What is the Difference Between Will and Should: Understanding the Fine Line

As someone who is not a native English speaker, I’ve always found the difference between the words “will” and “should” to be a little bit confusing. At first glance, both words seem to be used to talk about future events or actions. However, a deeper understanding of the two reveals that they differ in their level of certainty and obligation. Understanding the nuances between these two words may seem trivial, but it can greatly enhance your communication skills and prevent misunderstandings.

“Will” indicates a willingness to do something in the future, or a prediction of what will happen. It reflects a sense of certainty and forward-thinking. On the other hand, “should” represents an obligation, a sense of duty or moral conviction. So while both words are often used to make plans for the future, they have different implications depending on the context. So, when we say “I will do it,” we are implying that we are certain that we can complete the task given to us. When we say “I should do it,” we are acknowledging that we have a personal obligation to undertake the task.

Clear communication is crucial in any kind of interaction, be it professional or personal. And using the right words at the right time is key for clarity. Understanding the difference between “will” and “should” can help you to achieve this. Knowing when to use each word will result in better communication and understanding in your conversations. So, the next time you’re drafting an email or conversation, remember the difference between “will” and “should.” It could be just the thing you need to get your message across.

Future Tense Verbs Overview

Future tense verbs refer to actions or events that will happen at a later time. In English, there are various ways to express the future, with the most common being the use of “will” or “shall” to form the future tense.

  • Using “will”: We use “will” to describe a future event or action that is certain to happen. For example, “I will graduate from college next year.”
  • Using “shall”: “Shall” is not as commonly used as “will” and is often reserved for more formal language. For example, “Shall we meet at 7 pm?”

Additionally, we can use “should”, “ought to”, and “supposed to” to express the future, but with a level of uncertainty or obligation.


  • “I should be able to finish my work by tomorrow.”
  • “You ought to study for the exam if you want to pass.”
  • “I’m supposed to meet my friend later, but I’m not sure if I can make it.”

It is important to note that in casual conversation, the present tense is often used to describe future events. For example, “I’m going to the party tonight” instead of “I will go to the party tonight.”

Below is a table summarizing how different auxiliary verbs can be used to express the future tense:

Auxiliary Verb Use Example
Will Certain events or actions in the future I will call you later tonight.
Shall Formal “should” or obligation Shall we meet at the library at 3 pm?
Should Expected or advised behavior You should try the new restaurant downtown.
Ought to Expected or advised behavior, more formal You really ought to apologize for what you said.
Supposed to Obligation or expectation, with uncertainty I’m supposed to go to the party tonight, but I’m not sure if I can make it.

Determining Certainty with “Should” and “Will”

When it comes to determining certainty in language, “should” and “will” are two words that can be easily confused. While both express likelihood, they have different levels of certainty and implications. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Should: This word suggests a recommendation or suggestion, rather than a firm prediction. It implies that there is a logical or moral reason for a certain action, but it is not a guaranteed outcome. For example, “You should try this restaurant, it has great reviews.” The implication here is that the restaurant is likely to be good, but there is no guarantee.
  • Will: This word indicates a high degree of certainty, often used to express a prediction or guarantee. For example, “The forecast says it will rain tomorrow.” The implication is that it is almost certain that there will be rain, based on the professional prediction.
  • Could: This word indicates a possibility, but not a certainty. For example, “I could go to the party tonight, but I haven’t decided yet.” The implication is that the decision has not been made, and the outcome is not guaranteed.

Understanding the level of certainty expressed by these words can help in effective communication. For example, a boss might say “You should finish the report by Friday,” indicating that it is recommended but not absolutely necessary. On the other hand, if the boss says “You will finish the report by Friday,” it is a firm expectation and deadline.

Here is a comparison chart between “should” and “will” to illustrate the difference:

Should Will
Definition Suggestion or recommendation Prediction or guarantee
Level of certainty Low High
Usage Used for recommendations, advice, and hypothetical situations. Used for predictions, guarantees, and firm expectations.

In conclusion, “should” and “will” may seem similar, but they have different implications and levels of certainty. Understanding their distinctions can help you communicate more effectively and avoid confusion.

Common Usages of “Will”

One of the most commonly used modal verbs in English is “will”. It is used to express different meanings and can be used in various contexts. Here are some common usages of “will”:

  • Future predictions: “It will rain tomorrow.”
  • Instant decision-making: “I will have the steak, please.”
  • Voluntary actions: “I will help you with your homework.”
  • Willingness: “I will do whatever it takes to succeed.”
  • Habitual actions: “He will always talk too much.”

One of the important things to keep in mind while using “will” is that it is a modal verb used for the future tense. However, it can also be used to express willingness, instant decisions, and habitual actions.

Common Usages of “Should”

“Should” is a modal verb used to indicate obligation, advice, or expectation. It is often used interchangeably with “ought to” and “must”. However, there are some subtle differences between these verbs that can affect their meaning in different contexts.

  • Obligation: “Should” is commonly used to indicate an obligation to do something. For example, “You should finish your homework before watching TV.”
  • Advice: “Should” can also be used to give advice. For example, “You should eat more fruits and vegetables if you want to stay healthy.”
  • Expectation: “Should” can be used to express an expectation or probability. For example, “It should be sunny tomorrow.”

However, the use of “should” can also be influenced by context and social norms. For example, what is considered a moral obligation in one culture may not be the same in another culture. It is important to consider these factors when using “should” to convey meaning.

Common Usages of “Should”: Differences between “Should” and “Would”

One verb that is often confused with “should” is “would”. While both verbs are modal verbs, there are several differences in their usage.

“Would” is often used to express a hypothetical situation or a willingness to do something. For example, “I would love to go on vacation to Hawaii someday.”

“Should”, on the other hand, is used to express obligation, advice, or expectation, as we covered earlier. For example, “You should submit your application by the deadline.”

It is important to pay attention to context and the intended meaning of a sentence to ensure that the correct verb is used.

Common Usages of “Should”: Differences between “Should” and “Could”

Another verb that is often confused with “should” is “could”. While both verbs are modal verbs, they have different meanings and functions.

“Could” is often used to express possibility or ability. For example, “I could ride a bike when I was younger.”

“Should”, on the other hand, is used to indicate obligation, advice, or expectation. For example, “You should be more careful when you’re driving.”

“Should” “Could”
Indicates obligation, advice, or expectation Expresses possibility or ability
Commonly used to give direction or make a suggestion Commonly used to express a hypothetical or past situation

Understanding the differences between “should” and “could” can help you communicate more effectively and avoid confusion.

“Will” vs “Should” in Formal Writing

Choosing the right words in your writing can convey a certain tone and level of professionalism. In formal writing, the choice between “will” and “should” can make a significant difference in how your writing is perceived. Here, we will explore the differences between these two words and how to use them appropriately.

Using “Will” in Formal Writing

  • “Will” is often used to indicate a promise or a definite future action. For instance, “We will send the report to the client by Friday.”
  • “Will” can also be used to express a strong recommendation. For example, “We will strongly encourage our employees to attend the training sessions.”
  • When used in the first person, “will” can demonstrate a commitment or willingness to take action. For instance, “I will work on improving my communication skills.”

Using “Should” in Formal Writing

On the other hand, “should” is often used to indicate a recommendation or obligation, but not a certainty. For instance, “Employees should attend the training sessions to enhance their skills.”

  • “Should” can also be used to offer a suggestion or advice. For example, “You should proofread your work before submitting it.”
  • “Should” is used in opinions and values, such as “People should not smoke.”

When to Use “Will” vs “Should”

Knowing when to use “will” or “should” in formal writing can be a bit tricky, but it all boils down to the level of confidence and certainty you want to convey. If you want to express your commitment, promise, or a strong recommendation, use “will.” If you want to convey a suggestion or opinion, use “should.”

Will Should
Certainty or promise Recommendation or obligation
First person commitment Suggestion or advice

The table above sum up the main differences between “will” and “should” in formal writing.

Overall, using the right word in formal writing can differentiate between a professional and amateurish tone. By understanding the nuances between “will” and “should,” you can improve the clarity and effectiveness of your writing.

Impact of Tone when using “Will” versus “Should”

Choosing the right word can make all the difference in how your message is received. When it comes to the words “will” and “should,” their usage can often have different connotations and therefore varying levels of impact on the audience.

Tone Differences between “Will” and “Should”

  • Will: When using “will,” the tone can come across as assertive and confident as it implies a definite action or outcome. For instance, “I will finish the project by tomorrow.” This creates a sense of control and determination in the context.
  • Should: “Should” on the other hand comes across as advice or a suggestion and often implies obligation. For instance, “You should finish the project by tomorrow.” The tone is more indirect and implies that there may be consequences for not following through with the advice.

Impact Differences between “Will” and “Should”

Using “will” and “should” can also have a considerable impact on the listener or reader. Here are some key impact differences:

  • Confidence: Using “will” can show confidence and decision-making, whereas using “should” may imply indecisiveness.
  • Accountability: Using “will” holds the speaker accountable for the outcome. “Should,” on the other hand, puts the onus on the listener. The message recipient may feel being advised for something.
  • Command: “Should” can come off as a command or instruction. Meanwhile, “will” implies a sense of collaboration and mutual agreement.
Word Tone Impact
Will Assertive and confident Shows decisiveness and accountability
Should Advice or suggestion Implies obligation or command

When considering your choice between “will” and “should” while writing or speaking, consider your audience’s perspective and what you want to convey. Pay attention to the impact these words have on your message, and whether they might complement your intentions.

Native Speaker Usage of “Will” versus “Should”

As native speakers of English, we use the words “will” and “should” in different contexts and for different purposes. Here’s a closer look at how we typically use these words:

  • Will: We use “will” to talk about something that we believe is likely to happen in the future. For example, “I think it will rain tomorrow” or “I will probably be busy next week.”
  • Should: We use “should” to talk about something that we believe is the right thing to do or the best course of action. For example, “You should eat more vegetables” or “I think we should hire her for the job.”

Of course, there are exceptions and variations to these rules depending on the context, the speaker, and the listener. But as a general guideline, this is how native speakers tend to use “will” and “should.”

Let’s take a closer look at some specific scenarios where these words are commonly used:

1. Making Plans

When we make plans for the future, we often use “will” to express our intentions or predictions. For example:

  • “I will call you tomorrow to confirm the meeting.”
  • “We will arrive in Paris on Friday afternoon.”
  • “I think she will enjoy the concert.”

On the other hand, if we want to suggest a course of action or offer advice, we may use “should” instead. For example:

  • “We should book our flights early to get a good deal.”
  • “You should pack warm clothes for the trip.”
  • “I think we should avoid busy roads during rush hour.”

2. Giving Instructions

When we give instructions or directions, we often use “should” to indicate the correct or recommended way of doing something. For example:

  • “You should turn right at the stop sign.”
  • “We should follow the recipe exactly to get the best results.”
  • “They should double-check their work before submitting the report.”

On the other hand, if we want to express a prediction or likelihood, we may use “will” instead. For example:

  • “The bus will arrive at the station in ten minutes.”
  • “I think he will pass the exam with flying colors.”
  • “She will probably finish the project before the deadline.”

3. Expressing Preferences

When we express our preferences or opinions, we may use “should” to suggest what we believe is the best option. For example:

  • “I think we should go to the movies instead of staying home.”
  • “You should try the seafood pasta – it’s delicious.”
  • “We should take the train instead of driving.”

However, if we want to predict what we think will actually happen, we may use “will” instead. For example:

  • “I will probably stay home tonight – I’m too tired to go out.”
  • “They will likely choose the cheaper option for the project.”
  • “She will definitely win the race – she’s been training hard.”

As you can see, the difference between “will” and “should” often comes down to the speaker’s intention, context, and tone. By understanding these nuances, you can become a more confident and effective English speaker.

Usage Will Should
Making Plans Expressing intentions or predictions Offering advice or course of action
Giving Instructions Indicating likelihood or prediction Indicating correct or recommended way of doing something
Expressing Preferences Expressing likelihood or prediction Suggesting the best option or course of action

Overall, the use of “will” and “should” in native speaker English depends on the specific context and purpose of the conversation. By mastering these subtleties, you can improve your communication skills and sound more natural in your interactions with English speakers.

FAQs: What is the Difference Between Will and Should?

1. What does “will” mean?

“Will” refers to something that is certain to happen in the future, either because it is planned or because it is inevitable. It is often used to describe actions that are under someone’s control.

2. What does “should” mean?

“Should” indicates an obligation or expectation that something will or should happen, but it is not necessarily a certainty. It is often used to give advice or make suggestions.

3. Can “will” and “should” be used interchangeably?

No, they cannot. “Will” and “should” have distinct meanings and are used to convey different things. “Will” is a statement of fact, while “should” is a recommendation or expectation.

4. When should I use “will”?

You should use “will” when you want to talk about something that is certain to happen, or when you want to make a promise or commitment.

5. When should I use “should”?

You should use “should” when you want to give advice or make a suggestion about what someone else should do, or when you want to express an obligation or expectation.

Closing Thoughts: Thanks for Reading!

Thanks for taking the time to learn about the difference between “will” and “should.” We hope this article has been helpful in clarifying their meanings and how they are used in everyday conversation. Remember, “will” describes certainty and control, while “should” conveys obligation and advice. Keep these differences in mind to communicate effectively and confidently. Visit again soon for more helpful articles!