English Grammar in Use 5th Edition by Murphy covers 'shall and will' on the page 44; the book suggests that 'will' is more common in the spoken English and no information regarding the question in the title. However, in an interview on the Guardian conductor Roger Norrington says

These two CDs will doubtless be the last I shall make, after several hundred in so many various genres

I wonder if 'shall' is more formal than 'will'. My question is not specifically about the quoted sentence, but I base it on the aforementioned quote.

Note: I interpreted the sentence as if he will not make any more CDs, hence the final.

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    Bear in mind that Sir Roger was born in 1934 and so would have been taught English in the style of that time. Even in the 1960s I was taught that I should say I/we shall except for emphasis when it was I/we will.
    – mdewey
    Sep 18, 2022 at 15:35
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    In the exact context as cited, shall and will are semantically equivalent. You could say that shall is "more formal" than will, but as flagged up by @mdewey - to the extent that native speakers would recognise any difference at all, they'd probably mainly treat shall as an indication that the text itself and/or the speaker/writer is older. Many younger speakers rarely or never use shall anyway. Also note that regardless of what's said in other contexts, Cinderella's You shall go to the ball! is far more emphatic than the will alternative. Sep 18, 2022 at 16:06

2 Answers 2


Because “shall,” “will,” and “must” are used in articulating key contractual obligations, it is important to use them properly. I support making "shall" obsolete.

Lawyers were trained to use "shall" but modern government and engineering practice is to delete "shall".

In just about every jurisdiction, courts have held that “shall” can mean not just “must” and “may”, but also “will” and “is”.

I recall in the 70s in specifications "shall" was used for 2nd, 3rd party and "will" for 1st party commitments.

"Shall" was once the "proper" British language of someone trying to behave "well-groomed" yet now is rarely spoken elsewhere and frowned upon in plain-English contracts and specifications.

The clear English words preferred are "may" (optional) and "must/will". "Shall" can be deleted but retain the verbiage, when in doubt.


  1. https://www.plainlanguage.gov/guidelines/conversational/shall-and-must/
  2. https://www.csiresources.org/blogs/kevin-obeirne-pe-fcsi-ccs-ccca-cdt1/2020/08/28/specifications-language-the-meaning-of-shall-will

In the prescribed formal English, you use "shall" with the first person for the future and "will" with the second or third person.

Except that "I will" expresses determination, rather than a factual statement about the future. Moreover "You shall" expresses a promise.


I shall go to the ball (simple fact)

I will go to the ball (a statement of intent and determination to go)

You will go to the ball (simple fact)

You shall go to the ball (a promise, made by the speaker)

In unmarked spoken or written English, both shall and will are normally contracted to 'll and so no distinction is made. Using "shall" in a hypercorrect way (ie using "you shall or he shall) is probably worse than simply using "will" in all situations.

The conductor, however, is quite correct to use "shall" in this context.

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    Let's not forget the famous man, out sailing in a boat full of grammarians, who drowned after he fell in the water and shouted 'I will drown; no one shall save me!' Sep 18, 2022 at 17:28

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