6

I won’t and I’ll not are both short forms of I will not. Both are used in English.

Are there any situations where one is preferred over other?

3

The following is from my own (and, I trust, a general British) perspective. This one would be very difficult to provide supporting references for.

I won't is the choice when an emphasised statement or retort is given:

"You must do two hours unpaid overtime tonight."

"I won't! / I will not!" (not "I'll not!"; won't here connotes strong will)

"There's no other way – you'll have to drive the truck through the minefield."

"I won't stand a chance!" (preferred) ("I'll not stand a chance!" sounds weaker)

"I won't inform the police that the man who ran on to the pitch and thumped the player was your brother." (won't stresses my – perhaps concessive – non-involvement; I'll not would be an unemphasised statement of intent)

I'll not is also short for I shall not, but the will / shall complexities seem to be very unresolved and argued over.

  • It seems rather odd, to me, to say that the version that doesn't abbreviate not makes the negative less emphatic. It seems to me like the biggest difference is that "I'll not" sounds old-fashioned. – Casey Dec 7 '17 at 6:06
  • @Casey That's certainly a factor, but "I'll not inform the police" is formal in register and doesn't sound too old-fashioned. I'd choose it in the example I give to avoid emphasis (if that's what I wanted.) // 'I won't' lends itself to forceful delivery better than 'I will not'. Think of a kiddy protesting. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 7 '17 at 10:24
  • Doesn't it? I don't know, it just rings very schoolmarmish, at best. – Casey Dec 20 '17 at 1:15
  • 'Schoolmarmish' probably indicates why our perceptions are different here. – Edwin Ashworth Dec 20 '17 at 9:45
5

Normally, you will use I won't. Only when not is somehow strongly linked to a phrase would you perhaps sometimes leave it as such and simply use I'll rather than abbreviate not. But it is fairly rare. I believe you will find it more frequently in older English. Using I won't always is your safest bet.

  • 1
    I won't use either in formal writing, though. – Kris Oct 22 '12 at 8:30
  • 4
    @Kris Right — use neither instead. – tchrist Oct 22 '12 at 9:56

protected by tchrist Apr 6 '16 at 3:01

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