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If my mom asks me to take out the garbage bag and I want to reply to her that I plan to do it soon how do I say it without making a promise? Can I say "I will do it later." without it being a promise?

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    Best to avoid the entire issue by taking out the garbage immediately....
    – Hellion
    Feb 28, 2017 at 19:22
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    @Hellion nice...
    – Emereal
    Feb 28, 2017 at 19:27
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    Your mom will hear it as an agreement (a promise) to do it later. If what you mean is you might do it later, that's what you should say. Then your mom will know where you stand, and can quite rightly respond that she might feed you today.
    – MetaEd
    Feb 28, 2017 at 19:56
  • I was just using that scenerio as an example(although my mom did ask me to take out the garbage bag for her and that's when I started stressing about the word "will"). I had every intention of taking out the garbage bag but because I am unsure of the future I was wondering if there was another way to say that I will try to get it done for her other than "I will try to do it" which I thought might sound like I wouldn't really try to get it done for her.
    – Asheep
    Mar 2, 2017 at 3:18
  • It depends on the context and the tone of voice.
    – Hot Licks
    Mar 2, 2017 at 3:28

4 Answers 4

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The word "will" in English has a fascinating history that is often used as an archetype for the process of grammaticalization, where a word that once had clear semantic content comes to be used in a more functional way. See the wiki entry for more.

In short, "will" does not necessarily signal a promise or intent. For example, "I will see you later" is not usually taken to reflect the speaker's specific wish but, rather, the speaker's belief that a future meeting is simply likely. However, and depending on the context, many people will still interpret "will" as signaling a promise. Thus, if you specifically wish to avoid that implication it is best to avoid "will."

I suggest "I intend to take it out later." It still has the intentionality of "will" but a failure to follow through doesn't necessarily imply breaking a promise. You could have been held up despite your best intentions, for example.

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  • "Will" signals a prediction. If the future doesn't match then you didn't break a promise -- you showed that your forecast was unreliable.
    – AmI
    Feb 28, 2017 at 22:29
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To answer your question,

Just say,

"Mother, I plan to take the garbage out soon."

The sentence

"I will do it later."

can be a plan or promise, depending on the context.

Hope this helps!

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    In this case, context could refer to the party rather than the situation. It will mean "plan" to you and "promise" to your mother, unless you have a reputation for not following through, in which case your mother would consider it a "lie". :-)
    – fixer1234
    Feb 28, 2017 at 19:35
  • Not sure what you're referring to for changing, but I was just making a lame joke playing off your "context" reference. :-)
    – fixer1234
    Mar 2, 2017 at 1:43
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I'll do it later - the operative word here is 'later'. And who knows what the future may bring? You should say this if, in fact, you expect NOT to take out the garbage bag.

If you actually DO intend to take out the garbage bag it's probably best to leave out the 'later'. "Yes, I'll do it" is more convincing as a statement of genuine intent.

It all depends what you want to say.

Why wouldn't you want to be clear... to your Mom!?

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It means both depending on the context. Don't use "will". It will only get you into hot water! "might" is better.

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