3

I have a book that says we can use will and would for a habitual action. For example,

Everyday Jane will come home from school and ring up the friends she's just been talking to.

Does this sentence make sense? I used to refer that book when I have a problem but now I dont trust it because I've never seen people write that way. I think the only possible way to express a habitual action is,

Everyday Jane comes home from school and rings up the friends she's just been talking to.

If the "will" version is correct, then is there any difference from the "present simple" version?

1
  • It's sort of rare nowadays, but "will" was commonly used this way. What is the name of this "book"? You might also want to look at the year of its first publication. And please provide the exact explanation given by "the book" in a quote. It's +1 if you do!
    – Mari-Lou A
    Dec 15, 2016 at 9:41

2 Answers 2

3

Both versions are grammatically correct.

It is possible (although in my experience relatively uncommon) to use "will" (or "would" for past tense) to indicate habit, but only with action (i.e. non-stative) verbs. This construction is probably more common in the past tense. When talking about the present, the form with the present simple seems more natural to me as a native speaker and is more concise, but the meaning is exactly the same either way. So you could say:

Every day after school Jimmy goes to the shop to buy sweets. OR Every day after school Jimmy will go to the shop to buy sweets.

or in the past tense:

Every day after school Jimmy went to the shop to buy sweets. OR Every day after school Jimmy would go to the shop to buy sweets.

However, in the following example with a stative verb, only the present simple/past simple are possible:

In high school I loved science. NOT In high school I would love science (ungrammatical)

Another way of expressing habit in the past tense is the construction "used to". I'm not going to convolute this answer by going into that more, but there's more information here and here.

4
  • So to conclude, they have no difference right? But, maybe there's any time using will is preferable? Dec 15, 2016 at 6:40
  • The meaning is the same, that's right. I wouldn't personally say there was a time when "will" is preferable to the present simple because to me it sounds a bit odd. However, one of the sites I linked to at the bottom says: "Will is used to emphasise the characteristics of a person rather than describing the person himself or herself, e.g. A friend will always help you. (This is one of the characteristics of a friend)"
    – D. Nelson
    Dec 15, 2016 at 6:44
  • If I'm not mistaken, the habitual will was a borrowing from Latin syntax.
    – user32753
    Dec 15, 2016 at 6:49
  • The difference in meaning is very subtle. The simple present is the most neutral way to express a habitual. In "Every day after school Jimmy will go..." I suspect the use of "will" is a narrative device: it puts the listener in a point in time (e.g., the a typical day at a time right after school) and invites them to imagine the events that will unfold next.
    – nschneid
    Sep 28, 2021 at 5:04
0

I agree with @D.Nelson, although I have never heard the explanation before...

The only true example I could find used somewhere was in "Jumanji" the movie:

Suspect will often leave something behind.

which matches the 'emphasis on characteristics of (a type) of person.'

However, in most of the examples, I still get a feeling that there is more than one event indirectly referred to. Making the final grammar more of a future result...

For example 'After school... she will/would... 'After the crime, the suspect will/would'...

0

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .