Re: Using the word shall

Subject: Re: Using the word shall
From: Virginia Krenn <asdxvlk -at- OKWAY -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU>
Date: Thu, 6 Oct 1994 09:37:51 CDT

The following is a copy of a message that I posted on June 6th
following a discussion on this list about the proper usages of shall
and will.

I found it of interest that, when I looked up the word, hypotaxis
(from a posting to this list), in The American Heritage Dictionary,
the example they used to explain the word contained "shall".

I then looked up the word, shall, in the same reference and will copy
the definitions and usage information here. But first, I would like to
say that I was taught to use 'shall' for first person and 'will' for
second and third person. Notice, however, that in the first sentence
of this paragraph that I did not do what I was taught.

1. In the first person singular or plural, simple futurity: I shall be
twenty-eight tomorrow.
2. In the second and third persons:
a. Determination or promise: Your service shall be rewarded.
b. Inevitability: That day shall come.
c. Command: Thou shalt not kill.
d. Compulsion, with the force of MUST, in statutes, deeds, and
other legal documents: The penalty shall not exceed two years in
3. In all persons, indefinite futurity, in conditional clauses and in
clauses expressing doubt, anxiety, or desire: If you shall ever
change your opinion, come to me again.

ORIGIN: Germanic "skol-" to be under an obligation

USAGE: In expressly formal usage, shall is employed as indicated
above. In the first person it expresses simple futurity (unstressed
intention or normal expectation); in the second and third persons it
expresses any of the following: determination, promise, obligation,
command compulsion, permission, or inevitability. Will, as an
auxiliary verb, is used in the opposite way: to express simple
futurity in the second and third persons and to indicate one of the
other conditions in the first person. However, these distinctions are
not closely observed in general usage, including much serious writing.
On this somewhat lower level, to indicate mere futurity, will is
widely employed in all three persons (and shall is largely neglected):
We will be in London next week (acceptable to 62 % of the Usage panel
as an example in writing on all levels). Will, in all three persons,
is also employed more often than shall in expressing any of the forms
of emphatic futurity. In speech, the degree of stress on the auxiliary
verb is usually more indicative of intended meaning than the choice of
shall or will. In writing, a condition other than mere futurity is
often expressed more clearly by an alternative to shall or will, such
as MUST or HAVE TO (indicating determination, compulsion, or
obligation) or by use of an intensifying word, such as certainly or
surely, with shall or will. Informally contractions such as I'll,
we'll, and you'll are generally employed without distinction between
the functions of shall and will as defined formally.


______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Author: kleve -at- hilco -dot- com at SMTP

Please give me the benefit of your expertise.

One of the company's sales people wants to use the word "shall" in his
proposals. This goes against our style guide which says to use informal
wording whenever possible. So far all the writers in the company are
against using shall. But the salesperson doesn't trust us or the company
style guide (which we wrote).

What rules do you know about using shall? We need data.
My dictionary just says it's a defective verb used as the present tense
of should. Not a whole lot of help.

Please respond to kleve -at- hilco -dot- com -dot-



Kathryn E. Leventhal-Arnold
Documentation Manager Email: kleve -at- hilco -dot- com
Hilco Technologies, Inc. Phone: 314/298-9506 x253
3300 Rider Trail South, Suite 300 Fax: 314/298-1729
Earth City, MO 63045

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