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Re: Shall, will

Posted by R. Berg on May 08, 2001

In Reply to: Re: We SHALL overcome posted by ESC on May 08, 2001

: : Shall is a verb. Should is used as an "auxillary" word not synonym for shall. Shall is a word that suggests thought, ponders, is curious. R. Berg is correct, folks beyond secondary education in America are more likely to use shall, yet, many Montessori based primary programs would use shall. For example, the word may is used versus can.

: : "May I go outside to play?" In America, we will often say "Can I go outside to play?" Proper English language usage would dictate that may is the correct word choice. But, can is used that way all of the time.

: : Point being, shall may seem to be a "proper" or "stuffy" word by American standards, but that is a perception. Shall is more often than not used like the word "can." Shall suggests that a query or a command.

: : "Shall we go to the movie?" (query)

: : "We shall join them am." (command)

: : "What ever shall I do?" (query, noting confusion, or perhaps giving consideration to a decisions, worry, anxiety, decision making, etc.)

: : I hope this is helpful.

: My trusty Associated Press Stylebook says: "

: SHALL, WILL -- Use 'shall' to express determination: We shall overcome. You and he shall stay.

: Either 'shall' or 'will' may be used in first-person constructions that do not emphasize determinations: We shall hold a meeting. We will hold a meeting.

: For second- and third-person constructions, use 'will' unless determination is stressed: You will like it. She will not be pleased."

There are complications. An exception to the generality that "shall" sounds formal is that in some questions "shall" sounds natural and "will" doesn't. After a meal in a restaurant, a waiter might say "Shall I bring coffee?" The answer might be "Yes, please." The waiter would never say "Will I bring coffee?," even a well-educated waiter. The answer to that might be "I don't know; are you planning to?"

"Will I bring coffee?" doesn't sound either formal or casual; it just sounds wrong.