How often do Americans use 'shall'?

I know that in America shall is not used so often as in Britain. But I do come accross shall in American media on the Internet now and then. I am curious to get some more information about the use of shall in north America.

Thanks in advance

It’s used very rarely in AmE. Even when it is used, it’s being used either in a sarcastic, or melodramatic manner, as to American ears it sounds quaint and old fashioned.

The only place you will find ‘shall’ used in AmE is in legal documents or legal proceedings. Of course, legalese is dramatically different from colloquial English.

Hello Iwanna,

I agree with Skrej. The use of “shall” is extremely limited in modern American English. In addition to what Skrej posted, I would add one more very limited context:

Sometimes we use “shall” to make a suggestion, or occasionally to offer to do something. This usage would basically always be in the form of a question:

  • Shall we go?
  • Shall I help you with that?

However, even in those contexts, people might simply use “should” rather than “shall”.

And that’s about it.

[size=84]“Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error.” ~ Thomas Jefferson[/size]



I gather that was your way of agreeing, Alan. :wink:

[size=84]“One can be very happy without demanding that others agree with them.” ~ Ira Gershwin[/size]

Thank you all. I’ve been fully convinced now.

“Shall” is sometimes used by Americans to show greater resolve to do something than if the word “will” were used. In some situations, when someone (such as a politician) is being asked whether he will do something, he might respond, “I will, and I shall.” That means something like, “I want to and plan to do it, and I will let nothing stop me from doing it.”

So, for Americans (at least the literate ones), “will” often indicates future tense involving some volition, whereas “shall” can mean someone absolutely will do something.

That’s a very interesting clue. Thanks, Jamie.

Hello everybody,

I was taught that there was a strong tendency of dropping the auxiliary word “shall” out of the use when we speak of future events in the First Person Singular. My teachers said that we should use “will” instead. But in one of tests of your site I came across a joke about a man who was drowning. He cried, “I will drown!” but nobody helped him because people thought that the man realy wanted to drown, and now I am a little bit hesitant about the use of “shall” and “will”.
Please, enlighten me.

P.S. Sorry I was not too attentive - this topic was already discussed earlier. Thank you.