don’t and won’t

I’ve been contemplating the difference in the meaning of “don’t” and “won’t”. Or “do not” and “will not”.

At first I thought there was a subtle difference but now I can’t tell that there is. In context they are “we do not do that” and “we will not do that”. Seems “will not” is more of a conviction level, while “do not” is a deliberate decision made before-hand.

But then again, practically there is no difference in the definitions I just gave.

So is there a difference in “do not” and “will not”? And if so, can you articulate it well in the comments?

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  • It’s mostly time related. “Do” is a present tense and “will” is a future tense.

    So “do [not]” is a statement about what is currently happening no matter what the person [not] doing it thinks of it.

    For example, to go along with what you said, I could say that I do not smoke because I deliberately choose not to.

    However, I could also say something along the lines of, “I do not read the Sacramento Bee” and that is because it is not even an option. That act isn’t intentional or thought out.

  • rob

    Yeah, okay. That makes sense. “don’t” can mean that there is no option. “won’t” can mean there is an option but choosing not to. Thanks. I knew there was a subtle distinction but as I worked it out in my head I couldn’t find it.

    Hail, hail the internets!


  • Claire

    To look at it another way, one is a concrete assertion while the other is more theoretical. “Do not” refers to the concrete, the practical “I don’t do that”. It suggests that the situation (temptation perhaps?) has occurred, the choice has been made and I can say with surety “I don’t do that” because I’ve faced the choice and made my decision.

    “I will not” is more theoretical. It assumes that in a situation to come I would not act a certain way. It doesn’t have the certainty of “do not” because will, being future tense as already stated, it still up for debate somewhat. People often look at another’s actions and say “well I’d never bahave that way” but can you really say that before you have been in the situation?