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  Wikipedia: Shall

Wikipedia: Shall
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

According to one tradition of prescriptive grammar, the modal verb shall in English has traditionally been used to express mere futurity for the first person. This is to say, a foretelling or an expectation of my future action, in which, naturally enough, a certain degree of plan or intention may be included, uses shall in the first person (I and we).


  • I shall go.
  • We shall go.

  • You will go.
  • He/She will go.
  • They will go.

This rule affects all four kinds of future tense:
  • I shall go. (simple)
  • I shall be going. (progressive/continuous)
  • I shall have gone. (perfect simple)
  • I shall have been going. (perfect continuous)

This traditional approach is now regarded as formal, and will is fast displacing shall in most situations, particularly so because the useful contraction 'll stands for both these modal verbs. This rule may still have some force in some dialects of British English, but in American English shall has a much more restricted role, and the negative contraction shan't does not occur.

It should be noted that the preterite form of will and shall, would and should respectively, go by the same rules, but 'd does NOT stand for should, but solely for would and had.

The main modification of this general rule is the surviving idiomatic use of the Old English senses of shall and will, which is said to be an infallible test of the correct English speaker (Dr C T Onions). Dr Onions summarises these special uses thus:

  • Shall denotes obligation, necessity or permission.
  • Will denotes resolve or willingness.

Dr Onions' examples are these:

  1. I will (= am resolved to) live a bachelor.
  2. Will you (= do you intend or wish to) take it with you, or shall I (= am I to) send it?
  3. We will (= are resolved to) send someone to fetch you.
  4. He will (= is determined to) go, say what you may.
  5. Thou shalt not steal. You (he, they) shall go this instant.
  6. Where the tree falls, there it shall lie.
  7. He found the country in a state of unrest, for reasons which you shall (= you will be permitted to) hear.
  8. You shall repay me at your convenience. (either permission or obligation)
  9. Wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife? Answer: I will.

Shall is sometimes stronger than will: "You will stay?" - "I shan't."

Will is also used to express command: "You will do your homework."

Or, surprisingly, to soften a request, though would is more common here. "Will you kindly hand me that pen?" (or "Would you kindly ...")

Another point to note is that the auxiliary used in questions should be the one expected in the answer: "Shall you accompany me?" - "I shall." To use will here would be a request; going to future would express not as much the intention as mere futurity.

Other uses of shall

1. In officialese, it is often used to denote actions in prospect or those which are being considered. For example: "In the rules it is written that a player shall be sent off for using improper language." (however, common usage might prefer "... a player is sent off ...", or "... a player should be sent off ...", although this latter does not convey the exact same meaning)

2. In implied commands: "She intends that you shall help me." (more common, however, is "She intends you to help me.")

3. In official orders: "All candidates shall remain in their seats until the end of the examination."

4. When asking for advice: "What shall we do now?"

5. When offering or proposing: "Shall I open the window?" (to use 'will' here would normally imply necessity, as in "Will I *need* to open the window?")

The negative form of shall is shall not, or shan't. Shall is pronounced in three different ways:

  • the non-stressed form: IPA /ʃəl/ (SAMPA /S@l/)
  • the strong form: IPA /ʃŠl/ or /ʃɑːl/ (SAMPA /S&l/ or /SA:l/)
Shan't is always pronounced as IPA /ʃɑːnt/ (SAMPA /SA:nt/).


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
Modified by Geona