Hello James M,

I have learnt from a lot of various grammar books that shall is mostly used in BrE and is uncommon in AmE. However, since my first participation in this forum I’ve been observing you (as an AmE speaker) use shall in lieu of will. James, how would you explain this case: are you a tradional user or …? )))

Many thanks in advance.

Foreigner, I’ll let James speak for himself, but as an aside, I think those grammar books are a little outdated in that view.
As a native British English speaker, I use both in equal measure and I’m not alone in doing so. However, in conversation both are contracted to “I’ll” and this is what is used most often in dialogue.

***** NOT A TEACHER *****

Hello, Foreigner:

  1. I believe that you are correct: most Americans restrict “shall” to questions (“Shall I turn on the air-conditioner?”). And it may occasionally appear in orders, especially in official language.

  2. When you watch American movies, you will notice that Americans consistently use “will” in most other cases.

  3. The only reason that I use “shall” in writing is that I have time to think. And the rule that says “shall” should be used in the first person to express the future is a nice rule. But when I am speaking to someone, I don’t have time to think, so I always say “will,” for I have heard “will” all of my life.

  4. Two famous brothers (the Fowler brothers) wrote way back in 1906 that only people born in southern England knew how to use the words “shall” and “will” correctly. Their OPINION was that if you were not born in southern England, then forget it! You will NEVER learn how to use those two words “correctly”!

  1. When I write, I also like to use “I shan’t” instead of “I won’t.” Of course, when I speak with Americans, I do not DARE to say “shan’t.” If an American said “shan’t,” other Americans would look at him / her with GREAT suspicion.

  2. My respectful suggestion: If you want to speak and write “American,” use “will” or “won’t.”

Have a nice day!

Yes, ‘will’ is preferred (since ‘shall’ has almost lost its identity with simple future time) and is easier to articulate. But in certain contexts (other than what James mentions) ‘shall’ is more suitable as in ‘I shall help you’ to mean ‘I am willing/ready to help you’ rather than ‘I will help you’ which would be taken (by foreign BrE speakers) to mean ‘I am determined to help you’. Of course, in spoken contexts the distinction is not perceptible (where stress is not laid).