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When should one use "shall"?

(26 Posts)
Trills Sun 17-Feb-13 17:49:46

I never say "shall".

Should I?

I say "I will" or "I am going to".

I do not say "I shall".

Is there a subtle difference? Does it indicate something useful?

I understand the difference between "I should" and "I would" (I think) but not between "I shall" and "I will". As far as I am concerned they both mean that something in the future is going to happen.

cumfy Wed 20-Feb-13 16:04:09

Shall we dance ?

Less clumsy than Would you like to dance with me ?

Scottishtanguera Wed 20-Feb-13 13:52:33

grin at Horatio and Jessie - I've never thought of it like that but it does sound like you are trying to predict the future!

It's one of 3 examples I can think of (I'm sure there are many more!) where the English version sounds very posh to our Scottish ears. The other 2 being "shan't" and "ought" as opposed to "won't or should".

Even after all this time I can't bring myself to use any of the above for fear of sounding like someone from a Jane Austen novel...(not a bad thing, just in a Scottish accent sounds like Miss Jean Brodie)

JessieMcJessie Tue 19-Feb-13 15:09:57

Horatia, that's so true- I had a boss (in England) who used to rib me when I said "Will I send that letter out then?" by saying, " I don't know, will you?". Odd thing is I'd been living in England for about 10 years by then and nobody else had ever picked up on it! "shall" still sounds awfully posh to me, as in "Shall we take tea at Fortnum's Mummy?"

somebloke123 Mon 18-Feb-13 11:26:42

Yes I think it's "shall" for 1st person (both singular and plural), and "will" for 2nd and 3rd.

This is for simple statements. But for imperative statements e.g. the giving of orders or expressions of intent, these are reversed.

The version of the drowning man example I remember is:

"I will drown! No one shall save me!"

So everyone respected his wishes and he went to a watery grave.

It used to be told as an Irish joke as the Irish were - allegedly - supposed to be prone to getting "shall" and "will" the wrong way round. Whether there's any truth in this I don't know!

CatWithKittens Mon 18-Feb-13 08:47:54

The difference I was taught is between what is going to happen, whether willed or not, and what is willed in the sense of desired or intended. My English mistress, somewhat old fashioned I think even then, told us of the drowning man who, despite being up to his neck in water, remembered his English lessons and said: "I shall drown unless you will save me." She said if he had shouted "I will drown unless you save me" he would have been conveying a wish to drown and no desire that the hearer should act, I do think however that such precision in language is now rare, except perhaps in legal documents Even in them it is arguable thatd the Plain English Campaign has made such precision rarer, introducing many ambiguities which legal terms of art had eliminated with the help of centuries of judicial decisions.

Toomanyworriedsonhere Sun 17-Feb-13 22:26:11

I think it's "I shall" and "we shall" and all the rest are will.
Learnt at mumsnet academy latin class grin

HoratiaWinwood Sun 17-Feb-13 22:21:45

Yes, obsolete old-fashioned usage.

Did it parallel should/would? as in slightly old-fashioned "I should like to"?

Viviennemary Sun 17-Feb-13 19:11:45

We got taught at school. I shall, we shall but all the rest will. And if you said I will that was for emphasis. But nobody really took it in.

Clary Sun 17-Feb-13 18:49:52

It's we shall and I shall then you/he/she/they will for the future tense.

That's correct but frankly has fallen out of common useage nowadays.

Porkster Sun 17-Feb-13 18:49:04

We say, 'shall we?' when deciding to leave somewhere i.e. a restaurant or bar.

Or, 'shall I do it?' when dh someone is proving less than adroit.

TheFallenMadonna Sun 17-Feb-13 18:46:41

I love "shall".

I think people use it for making suggestions, like "shall we dance?".

But I think it sounds very decisive, and I use it when I am determined to do something.

You shall go to the ball!

HRH008 Sun 17-Feb-13 18:43:57

I learnt that it was to be used if you yourself are in the sentence ...

So, I shall and We shall but he, she it, they will.

MechanicalTheatre Sun 17-Feb-13 18:41:24

That's true, Horatio . (I am Scottish.)

Would you never say that here in England then?

HoratiaWinwood Sun 17-Feb-13 18:38:39

juney - Scots use "will" there.

"Will I put the kettle on?"

The first time you encounter it, it sounds like they're asking you to tell the future.

MechanicalTheatre Sun 17-Feb-13 18:22:35

I used to teach English as a foreign language and I never quite got to the bottom of the will/shall thing.

Trills Sun 17-Feb-13 18:02:13

I was clearly wrong when I said that I never use it. blush

edam Sun 17-Feb-13 17:59:16

This is interesting, says the difference is about intent/determination, but the level of intent/determination switches 180 degrees from first person to second person.

juneybean Sun 17-Feb-13 17:59:08

Hmm I sometimes start a sentence with it like "Shall I get the biscuits?"

Trills Sun 17-Feb-13 17:58:40

Good point Mechanical, I do say shall like that.

FoxtrotFoxtrotSierra Sun 17-Feb-13 17:58:14

I think shall is first person and will is for others.

Though when interpreting acts of law shall means you have to do something.

I shall sounds so much nicer than I'm going to imo.

edam Sun 17-Feb-13 17:57:12

on protest marches. 'We shall, we shall not be moved' etc. etc. etc.

BelindaCarlisle Sun 17-Feb-13 17:54:37

beneath and underneath

sort that one out too please

MechanicalTheatre Sun 17-Feb-13 17:54:01

I only use it with "let's" as in "let's go, shall we?"

HoratiaWinwood Sun 17-Feb-13 17:53:21

I find shall slightly old-fashioned.

I think it is meant to imply obligation, as opposed to "will" implying intention.

"I would have loved to come out with you on Friday night but I shall be at the inlaws' ruby wedding anniversary party."

Foggles Sun 17-Feb-13 17:52:16

You shall go to the ball.

That's the only one I can think of.

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