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Will and shall

Modal auxiliaries are helping verbs that connect with normal/ordinary verbs to express a meaning, ask a question or negate. Modal auxiliaries are never used with the main auxiliaries; ‘be‘, ‘have‘ and ‘do‘, and do not make sense on their own, therefore, they must be connected with a normal verb in order to make sense. Modal verbs also never change form (they cannot be conjugated). Dictionary definition according to Merriam Webster: ”an auxiliary verb (such as can, must, might, may) that is characteristically used with a verb of predication and expresses a modal modification and that in English differs formally from other verbs in lacking -s and -ing forms”. 

Here, we are going to elaborate on two very similar modal auxiliaries will and shall.  (Note that modal auxiliaries are never followed by ‘to’ before the infinitive, except with, ‘need to’, ‘ought to’ and ‘dare to’).

(1) We use will to make predictions about the future. 
  • I reckon he will have finished the report by Saturday.
  • Next week, I’ll be on vacation.
  • We will find out about the results for next month.
(2) We use will in instant reactions when we want to express willingness. 
  • Could you let me know about the poll results? Yes, I will let you know.
  • Can you help me? I’ll help you right now.
  • I shall get your stuff ready.

Note, too many non-natives make the mistake of answering in the present simple when having to respond with willingness. This is incorrect, and if the speaker shows willingness then they must use the ‘will’ form.

(3) We use will to express certainty, either in making a promise or anything the speaker is certain about. 
  • We will win this election, and we’ll do whatever it takes.
  • Go to my boss’s office, she’ll help you out.
  • They’ll come around to pick up their stuff tonight at 20h.
(4) We use will to make requests and offers. 
  • Will Sarah let me know what she’s doing in regard to her holiday?
  • Will you come with me?
  • I’ll give you 50 dollars for that chair, what do you say?

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