Will – other uses

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Older textbooks often refer to ‘will’ as ‘the future tense’ and this has confused a lot of learners.

It is important to remember that when we talk about the future we cannot always use ‘will’ and that when we use ‘will’ we are not always talking about the future.

Here ‘will’ is clearly referring to the future.

  • If I speak to her, I’ll tell her about it.
  • I’ll probably visit Sue when I go to Oxford.
  • Next birthday she’ll be 32. Or so she says.

In these examples, however, ‘will’ is referring to events happening at the present.

  • The car won’t start.
  • If that’s the phone, I’ll get it.
  • Will you have another cup of coffee?

When we use ‘will’ referring to the present, the idea being expressed is usually one of ‘showing willingness’ or ‘will power’.

  • My baby won’t stop crying. I’ve tried everything and I’m really exhausted.
  • I am the boss. You will do as I say. 
  • I need quiet to write this but he will keep on talking to me. I wish he would leave me alone. 

We use ‘will’ for requests, orders, invitations and offers.

  • Will you give me a hand?
  • Will you please take a seat?
  • Will you have some cake?
  • I’ll help you.

We use ‘will’ to make promises or threats.

  • I’ll do it at once. 
  • I’ll phone him back immediately.
  • I won’t forget this. 
  • I’ll get my own back some day.

We use ‘will’ for habit.

  • A cat will always find a warm place to sleep.
  • My car won’t go any faster than this.

We use ‘will’ for deduction.

  • I expect he’ll want us to get on with it.
  • The phone’s ringing. That will be Mark.

Look again at all of these examples of ‘will’. They are all to do with the present or are ‘timeless’.