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Should I Use “Shall” in American English?

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The modal verb “shall” isn’t used too often these days. But what’s the alternative to the old-fashioned and typically British word?

How to Use "Should" Instead of "Shall"
Is “shall” really outdated and too formal? What should I use instead?
Correct Use

  • Although shall is suitable in British English, it should be avoided in American English.
  • Instead, replace shall with should or will, depending on the context.
    • Shall we go to the movies or to the park? → Should we go to the movies or to the park?
      Shall you be joining us for dinner? → Will you be joining us for dinner?

Are “Should” and “Shall” Synonyms?

Compared to British English, for example, General American shows some distinct oddities in terms of style and word choice.

The modal verb shall (and its negative contraction shan’t), for instance, is said to be a suitable British possibility to express obligation and future suggestions:

Shall we go to the lake today?
Let’s go to the beach now, shall we?

However, we recommend that you do not use shall in your American English as it sounds too formal, too old-fashioned, and too British. Rather, stick to should or will—depending on the context.

Shall / Should I use auxiliaries in American English?
Don’t panic. We’ll teach you which word you should use and why.
Potential Substitutions

We should (shall) ask your mother first.

He will (shall) be there around 6 o’clock.

What to Use Instead of “Shall” in American English

In order to avoid confusion with your American conversation partner, just use it in really formal contexts (e.g., legal documents, manuals, or polite requests).

The user shall ensure therapeutic X-ray equipment meets the following.

Guided by LanguageTool, you will also manage to cope with these highly specialized formats. It will always suggest the best alternative. Further, it tells you how you spell “to ought to,” which you shouldn’t use either, by the way.

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