1. Shut the door, will you?
  2. Shut the door, won't you?

I can't tell which way is the correct way. Both of these sound correct to me.

  • I can imagine #1 kicking off a longer rant. Shut the door, will you? I'll have you know that ... !
    – Lawrence
    Feb 26, 2017 at 15:43
  • ... and if pressed, maybe #2 as a request by a little old lady (please excuse the stereotyping), with the stress on won't. Shut the door, won't you? It's a little drafty in here.
    – Lawrence
    Feb 26, 2017 at 15:45
  • According to the rules, it depends on whether the statement is positive or negative. Shut the door is positive, so I think #2 is more correct if no context is provided. Context is necessary.
    – shinama99
    Feb 26, 2017 at 15:52

1 Answer 1


Both #1 and #2 are okay and mean approximately the same. "Shut the door, won't you?" is slightly more polite, because the tag at the end suggests that you might not be willing to comply, and that is a conventional way in English of suggesting that if you don't comply with a request, that is perfectly acceptable to the person making this request. It's not a demand. A similar way of offering in advance an excuse for not complying is to add on "if you don't mind", "if you wouldn't mind", "if it's not too much trouble".

  • I agree completely. For anyone looking for even more depth on this question, remember that "won't" is the contracted form of "will not." Rearranging the sentences highlights the contrast between "Will you shut the door, please" and "Will you not shut the door, please." As @Greg Lee notes, the later foregrounds the expectation of not shutting the door. Strictly, the speakers is asking someone to do the opposite of what the speaker really wants for that person to do. The person can thus decline to do what the speaker wants by acting in accord with what the speaker says, a "graceful" exit option.
    – MDHunter
    Feb 26, 2017 at 16:25
  • 1
    It's funny how the politeness changes if you flip the sentences around. "Won't you shut the door?" sounds pretty insistent to me, whereas "Will you shut the door?" sounds fairly neutral.
    – Andy
    Feb 26, 2017 at 16:32
  • Notably, I think this is also why in the context where the speaker were really annoyed and wanted to emphatically hit the tag, "will you" would be preferred. Imagine adding an emphatic, "Jeez!" to the end of both. "Will you" then seems strongly preferred. I think it's because "won't you" is ostensibly more polite in normal usage that really stressing "will you" with anger subverts the locuationary effect of its being a request. There might be prosodic issues here, too.
    – MDHunter
    Feb 26, 2017 at 16:35
  • I agree with Andy! "will you" sounds more polite to me!
    – Vorsprung
    Feb 26, 2017 at 17:38

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