Modal verbs shall and in English: rules and examples

We love giving advice to other people, right? It is very important to be able to adequately express ourselves in English when we use modal verbs.

Anchor theory exercises

Therefore, let us consider some cases when it is necessary to use the verb shall and its modal verb-equivalent should. In this article we will discuss the basic rules governing the use of these words in English with examples of replicas from everyday life.

Shall vs. Should

Shall is a modal verb used to indicate future actions. It is most often used in sentences with the pronouns “I” or “we” that fulfill the role of the subject, and is often found in sentences such as Shall we go? - "Let's go to?". Shall is also often used when it comes to promises or voluntary actions. In official English, the use of shall to describe future events often expresses inevitability or predestination. It is more often heard among speakers of British English than among Americans.The latter prefer to use other forms, although sometimes they use shall in the official language.

Modal verbs of the English language

In many cases, modal auxiliary verbs can replace each other in order to create different meanings of the sentence. For example, instead of shall we can use should - a modal verb in past tense (from shall). With it, you can give a command, which, however, is not mandatory. Rather, it has the character of a recommendation or advice.

Modal verb shall

The modal auxiliary verb is used in many situations. With it, you can shape future times, make inquiries or suggestions, create conditional sentences, or give commands. Although in modern English (especially American English) the will verb is preferred, the use of shall adds a special degree of politeness or formality to the tone of the sentence.

Using Modal Verbs

Shall is used only for the formation of future simple and future long times, when "I" or "we" act as the subject. Although this is not at all a strict rule (and in general it is not necessary if we give a command).

The difference between shall and should

The main difference between the modal verbs, shall and should is that should is a form of the verb shall in past tense. However, when it comes to their use, everything is not so easy: you can not simply put should should in the sentence in the past tense.

Something you need to know about!

The use of the modal verb should be characteristic not only of the past tense. A verb can matter both in the present and in the future, if it stands before the main part in a complex sentence. Should is a conditional form used for the verb shall. Much less often this form is used as past tense. To understand the difference, we first need to understand what modal verbs are and why they are needed.


Modal verbs shall and should perform both deontic and epistemological function. They also help the main verbs: for this they are called subsidiary. They perform separate functions and are used to convey a variety of values.

Modal verbs should vs. shall

Should be used to express advice. Other uses of modal verbs are: ability, opportunity, probability, resolution, necessity and request for assistance, conclusion, provision of instructions and suggestions, voicing preferences, proposals, promises or predictions.

Theory of English

Verbs are called deontic verbs, which are used to express resolution, and, therefore, they affect a specific situation. For example:

You should go only after you finish the work.

Translation: You can leave when you're done.

Here we can see the permission given by the speaker.

Epistemological modal verbs are verbs that express the speaker's opinion. For example:

He should be here any moment now.

Translation: He must be here at any time. Here the speaker expresses not certainty, but assumption.

When to use the verb should

Should expresses that certain actions will be useful to someone. For example: you need more sleep.

You should get more sleep.

It also expresses probability. For example: by this time you should have reached the office.

You should have reached the office by now.

It is used to express effects and conditions. For example: if he has any problems, I will help him.

Should he have any problems, I will be there to help.

The rule for the modal verb should also state that this verb can be used instead of the “would” particle. For example: I would like to meet her parents.

I should like to meet her parents.

To transfer someone's views from the past about the future. For example: from the very beginning it was decided that the school should be used to educate poor students.

It should be used to educate underprivileged students.

One of the main functions of the verb should is to give a speech of politeness. For example:

I should expect you to apologize now.

I should expect an apology from you.

Cases of the use of shall

It is known that shall be a modal verb (in the past tense - should), which is used in the following cases:

  • when it is necessary to indicate that something must happen in the future;
  • if it is necessary to express determination;
  • in cases when it comes to certain laws and regulations.

Actively used in formal writing to express the future tense.

Creating future tense

Future times are most often shaped using will or to be going to. However, we can also use shall to give politeness to future-built structures. For example:

I shall call from the airport.

I will call from the airport.

It is also possible, although less common, to use shall in the future perfect and the future perfect extended times:

As of the next week, I have worked here for 50 years.

Next week I will work here for 50 years.

Suggestions, tips and tricks

When we create interrogative sentences, using shall without adding interrogative words such as why, what, where, where, etc., we thus give the request a polite mood:

  • Shall we walk along the beach?
  • Shall I wash the dishes?


  • Will we walk on the beach?
  • Will I wash the dishes?

When we make an interrogative sentence, inserting interrogative words (why, what, where, who, etc.), we use shall, as if asking for advice or trying to learn the listener's opinion about a future decision.

  • What should I do with this spare part?
  • Where shall we begin?
  • Who should I invite to the meal?


  • What should I do with this part?
  • Where to begin?
  • Who should I invite to dinner?

What are other uses of this modal verb?

Conditional sentences

Like the verb will, we can use shall in conditional clauses to express a probable hypothetical result. It can be used in conditional sentences of the first type.

If my flight is delayed, I’ll not have time to call you.

If my flight is delayed, I will not have time to contact you.

I’m not able to come by tomorrow.

I will contact the post office if my package does not arrive tomorrow.

Commands and orders

Although will will most often be used to form teams, we can also use shall to create teams in a more formal atmosphere. Examples of the use of shall in orders can be found in public notices and reprimands. For example:

  • This establishment should not be held liable for lost or stolen property.
  • Students shall remain silent throughout the exam.
  • The rule of law dictates that no citizen should be on the streets after 11 PM.
  • They shall be punished for their transgression.


  • This institution is not responsible for lost or stolen property.
  • Students must observe silence during the exam.
  • According to the new law, no one resident of the city should go out after 11 pm.
  • They will be punished for their iniquity.

In order to consolidate the theory, perform a series of exercises on the modal verbs should and shall. Successful study!

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