of elliptical sentences. And it also includes an extended review of the usage of “shall” and “will,” including their past tense forms of “should” and “would.”

I’ll try to highlight the key points for “Shall” and “Will.” (Much of the following is actually quotation).

Future TenseAssertions (Declarations)
Singular Plural
1. I shall fall. 1. We shall fall.
2. Thou wilt fall. 2. You will fall.
3. He will fall. 3. They will fall

Questions (Interrogative)
Singular Plural
1. Shall I fall? 1. Shall we fall?
2. Shalt thou fall? 2. Shall you fall?
3. Will he fall? 3. Will they fall?

Verb phrases with shall in the first person merely indicate future time. However, verb phrases with “will” in the first person indicate the present willingness or desire or determination of the speaker to do something in the future. Hence the use of “will” in the first person is not a form of the future tense, but an expression of willingness or desire.
Examples – I shall drown. I will go with you.

“Shall” denotes simple futurity, and “will” is used in promising, threatening, consenting, and expressing resolution.
Examples – I shall be 18 years old in July. We shall be glad to see him. We will do our best. We will permit you to go.

When willingness is expressed by an adjective, “I shall is correct;” when by an adverb, “I will.”
Examples – I shall be glad to help you. I will gladly help you.

“Will,” when emphasized, always expresses determination, even in the second and third person.
Example – You will/He will act foolishly in spite of my advice.

“Shall you?” not “Will you?” is the proper form of the future tense in the second person. Thus, “Will you?” always denotes willingness, consent, or determination, not simple futurity.
Examples – Shall you be disappointed if he does not come? Will you write often?

Shall is used in the second and third persons in commanding, promising, threatening, and expressing resolution, (and it is common also in prophetic language).
Examples – Thou shalt not kill. You shall have the hat before Monday.

In military orders and official communications, custom permits the more courteous “will” in place of “shall” in the second and third persons.
Example – You will immediately report for orders.

This post is getting long. The book goes on regarding uses in indirect discourse and questions. And it sets out similarly the usage of “should’ and “would.” If anyone is interested in continuing, let me know, and I’ll summarize what it says about these principles as well.

Hmm—ask a question, and eventually the answer comes. It’s a matter of patience.

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