Will or going to: are they the same or different?

When I first arrived in Taiwan I worked for a chain school that taught the words “will” and “going to” were the same when talking or writing about future intentions.
However, at a previous school a Native English speaking co-worker insisted one had a higher probability factor than the other. However I feel that would make adverbs of certainty like “highly likely”, “might”,“probably” and “possibly” redundant because I could say “I will probably go to work tomorrow.” or “I am probably going to work tomorrow.” and mean the same thing.
The best differentiation example I’ve come across was in a Chinese/English grammar book, that my school has.

[quote] Ann: I’ll get some salt from the the store. [i](she decides at the time of speaking)


Ann: I’m going to get some salt from the store.(she has already decided)Can I get you anything, Tom?[/quote]

Is it just that “will” sounds or reads more definite than “going to” and the fact that some people are more loyal than others or are there much clearer distinctions? :help:

Basically “be going to” is for something that is planned before you say it, and “will” is for something decided at the time of saying.


Be going to for plans. Will for willingness. Either for predictions.

Fuck with me and I WILL ban you. That’s a certainty.*

*I’ve never banned anyone and am not going to start. I’m willing to start, and will contemplate it if someone gives me a good reason, but I’m not going to look for reasons. I will always give people the benefit of the doubt, but eventually I suspect I’m going to have to review this policy. It will be a sad day when that happens.

I’m having dinner with my gf tonight. People always forget that there are other ways to talk about the future.

Seeing as the OP has OPed, could they not look it up on a website? Search for GRAMMAR.

Seeing as they’d rather do it here though, here’s the answer.

Going to - used for expressing prior plans
Going to - used for prediction with present evidence - black cloud in sky, it’s going to rain
Going to - used for commands - you’re going to finish your vegetables aren’t you Johnny

Will - used for spontaneous decisions
Will - used for predictions without evidence - It will rain tomorrow.
Will - used for conditional sentences (if) - see Loretta’s splendid example above (except s/he didn’t add the ‘if’)
Will - used for orders - Will you be QUIET!
Will - used for interpersonal offers, requests, promises and threats.

Don’t forget to uphold the gallant British ‘shall’ in place of the coarse American ‘will’.

Grammar googled 195,000,000 hits. It’s like searching on the internet for information about the band, The The. The OP will not be going to have a look at them all tonight or, for that matter, any time in the near future. Most of the posters on this thread, so far, speak British English. Shall could also be should and not will.

One of the above definitions of will should be might,could or may in my opinion.

All the cases Wangdoodle used are also correct for American English. Also, shall can be used for will:

I shall go out if I feel like it.

The internet is probably not the best place to reference grammar. I recommend Murphy’s English Grammar in Use. I use it with my adults students but, occasionally I’ve had to look something up for myself. Gotta love the American educational system. :America:

Yeah, I looked up “shall” recently because a student asked me the difference betwen “will” and “shall”. I had no idea about “shall” because I don’t use it and, frankly, I didn’t think that other North Americans did either. I found that “shall” can be used in place of “will” but, in North America, is only used for the first person (I shall or we shall).

I admit I’m wrong about shall in my above post. Cinderella’s fairy Godmother said, “You shall go to the ball, Cinderella”.

Take a look at this for another view of will and going to.


I’d also recommend Michael Swan’s ‘Practical English Usage’. It has every grammar point as well as every exception to the rule. It gives examples and explainations in everyday language. Plus it has an interesting ‘ranking of swearwords’ section; essential knowledge for someone off to visit an English speaking country.

Wangdoodle, thanks for the link and the other helpful information. I tried the first test and my score was 54% :blush: although obviously I felt a few answers were interchangeable. Micheal Swann’s ‘Practical English Usage’ has been on my shopping list for a while. Does anyone here know if Page One have copies?

Whoo hoo! I got a 90% on the first test. If you have already internalized the rules for going to and will, it’s easy. Even if you haven’t, being aware of those rules clarifies the usage so much.

97%. My god, what an embarrassment! :blush: :blush: :blush:
Its basic, basic stuff, too. :blush: :blush: