As you read this, you might be thinking, “That’s not me. Everybody understands me, and I know that my grammar is correct, so what’s the problem?”
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Using WILL all the time is not the worst habit in the world, and if you’re a beginner or intermediate student, it can be a great “crutch” (support mechanism) for your conversational skills, but it prevents you from communicating the subtle aspects of your future plans, intentions, and schedules.
If your English is at least at a conversational level, it’s a great time to start diversifying your repertoire of future forms.
A good way to start doing this is with “going to” (to be + going to + verb) and its variation, “gonna,” as we talked about in the last article in this series. Another way, as we will talk about today, is to learn the ins and outs (the details) of WILL.
Today you will learn everything you need to know about using WILL to talk about the future, including:
- Basic structure/conjugation
- Problems with overusing “Will”
- Contractions & Dynamic Native Pronunciation
- Proper uses
Basic Conjugation of Will
I will (I’ll) / I will not (I won’t)
You will (You’ll) / You will not (You won’t)
He will (He’ll) / He will not (He won’t)
She will (She’ll) / She will not (She won’t)
It will (It’ll) / It will not (It won’t)
We will (We’ll) / We will not (We won’t)
They will (They’ll) / They will not (They won’t)
*We will talk more about contractions and pronunciation below
The Problem With Overusing WILL
Before we discuss the uses and pronunciation of will, I am going to explain the problem with using WILL too much, and how it tends to make you sound like a beginner or intermediate speaker, even for advanced and fluent speakers.
Technically, there’s nothing wrong with using WILL all the time. It can even be a good thing for some people. It is useful because it’s simple, easy to learn, and it works in a very concrete way. But there comes a time when you have to leave behind your crutches and learn to imitate native speakers.
So what are some of the problems people have?
- English learners tend to oversimplify the use of “Will,” and use it to talk about everything in the future because they feel comfortable using it.
- Other future forms are more complicated, and can demand a deeper intuition about the language, which requires more contact with native speaking sources.
- Native speakers tend to use “will” a lot with contractions, which English learners generally neglect because of pronunciation difficulties. Americans, for example, don’t say “I’ll call you,” we say “all-call-you.”
Contractions & Pronunciation For Will
Two surprising secrets that make the future use of WILL more problematic are the awkward (strange and uncomfortable) pronunciation of the contractions.
1. English learners of all levels generally have a hard time pronouncing and using contractions the way they are taught in school.
2. Most students never really learn, or pay attention to the fact that native speakers (at least Americans) pronounce these contractions in a completely different and surprising way than students learn.
I will: “I’ll” (what people Learn) | “All” (how natives really speak)
You will: = “You’ll” (What People Learn) | “Yull” (how natives really speak)
She will: = “She’ll” (What People Learn) | “Shill” (how natives really speak)
He will: = “He’ll” (What People Learn) | “Hill” (how natives really speak)
It will: = “It’ll” (What People Learn) | “Id’ul” (how natives really speak)
We will: =“We’ll” (What People Learn) | “Will” (how natives really speak)
They will: = “They’ll” (What People Learn) | “Thill” (how natives really speak)
You guys will: = “No contraction” (What People Learn) | “You guys’ul” (how natives really speak)
*NOTES: The sentence “we’ll talk later” is pronounced “Will talk lader.” It seems like we are eliminating the subject pronoun (we), but is this is not the case. We will = We’ll (prounced “will”). Another important thing to know is that we don’t write this way.
Video Explanation by Rachel’s English
Rachel’s explanation, which starts at 6:25 in video, does a great job explaining many of the aspects that we talked about above.
Keep Listening to the Rest
- As Rachel talks about in the video, the “ll” contraction is considered a dark L sound and therefore pronounced as a vowel-like “ul” sound. Depending on your native language and culture, learners generally have difficulty with this.
- There are instances where the pronunciation of certain ‘T’ sounds becomes ‘D”. This is called a Flap T. See explanation below.
Here are a few examples:
- I’ll call you later if you’ll give me your number (“all” call you later if “yull” give me your phone number).
- We’ll come to your party if he’ll invite us, but I think it’ll rain, so I’m not sure if you guys’ll want to go with us. (“will” come to your party if “hill” invite us, but I think “id-ll” rain, so I’m not sure if you “guys’ul” want to go with us.)
*NOTE: Notice the pronunciation of the “T Sound.” This is another confusing pronunciation topic that we’ve written about in English Pronunciation Made Easy: 3 Native Secrets to Understanding and Pronouncing the “T” Sound
A few more contractions:
- How will = How’ll = “howl”
- Where will = Where’ll = “where-ul”
- When will = When’ll = “when-ul”
- *What will = What’ll = “whad-ul”
* “What will” is pronounced “whad-ul” because of the American flap D pronunciation rule. In American English, when a “t” is between two vowel or vowel-like sounds– it is pronounced as a soft D- like “better,” “later,” “Seattle.” Read more about this common pronunciation rule.
The Correct Uses of WILL
USE 1: No previous plan/Offering to do something
The following situations are spontaneous decisions with no prior plan before the time of speaking, or when the speaker volunteers to do something on the spot (at that moment).
- (Situation: somebody knocks on the door unexpectedly) “Hold on, I’ll get it.”
- (Situation: at a restaurant, ordering food) “I’ll have a soda and French fries.”
USE 2: A promise
When you make a promise about the future.
- (Situation: saying goodbye to girlfriend) “I’ll call you when I get home.”
- (Situation: After doing poorly on a test) “I’ll do better next time.”
USE 3: Combined with THINK
Will is often used with Think. This expresses a desire, or even a preference for a future action, but it’s not as strong or certain as other future forms.
- I think I’ll go to New York on vacation.
I would like to, I probably will, but there’s no plan, no schedule, and the intention is not as strong as “I’m going to go to New York on vacation.”
- Do you think you’ll go to the party on Saturday?
Asking if you have the intention.
- I don’t think I’ll go to work today.
“I don’t think” here is often a way to politely decline to do something.
Future Simple Mind Map
Use 4: Prediction (without evidence)
This prediction is not as strong as using “be + going to + verb.”
- It will rain on the weekend.
No clouds in the sky. If I were to say, “it’s going to rain on the weekend,” I have some evidence, like clouds.
- Brazil will win the world cup.
No evidence. If I were to say, “Brazil is going to win the world cup,” I have some evidence or reason to believe this.
- You will do great on the test.
No evidence. It’s more based on faith. If I were to say, “you’re going to do great on the test,” I have some evidence or reason to believe this.
USE 5: To be
The verb “to be” is often an exception to the rest of the rules/tendencies with “will.” You can use it even if you don’t have a firm plan and are not speaking spontaneously.
- Schedules- The meeting will be at 11:00 in the morning (schedule)
- Promise- I will be there on time
- Promise- I’ll be back (famous line from Terminator promising his return)
Check out the Terminator “I’ll be back” clip!
How to Apply What You’ve Learned!
- Pay attention to how native speakers use it in English For Life (TV, movies, podcasts, radio, etc), play around with the contractions and pronunciation, and if you can, ask for feedback from native speakers. (Speaking English Online: 5 Ways to Improve Your Fluency)
- Learn how to use other future forms like going to and gonna, and keep your eyes open for articles on other future forms (present continuous, simple present, and an overview of all of them.)
- Relax and have fun!
We would love to hear from you in the comments. Take care!