GRAMMAR WORLD | LINGUISTIC MURDER – “WILL” HAS ELIMINATED “SHALL”
By Moshood Alabi, PhD Candidate, University of Lagos
Do I say murder, assassination, elimination or slay? Users of the English Language in the Current Grammar have done one of that to the modal auxiliary verb SHALL. It sounds sometimes as if the auxiliary verb SHALL is no long in the dictionary or it has been linguistically reduced to an old fashioned word or just a spoken word. This piece focuses on the uses of the auxiliary verbs WILL and SHALL as well as their usage problems.
Many people do not know that the auxiliary verbs WILL and SHALL can be used interchangeably. Some define possibility and probability as the difference between the two words. Well, in the American and British English Usages, the two words are not viewed the same way. In the American English Usage, the auxiliary verb WILL is often used both for FUTURITY and other cases like promise, determination and emphasis.
Let’s examine these cases,
I will be a year older tomorrow (Futurity)
We will sign it tomorrow.
I will pay you the money(Promise)
He will be here soon.
Does that mean that the auxiliary verb SHALL is not used at all in the American English Usage?
Let me say that it is, but rarely used. Rarely used because it is used ONLY in two situations. What are those situations? It is used in asking whether to proceed with an action.
Here is an example:
Shall we leave this place ?
The second situation is in legal documents. SHALL is often preferred to WILL in writing legal documentation.
Here is an illustration,
The director shall sign here.
However ,in the British English usage, the two auxiliary verbs are used interchangeably. The two auxiliary verbs interchange their roles when the Subjects change. While SHALL agrees with the first person for FUTURITY ; it agrees with second and the third persons for determination, promise and emphasis.
Let’s examine these:
I shall be a year older tomorrow (Futurity)
He shall give you the money.(Promise)
WILL agrees with the second and the third persons for FUTURITY and with the first person for determination, promise and emphasis.
Examine these illustrations:
Tomorrow will be Thursday (Futurity)
I will visit you soon. This can be taxing but a continuous practice can make it work.
In sum, the disparity in the usage of WILL and SHALL is the view of the British and American English language users. However, some users have preferred the use of the simple present tense to replace the future tense so as not to rack their brains in choosing the one that is more appropriate.
Instead of saying,
It will start very soon.
It starts very soon.
It is necessary to know that the usage of the two words is determined by the environment of usage, the subject as well as the meaning that the sentence conveys.
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Das.P.C(2012) Applied English Grammar and Composition. New Delhi: New Central Book Agency
Douglas .A and Strumpf Michael (2010) The Complete Grammar. India: Goodwill Publishing House.
Jones.N etal(1985) The Right Word at the Right Time London: Readers’ Digest Association