I met this sentence.

"I'm sick". "Well, if you will eat so much, I'm not surprised."

What is the difference when 'will' is left out?

As 'will' means about future or doing sth not yet done, I can hardly guess what the sentence is meaning though I am used to the sentence without 'will'.

  • In your context, will is nothing to do with "future". It's about will-power, determination, which could be rephrased as If it is your will to overeat = If you are determined to overeat. Jul 5, 2016 at 22:01
  • That implies a dropping of the to in the sentence, because for me it's only (barely) grammatical if you say: "Well, if you will to eat so much..." Are you allowed to drop infinitive to in your dialect?
    – eijen
    Jul 5, 2016 at 23:11
  • @eijen then do you mean 'will to verb...' is no problem?
    – JBL
    Jul 6, 2016 at 6:16
  • @JBL Honestly, I don't think it's common in my dialect (NJ, USA), but it should be possible? In this case will would mean "intend, desire, or wish (something) to happen". Perhaps FumbleFingers can shed more light on that usage.
    – eijen
    Jul 6, 2016 at 20:44

3 Answers 3


I think will means "insist on" or "continue to".


Well, if you continue to eat so much, I'm not surprised [that you get sick].


Apparently this is from English Grammar in Use, which indicates that the use of will marks disapproval of a habitual situation.

However, as an Atlantic American English speaker, this is ungrammatical. Perhaps the usage is common in other dialects of AmE? The comments below would support that.

I would instead say:

"I'm sick". "Well, since you always eat so much, I'm not surprised."

  • I (US speaker, East Alabama) am familiar with this. It's always heavily emphasized: If you will eat so much you should expect to gain weight. Jul 5, 2016 at 22:17
  • I grew up in New Jersey and I asked a friend who grew up in Long Island about this and she agreed it's not grammatical in her dialect. Perhaps it's a North/South usage divide, then.
    – eijen
    Jul 5, 2016 at 23:05
  • It is not at all ungrammatical in American English Jul 5, 2016 at 23:17
  • This phrase is also unfamiliar to me. (US, Hawaii)
    – Leo
    Jul 6, 2016 at 0:20
  • 1
    To me (also American) the usage is not ungrammatical, but old-fashioned or even archaic and used only in very particular situations.
    – The Photon
    Jul 6, 2016 at 1:11

It's a common myth that "will" itself represents the future time. The myth is due to the confusion between correlation and causation. Correlation does not imply causation. Just because "will" is frequently used in the future time does not mean "will" itself means the future time.

More often than not, what happens in the future is undetermined at the time of speaking. In such a case, the speaker feels the need for expressing reservations about what they say about what happens in the future, and the reservations are expressed in various forms including but not limited to the use of modals such as "will", "shall", "can", "may" and "must." Among these modals, "will" happens to be the most neutral choice to express the speaker's reservations about the future time.

Having gotten that out of the way, let's take a look at the two alternatives:

(1) "I'm sick." "Well, if you eat so much, I'm not surprised."

(2) "I'm sick." "Well, if you will eat so much, I'm not surprised."

The difference between these two is as follows: In (1), the speaker need not express any reservations about "your eating so much," because it is a premise on which the conditional construction is based. Generally, the speaker need not express any reservations about a premise, because a premise is an assumption that something is true. That is, in (1), the speaker assumes "your eating so much" to be true or a fact.

But there are times, albeit not as frequent, when the speaker does feel the need for expressing some reservations even about a premise for various contextual reasons. Example (2) is one of those cases. Here, the contextual reason is that the speaker considers "your eating so much" not as a fact but as something that is up to "your willingness to eat so much." And "will" can be "used for showing that somebody is willing to do something" as in:

They won't lend us any more money.

He wouldn't come--he said he was too busy.

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