Interested in Language
I've learned that when predicting the future without having ant evidence indicating that the prediction will come true, we use 'will' in stead of 'going to'.
Let's use this sentence as an example:
'Johnny's sister is going to have a baby'.
Using the argument above, wouldn't the correct sentence be:
'Johnny's sister will have a baby'. ??
Here, we are predicting the future without anything in the sentence indicating any evidence for our prediction.
If, on the other hand, we included some evidence to the sentence, we should use 'going to' - f.x.:
Johnny's sister looks bigger than usual. I think, she's going to have a baby.
Am I totally wrong here?
I'm familiar with the rule you cite, as I've seen it in the Focus on Grammar series, but I don't think it quite captures the nuance of how we use "will" and "be going to." First of all, a standard disclaimer: I'm speaking from my own experience as an American; Brits, Australians, South Africans, etc. probably have slightly different rules, not the least of which is that they often use "shall" as another alternative. Anyway, in the indicative, "will" is most often used with the first person--when the speaker is talking about himself, or a group that includes himself ("I" or "we" statements). I never hear anyone use "will" when talking about the weather; we either say "it's going to rain/snow/be sunny/etc." or "it's supposed to rain/snow/be sunny/etc." Likewise, when talking about a third party, people usually use "be going to," "be about to," or the present progressive to indicate future actions. "Will" is sometimes used in predicting the experiences of the person you are addressing, as in the famous doctor's lie that "you won't feel a thing" before he sticks the needle in, or the confident declaration of "you won't regret this" when someone entrusts you with something important. More often, though, we use modals to soften the certainty, such as "you might change your mind," or "you may be surprised."
There are many subtleties to the unconscious choices we make, and they're always evolving, so I welcome any comments or criticisms on the assessments I've made here.
First of all - thank you for your comprehensive reply. And you're right! There are many subtleties in the english language depenging on which english speaking country you come from.
The thing is that I'm studying for the entrance examination for the Danish Police Academy, which amongst other things consists of an English grammar test with a lot of multiple choise questions. These tests tend to have a nature of bringing the choises to a head, seeking the most correct answers amongst other seemingly correct answers. I guess we can assume that 'formal British English' pose the guidelines in such a test. Just so you know my intentions for asking the question.
Once again, thank you for your answer!
To the main point: I agree with Jasmin; the rule doesn't exist in real English.
However, fortune-tellers are typically presented this way.
"I see in my crystal ball that you will have two children", rather than "I see that you are going to ..."
Hetrological's doctor could be made more honest without spoiling the grammatical point: 'You'll feel a bit of a prick'. This version was quite popular, until a comedian awoke people to a scurrilous double entendre, so many phlebotomists dispense with a verb altogether: 'Slight prick...'.
***** NOT A TEACHER *****
(1) No, you are not totally wrong -- according to Mr. Michael
Swan's Practical English Grammar.
(2) In case you have not had time to consult his book, here are a
few of his examples:
We are going to crash! (There is outside evidence.)
Don't lend your car to him. He will crash it. (the speaker's knowledge)
That repair is going to cost $7,000. (outside evidence -- the builder's letter)
It will cost about $3,000 to put in new lights. (speaker's opinion)
Alice is going to have a baby. (outside evidence -- she's pregnant)
The baby will certainly have blue eyes. (speaker's knowledge about genetics: both parents have blue eyes.)
(3) Good luck on your test.
***** Thank you for your question *****
Last edited by TheParser; 02-Jul-2010 at 13:07.
I've always understood "I will" to be an expression of determination. That's what makes the difference between "shall" and "will." "I will finish this report today" versus "Shall I pour you a cup of tea?"
It's a pity that there is only one concept for "rules". (Or at least, many students understand them that way - either a thing is a rule or it's not).
It would be much more useful, in theory, to have grades of rules, or rules, guidelines and suggestions, for example:
Class 1 rule: This always applies (it's a Rule). e.g. A singular subject is followed by a singular verb.
Class 2 rule: Recommended. Perhaps the rule under discussion in this thread.
Class 3 rule: The predominant variant. "It is me". The use of 'I' used to be a class 1 rule, and now the use of "me" is a class 3 rule.
Of course, this would be hopelessly complicated in practice; there would be endless arguments about which class of rule something is, rather than, as now, whether something is, in fact, a rule.
But some discussion about the origin, ontology and applicability of "rules" should be included in every grammar book.
Another great point, one I alluded to earlier. "Shall" is practically nonexistent in American English. We all know what it means; we just hardly ever use it ourselves. The more common use of it in other English-speaking countries probably has a ripple effect on the instances and uses of "will" and "be going to." I don't really know enough about that to say for certain.I've always understood "I will" to be an expression of determination. That's what makes the difference between "shall" and "will." "I will finish this report today" versus "Shall I pour you a cup of tea?"