FOWLER Henry Watson - Autograph Letter Signed 1926 explaining the use of shall and will
Henry Watson FOWLER (1858-1933)
Autograph Letter Signed (“H.W. Fowler”) clearly explaining the correct use of the words “shall” and “will” when asking a question.
3 pages small 4to, Hinton St. George, Somerset, 6 September 1926.
A letter from the great lexicographer, author of Modern English Usage, which should delight all those who care about good grammar.
“You are right about shall & will in 2nd-person questions. Will you is only appropriate if a promise is to be extracted, not if information is all that is wanted. I was trying to confine myself to the most conspicuously necessary points in Mod. Engl. Usage. The discussion in the King’s English is much fuller; if you can see that, p. 140 is the reference’ or it may suffice to say that in 2nd pers. questions the asker should assimilate his question to the answer he awaits. If that is to be either Yes, I shall or No, I shall not, he must say Shall you. If he wants a promise or refusal – Yes, I will, or No, I won’t -, he must say Will you.”
The King’s English first appeared in 1906, two decades before Fowler’s important work, Modern English Usage. His emphasis on clarity, simplicity and the correct use of words remains important today, though it is sometimes sadly neglected.
There are minor tears at the folds of the second leaf but the letter remains in overall good, legible condition.
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