Will versus Shall

In British English we sometimes use both ‘will’ and ‘shall’ to indicate the future. In American English this is rare except I believe in some legal terminology. My suggestion to students is that unless they really want to focus on British English to stick to ‘will’ as it is more generally understood by second language learners internationally.

However students often want to understand this peculiarity of British English.

FutureFuture + emphasis
I shallI will
you willyou shall
he* willhe* shall
we shallwe will
they willthey shall
* he / she/ they (singular) / it

As you can see, when we say ‘I will’ or ‘you shall’ there is a stronger feeling behind the phrase. Therefore be aware that saying ‘you shall’ is quite argumentative and non-negotiable. Shall is often used in the third person in legislature because of this additional force behind the word.

The purpose of the training and treatment of convicted prisoners shall be to encourage and assist them to lead a good and useful life.

The Prison Rules 1999 (https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/728/made)

Whereas “we shall ” which is in the first person doesn’t have these same connotations.