Is there any difference in the meaning when we use 'll or will?

For example,

  • I will go to university tomorrow.

  • I'll go to university tomorrow.

  • "I will go to the university tomorrow." Hate to be the pedantic nut here, but don't forget the "the".
    – Jagd
    Aug 11, 2010 at 23:41
  • 3
    @Jagd: I'd normally use "the university", but after your comment I'm actually not sure: why isn't "go to university" parallel to "go to school" and "go to college"? Aug 12, 2010 at 4:40
  • 4
    Agree - the sentence works perfectly well without "the".
    – Evan
    Aug 12, 2010 at 18:26
  • 12
    You all are arguing about something that is done one way in British English ("go to university") and done another way in American English ("go to the university").
    – Kosmonaut
    Aug 21, 2010 at 12:06
  • 1
    As @Kosmonaut pointed out, while American English does allow 'go to school' or 'go to college', the similar phrase 'go to university' is not readily accepted. 'College' denotes the same schooling level as 'university' and is independent of 'high school' or 'primary school'. 'University' is used in reference to a specific university or to universities in general, but not in reference to the schooling level.
    – oosterwal
    Mar 7, 2011 at 18:18

8 Answers 8


No. The second form is a contraction of the first. Generally, contractions aren't appropriate for more formal writing (but as always, consider your target audience when writing).

  • 1
    I just know that contractions aren't appropriate for formal writing, I always use them when I email to my boss. Thanks for your nice answer.
    – Anonymous
    Aug 11, 2010 at 16:36
  • 3
    That's not true. Contractions are used in all kinds of writing, no matter how formal.
    – Alan Hogue
    Aug 11, 2010 at 17:09
  • @Alan Hogue: Well, robots do not use contractions. :-) So you can avoid contractions to give your language a quaint and unnatural (hence, less informal!) feel, in principle. Aug 12, 2010 at 4:46
  • Sure. If you want your prose to sound stilted and unnatural, by all means avoid contractions. :)
    – Alan Hogue
    Aug 13, 2010 at 17:37

There are differences between 'll and will, and there are occasions in English when you cannot make contractions, but there's no great difference in the examples you've given. A very slight difference of mood, perhaps.


A major role of language is establishing a social context, and contractions are one of many usages to establish an informal context. Back when I was in university, informalisms were frowned upon, but the language is moving towards stuff you can say quickly, so maybe they are acceptable now.

There are plenty of markers of a formal context that sound unnatural to a (my) modern ear, e.g., "we are not amused" or "it is thought that". On the other hand, the third person plural and passive voice looks better in print, which is a reason for the divergence of the written and spoken language.

Incidentally, saying "go to university" to an American as opposed to "go to the university" would establish that you're English, and therefore culturally superior to an American.


There's no difference in the meaning as written. However, when speaking, you might use "I will" - with the emphasis on "will" - if there was any doubt as to whether the action were going to be carried out.

  • And to stress in writing, bold print (ridiculous on ll). Jan 7, 2023 at 16:19

The contraction 'll could mean either will or shall.


I'm not sure if there is any difference in meaning in the words themselves, since one is a contraction of the other. But they tend to be used slightly differently, with the contracted form more likely to appear in spoken English, for example. And changing the intonation and context might change the meaning completely.

  1. I will go to university tomorrow.
  1. I'll go to university tomorrow.
  1. is the emphasised version; 2 is the de-emphasised version. The difference is nuanced.


  1. "I'll pay for the meal." - Here, the speaker is making an informal offer by way of a suggested arrangement. This idea of the de-emphasised version is common where the arrangement is informal.

3a. "If you'll start the cart, I'll make sure the house is locked." Another informal offer by way of a suggested arrangement.

  1. "I will pay for the meal." Here, will is very direct - the speaker is stating a fact.

4a "If you will start the cart, I will make sure the house is locked." - this sounds almost like a command.

You cannot use "'ll" as a short answer:

"Who's going to pay for the meal?"


Do not use "'ll" in legal or business documents. It is a contraction of both will and shall, and shall and will have different meanings in law.


It may sound archaic nowadays, but I think that the correct expansion of "I'll" is (or rather was) "I shall". For first person, the auxiliary verb for indicating future is "shall" (it is a bit more complicated actually, see for example the Wikipedia article. If you write or speak the contraction, you can "leave this question open". This is one aspect.

The other is that writing contractions makes your prose more informal. For example, "ain't" is not really proper english; it is rather the attempt to bring a speaking accent to paper. The same holds in principle for "isn't" and "can't", but those have been established for a much longer time now.

  • 2
    You are implying that the contractions "isn't" and "can't" are not a part of standard English; they are. And the very first paragraph of the Wikipedia article you cited indicates that "will" or "shall" can be used interchangeably for the future. I think this answer is very misleading to non-native speakers.
    – Kosmonaut
    Aug 21, 2010 at 12:11

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