The sentence

She'll sit talking to herself for hours.

may express typical behavior. Indeed, M. Swan in his Practical English Usage (629.7) says: "We can use will to talk about typical behavior" (habits and characteristics).

But we can also use the present simple to express one. For instance:

She sits talking to herself for hours.

What's the difference between expressing of typical behavior via will and the present simple?

  • @snailboat Sure, it was a typo. I'm sorry. – Dmitrii Bundin Sep 20 '14 at 4:48
  • No need to apologize, just trying to help :-) – snailplane Sep 20 '14 at 4:48

The Cambridge Grammar Of The English Language (p194) lists this function of will as expressing "propensity", and gives the example: He will lie in bed all day, reading trashy novels.

The CGEL goes on to explain:

Here we are concerned with characteristic or habitual behavior ... A simple present could be substituted with little effect. ... Strong stress on the auxiliary conveys the speaker's emotive response to the situation - usually exasperation, disapproval, resignation, or the like: He WILL pour tea-leaves down the sink.

So, both She'll sit talking to herself for hours and She sits talking to herself for hours will likely be interpreted as simple statements of fact, whereas She will sit talking to herself for hours will be taken as conveying the speaker's (usually negative) evaluation of that fact.

| improve this answer | |

The "will" usage has also been mentioned in Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English as "annoying habit":

used to describe someone’s habits, especially when you think they are annoying, e.g.

Trish will keep asking damn silly questions.

| improve this answer | |
  • The following URL says "We can use 'will' to describe present habits and behaviour whether it is good or bad." So is it for only annoying habits? ecenglish.com/learnenglish/lessons/describing-habits – 243 Feb 13 '17 at 19:31
  • 1
    @243: "will" is used for talking about habits in general. However, if you put extra emphasis on this word, it means that the habit annoys you. – M.N Feb 13 '17 at 22:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.