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Old 03-13-2006, 11:47 AM   #1
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Default Will and Shall

In one scene of the late film Pride and Prejudice, Lady Catherine asks Elizabeth Bentley to openly declare that she will reject any proposal of marriage from Mr. Darcy. She responds, "I will not and I shall not."

Hmmm, with differing sentiments could she have responded "I will but I shall not," or "I will not but I shall." But then "will" changes from an auxiliary to an active verb requiring an infinitive compliment. "I will to accept a proposal of marriage, but I shall not," or "I will not, but I shall reject a proposal of marriage." (This is probably only a British issue, as an American woman just would have said that Mr. Darcy is so cute).

Originally, as a youth, I learned that the distinction between "will" and "shall" was archaic but distinguished between volition and exigency. However, I have also read that "will" was used for the second and third persons, while "shall" applied to the first person. I don't know why -- but that seems to indicate some further logic is involved. However, I seem to recall something about these archaic forms being relevant to nobility and servants.

I still have a tendency to use the two forms according to volition or exigency; so it's good to keep in mind that old usages die out but they don't.

Well, the movie is superb, among the best I've seen, and in part due to an exquisite attention to detail. But did they mess up the dialogue in this scene???


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