Most writers don't seem to distinguish between shall and will. Does that mean we no longer can express the emphatic future tense?

Many say it doesn't matter which you use. Well, it does if you want to use an emphatic future tense. Our verb tenses with their progressive and passive voices and emphatic tenses help to express an action precisely and specifically. What an incredibly complex, but expressive written language, huh?

What seems to be the latest on this? Anyone know?

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Dear Ikia

and will are both valid forms, but shall is often now considered to be more formal, so many speakers/writers do not use it at all!

As an emphatic word, shall is very good, but many would consider its use to be rather old-fashioned... " I shall go to the ball", said Cinderella!

See also Practical English Usage by Michael Swan, (Oxford University Press)

Old fashion? But shall is used for a future tense for first person; will is used for second and third persons.

For the emphatic future tense, will is used for first person; shall is used for second and third.

Thanks for your input; we have, indeed, lost our emphatic future tense.

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I believe it's correct to say that 'shall' is not a characteristic of AmE.

But shall is used for a future tense for first person; will is used for second and third persons.
I have heard that this is a totally bogus rule made up by a 17th century grammarian whose brain was just a little too idle one day. I have never known anyone to follow this convention, and if rumor is correct, no one ever has!

As an American, I can safely say that "shall" is buried deep in my 'passive vocabulary'. I never actually utter the word, and I don't know anyone here who often does. One can learn AmE without ever learning "shall" and communicate just as well as the 'natives' without it.

As for the emphatic future, right or wrong, most Americans believe that "shall" in all persons IS the future emphatic! So it's not exactly lost really.


P.S. Almost as rare in conversational AmE is "whom".
"Shall" still occurs as an ordinary 1st person future in BrE (especially in questions).

But it seems to be moving towards a purely "emphatic" role.

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The OALD says,

In modern English the traditional difference between shall and will has almost disappeared, and shall is not used very much at all, especially in American English. Shall is now only used with I and we, and often sounds formal and old-fashioned.

In British English shall is still used with I and we in questions or when you want to make a suggestion or an offer.

Shall cannot be used in all persons and still be considered emphatic. Shall is emphatic in first person, but "will" forms the emphatic in second and third persons.

If you believe in an emphatic future tense, then you must, at least in written formal English, where you can't shout for emphasis, distinguish shall from will in the various persons.

As I said earlier, it appears that the emphatic future tense is gone in the English language. The simple use of shall alone does not restore it.

I'm a little fuzzy-headed this morning; but I believe that in the traditional distinction, "shall" formed the ordinary future for the 1st person, and the "emphatic" or "emotional" future in the 2nd and 3rd persons. We still see this 1st person usage in questions:

1. Shall I call you later?

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