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Will vs. Shall: Know the Difference

Shumaila Saeed
By Shumaila Saeed || Updated on December 25, 2023
"Will" indicates future action or intention, while "shall" is traditionally a formal way to express future action, often with a notion of obligation or determination.
Will vs. Shall

Key Differences

"Will" is commonly used to express future actions or decisions made at the moment of speaking. "Shall," although less common in modern English, traditionally implies future action with a stronger sense of formality or obligation.
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Nov 15, 2023
"Will" is often used in everyday conversation to indicate willingness or inevitability. "Shall" is used in legal and formal contexts to indicate requirements or mandates, often sounding more formal or archaic.
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Nov 15, 2023
In questions, "will" suggests a simple inquiry about the future. "Shall" in questions, especially with "I" or "we," can suggest an offer or suggestion (e.g., "Shall we begin?").
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Nov 15, 2023
"Will" can express a promise or a voluntary action. "Shall" is sometimes used in formal rules or regulations to express what is mandatory or inevitable.
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Nov 15, 2023
In American English, "will" is the predominant choice for future tense. "Shall" is more common in British English but is still formal and less frequent than "will."
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Nov 15, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Primary Use

Indicate future actions or decisions
Formal expression of future action, often with obligation
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Nov 15, 2023

Frequency in Modern Usage

Very common, especially in American English
Less common, more formal, often in legal or official contexts
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Nov 15, 2023

Use in Questions

Simple inquiries about the future
Offers, suggestions, or formal inquiries
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Connotation

General future tense, promises, voluntary actions
Formal rules, regulations, stronger sense of determination
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Shumaila Saeed
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Typical Usage

Everyday conversation, all subjects
Formal contexts, often with first person (I, we)
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Will and Shall Definitions

Will

Expresses future action or intention.
I will call you tomorrow.
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Nov 15, 2023

Shall

Indicates obligation or duty.
You shall complete your assignments on time.
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Nov 15, 2023

Will

Indicates willingness or consent.
Will you help me with this task?
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Nov 15, 2023

Shall

Used in formal suggestions or offers.
Shall we go to the theater tonight?
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Nov 15, 2023

Will

Used to make predictions about the future.
It will probably rain later.
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Nov 15, 2023
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Shall

Expresses a rule or regulation.
All members shall abide by the club rules.
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Nov 15, 2023

Will

Shows a promise or determination.
I will finish this project by Monday.
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Nov 15, 2023

Shall

Traditionally used to express future action, especially in formal or legal contexts.
The tenant shall pay the rent on the first of each month.
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Nov 15, 2023

Will

Used for habitual actions or capabilities.
The car will start with a push.
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Nov 15, 2023

Shall

Sometimes used to convey a strong command or determination.
You shall not pass!
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

Will

The mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action
Championed freedom of will against a doctrine of predetermination.
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Oct 19, 2023

Shall

Used before a verb to indicate the simple future tense in the first person singular or plural.
I shall sing in the choir tomorrow.
I hope that we shall win the game.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

Diligent purposefulness; determination
An athlete with the will to win.
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Oct 19, 2023

Shall

Used similarly to indicate determination or obligation in the second and third persons singular or plural.
(determination): You shall go to the ball!
(obligation): Citizens shall provide proof of identity.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

Self-control; self-discipline
Lacked the will to overcome the addiction.
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Oct 19, 2023

Shall

Used in questions with the first person singular or plural to suggest a possible future action.
Shall I help you with that?
Shall we go out later?
Let us examine that, shall we?
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Will

A desire, purpose, or determination, especially of one in authority
It is the sovereign's will that the prisoner be spared.
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Oct 19, 2023

Shall

(obsolete) To owe.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

Deliberate intention or wish
Let it be known that I took this course of action against my will.
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Oct 19, 2023

Shall

To owe; to be under obligation for.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

Free discretion; inclination or pleasure
Wandered about, guided only by will.
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Oct 19, 2023

Shall

To be obliged; must.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

Bearing or attitude toward others; disposition
Full of good will.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

A legal declaration of how a person wishes their personal possessions to be disposed of after death.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

A legally executed document containing this declaration.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

To decide on or intend
He can finish the race if he wills it.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

To yearn for; desire
“She makes you will your own destruction” (George Bernard Shaw).
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

To decree, dictate, or order
Believed that the outcome was willed by the gods.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

To induce or try to induce by sheer force of will
We willed the sun to come out.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

To grant in a legal will; bequeath
Willed his fortune to charity.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

To order to direct in a legal will
She willed that her money be given to charity.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

To exercise the will.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

To make a choice; choose
Do as you will.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

To wish; desire
Do what you will. Sit here if you will. See Usage Note at shall.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

(auxiliary) Used to express the future tense, sometimes with some implication of volition when used in the first person. Compare shall.
One of our salesmen will visit you tomorrow.
I will pass this exam.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

(auxiliary) To be able to, to have the capacity to.
Unfortunately, only one of these gloves will actually fit over my hand.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

(auxiliary) Expressing a present tense with some conditional or subjective weakening: "will turn out to", "must by inference".
He will be home by now. He always gets home before 6 o'clock.
I can't find my umbrella. I will have forgotten it home this morning.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

(auxiliary) To habitually do (a given action).
Boys will be boys.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

(auxiliary) To choose or agree to (do something); used to express intention but without any temporal connotations (+ bare infinitive), often in questions and negation.
Will you marry me?
I’ve told him three times, but he won’t take his medicine.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Will

To wish, desire (something).
Do what you will.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

To wish or desire (that something happen); to intend (that).
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

(archaic) Implying will go.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

To instruct (that something be done) in one's will.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

(transitive) To bequeath (something) to someone in one's will (legal document).
He willed his stamp collection to the local museum.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

(transitive) To exert one's force of will (intention) in order to compel, or attempt to compel, something to happen or someone to do something.
All the fans were willing their team to win the game.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

One's independent faculty of choice; the ability to be able to exercise one's choice or intention.
Of course, man's will is often regulated by his reason.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

The act of choosing to do something; a person’s conscious intent or volition.
Most creatures have a will to live.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

One's intention or decision; someone's orders or commands.
Eventually I submitted to my parents' will.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

Firmity of purpose, fixity of intent
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

(law) A formal declaration of one's intent concerning the disposal of one's property and holdings after death; the legal document stating such wishes.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

(archaic) That which is desired; one's wish.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

(archaic) Desire, longing. (Now generally merged with later senses.)
He felt a great will to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

The power of choosing; the faculty or endowment of the soul by which it is capable of choosing; the faculty or power of the mind by which we decide to do or not to do; the power or faculty of preferring or selecting one of two or more objects.
It is necessary to form a distinct notion of what is meant by the word "volition" in order to understand the import of the word will, for this last word expresses the power of mind of which "volition" is the act.
Will is an ambiguous word, being sometimes put for the faculty of willing; sometimes for the act of that faculty, besides [having] other meanings. But "volition" always signifies the act of willing, and nothing else.
Appetite is the will's solicitor, and the will is appetite's controller; what we covet according to the one, by the other we often reject.
The will is plainly that by which the mind chooses anything.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

The choice which is made; a determination or preference which results from the act or exercise of the power of choice; a volition.
The word "will," however, is not always used in this its proper acceptation, but is frequently substituted for "volition", as when I say that my hand mover in obedience to my will.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

The choice or determination of one who has authority; a decree; a command; discretionary pleasure.
Thy will be done.
Our prayers should be according to the will of God.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

Strong wish or inclination; desire; purpose.
My poverty, but not my will, consents; . . . Put this in any liquid thing you will,And drink it off.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

That which is strongly wished or desired.
What's your will, good friar?
The mariner hath his will.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

Arbitrary disposal; power to control, dispose, or determine.
Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

The legal declaration of a person's mind as to the manner in which he would have his property or estate disposed of after his death; the written instrument, legally executed, by which a man makes disposition of his estate, to take effect after his death; testament; devise. See the Note under Testament, 1.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

To wish; to desire; to incline to have.
A wife as of herself no thing ne sholde [should]Wille in effect, but as her husband wolde [would].
Caleb said unto her, What will thou ?
They would none of my counsel.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

As an auxiliary, will is used to denote futurity dependent on the verb. Thus, in first person, "I will" denotes willingness, consent, promise; and when "will" is emphasized, it denotes determination or fixed purpose; as, I will go if you wish; I will go at all hazards. In the second and third persons, the idea of distinct volition, wish, or purpose is evanescent, and simple certainty is appropriately expressed; as, "You will go," or "He will go," describes a future event as a fact only. To emphasize will denotes (according to the tone or context) certain futurity or fixed determination.
I am able to devote as much time and attention to other subjects as I will [shall] be under the necessity of doing next winter.
A countryman, telling us what he had seen, remarked that if the conflagration went on, as it was doing, we would [should] have, as our next season's employment, the Old Town of Edinburgh to rebuild.
I feel assured that I will [shall] not have the misfortune to find conflicting views held by one so enlightened as your excellency.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

To be willing; to be inclined or disposed; to be pleased; to wish; to desire.
And behold, there came a leper and worshiped him, saying, Lord if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus . . . touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

To form a distinct volition of; to determine by an act of choice; to ordain; to decree.
By all law and reason, that which the Parliament will not, is no more established in this kingdom.
Two things he [God] willeth, that we should be good, and that we should be happy.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Will

To enjoin or command, as that which is determined by an act of volition; to direct; to order.
They willed me say so, madam.
Send for music,And will the cooks to use their best of cunningTo please the palate.
As you go, will the lord mayor . . . To attend our further pleasure presently.
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

To give or direct the disposal of by testament; to bequeath; to devise; as, to will one's estate to a child; also, to order or direct by testament; as, he willed that his nephew should have his watch.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Will

To exercise an act of volition; to choose; to decide; to determine; to decree.
At Winchester he lies, so himself willed.
He that shall turn his thoughts inward upon what passes in his own mind when he wills.
I contend for liberty as it signifies a power in man to do as he wills or pleases.
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Will

The capability of conscious choice and decision and intention;
The exercise of their volition we construe as revolt
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Will

A fixed and persistent intent or purpose;
Where there's a will there's a way
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Shumaila Saeed
Oct 19, 2023

Will

A legal document declaring a person's wishes regarding the disposal of their property when they die
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

Decree or ordain;
God wills our existence
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

Have in mind;
I will take the exam tomorrow
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

Determine by choice;
This action was willed and intended
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Oct 19, 2023

Will

Leave or give by will after one's death;
My aunt bequeathed me all her jewelry
My grandfather left me his entire estate
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Oct 19, 2023

Repeatedly Asked Queries

Is 'shall' common in everyday conversation?

No, it's less common and more formal.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

In what context is 'shall' mostly used?

Often in formal, legal, or official contexts.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

How is 'will' used in questions?

As a simple inquiry about the future.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

What does 'will' typically express?

Indicates future actions or decisions.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

Is 'will' used for predictions?

Yes, it's often used for making predictions.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

Can 'will' express a promise?

Yes, it's used for promises and voluntary actions.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

What does 'shall' imply in legal documents?

Indicates mandatory actions or requirements.
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Nov 15, 2023

How is 'shall' used in formal suggestions?

As a polite suggestion or offer (e.g., "Shall we start?").
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

Does 'will' indicate willingness?

Yes, it can express willingness or consent.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

How do 'will' and 'shall' differ in legal terms?

'Shall' is more binding and mandatory in legal language.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

Can 'will' be used in contracts?

Yes, though 'shall' is often preferred for clarity and formality.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

Is 'will' appropriate for formal writing?

Generally yes, though 'shall' may be used for a more formal tone.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

Is 'shall' interchangeable with 'will'?

Not always, due to 'shall's' formal tone and specific uses.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

How does 'will' function in American English?

It's the standard choice for expressing future tense.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

Can 'shall' express a command?

Yes, especially in a formal or emphatic context.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

Does 'shall' have different meanings in questions vs. statements?

Yes, more suggestive in questions and more mandatory in statements.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

What's the difference in using 'shall' with 'I' or 'we'?

With 'I' or 'we,' it often suggests an offer or suggestion.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

Is 'shall' still used in modern British English?

Yes, but it's more formal and less common.
Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

Can 'will' be used for habitual actions?

Yes, it can describe habitual actions or capabilities.
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Shumaila Saeed
Nov 15, 2023

How does the use of 'shall' differ from 'will' in formal rules?

'Shall' is more emphatic and binding in formal rules and regulations.
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Nov 15, 2023

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Shumaila Saeed
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Shumaila Saeed
Shumaila Saeed, an expert content creator with 6 years of experience, specializes in distilling complex topics into easily digestible comparisons, shining a light on the nuances that both inform and educate readers with clarity and accuracy.

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June 24, 2024
Cranes are large, long-legged and long-necked birds known for their elaborate dances, while herons are typically more solitary, stealth hunters with a distinctive S-shaped neck.
Explain vs. DefineExplain vs. Define
Dua FatimaDua Fatima
June 22, 2024
Explaining involves detailing or clarifying a concept, often including context and examples, whereas defining means stating the exact meaning of a word or phrase, typically in a concise manner.

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