The future simple for characteristics

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Bob8964

Senior Member
Chinese
Hellw, here are some samples in which "will" is used to talk about the present characteristics:

1. An Englishman will usually show you the way in the street.

2. Even when it's freezing could, some people will wear just jeans and a T-shirt.

3. Business people will watch what their competitors are doing with great interest.


I wonder whether "will" is necessary in these sentences and whether they will become odd if we use the present simple instead of "will".
 
  • Chez

    Senior Member
    English English
    Yes it does change them if you drop ‘will’. I read it as ‘is willing to’, which is different from just saying they ‘do it’.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    It isn't the future tense. "Will" in sentences (2) and (3) expresses a customary action, and in sentence (1) it expresses willingness.

    You can omit "will" meaning customary action, which turns the sentence into a general truth. There is a lot of overlap between these two things. However it would sound a little odd to omit "will" in sentence (1). An Englishman might be willing to show you the way in the street, but you would need to ask him for him to actually do this. Omitting "will" makes it sound like he is a signpost.
     

    Darlingpurslane

    Senior Member
    English - US
    “Will” is used in statements like these to indicate that this is typical or habitual behavior.

    I would argue that changing the second example to present simple will not change the meaning, because of the word “some.” Both versions tell me that for some people, wearing jeans and a T-shirt in cold weather is not unusual.

    However, for the first and third examples you provided, I think it does change the meaning.

    "An Englishman usually shows you the way in the street" says that nearly every time you need help finding your way, it is an Englishman who helps you, instead of saying that an Englishman is typically willing to help someone find their way. To word it another way, with present simple, the sentence is saying that it is an Englishman who helps you find your way more often than not, while the future simple is saying that someone from England is very likely to be helpful if asked for directions. Obviously, it is unlikely to be universally true that an Englishman is the person who provides directions most of the time, so "an Englishman usually shows you the way in the street" would only make sense in a specific context, such as in a certain neighborhood or city. "An Englishman will usually show you the way in the street" tells you that, in general, men from England are likely to help.

    Removing "will" from "business people will watch what their competitors are doing with great interest" changes the sentence to a general statement about all business people, that is, that EVERY business person does this, instead of saying that it is typical behavior for business people (typical, but there may be exceptions!).

    I would not read "will" as meaning "is willing to" in any of these examples. While it does make sense to interpret the first example that way, "will" in these types of statements means typical behavior that the people (or animals, or weather patterns, or whatever) in question actually do. Being willing to do something doesn't necessarily mean that they usually do it, just that they are not opposed to doing it.

    Here's another example:

    Rebecca will smile at strangers as she walks to work.

    Here we are learning that Rebecca often, or usually, or habitually, smiles at strangers during her walk to work.

    Rebecca smiles at strangers as she walks to work.

    Here we are learning that Rebecca always smiles at strangers during her walk to work.

    Rebecca is willing to smile at strangers as she walks to work.

    Here we are learning that Rebecca may smile at strangers during her walk to work, if she decides to do so, perhaps if they smile first, or if she is in a good mood, or if she wants to show off her lipstick, or she may not.
     

    Bob8964

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    “Will” is used in statements like these to indicate that this is typical or habitual behavior.
    ...
    I would not read "will" as meaning "is willing to" in any of these examples. While it does make sense to interpret the first example that way, "will" in these types of statements means typical behavior that the people (or animals, or weather patterns, or whatever) in question actually do. Being willing to do something doesn't necessarily mean that they usually do it, just that they are not opposed to doing it.
    ...
    Thanks a lot, purslane! For "will/would" used in general statemet about people's habitual behavior, your explanation really turns difficulty to easy for nonnative speakers.:)
     
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