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Understanding and Using Modal Verbs (#20), by Dennis Oliver


Modal Verbs #20:
Individual Modal Verbs



The English modal verbs are often challenging for learners
of English. This happens for many reasons, including both
grammar and meaning.

In this Hint, we'll see a little more about shall.


Shall #2


We've already seen that in American English, shall is often
used in asking what someone wants you (or another person
person) to do and in asking someone whether something is
a good idea (that is, whether it is advisable).

Another use for shall is in expressing determination or
a promise. This use of shall is quite formal and specialized.


We shall overcome our problems.

(We're determined to overcome our problems, and we'll
do everything that we can to overcome them.

We intend to overcome our problems, no matter how
difficult this may be.)


You shall have everything that you require.

(I'm / we're determined to give you everything that you
require, and I / we don't care how difficult it may be to
do this.

I / we promise that you will have everything that you require,
even though this may be very difficult to accomplish.


shall be the next president.

(We're / I'm determined to make him the next president
and we'll / I'll do everything that I / we can to ensure that
this happens.

I / we promise that he will be the next president, no matter
how difficult this may be.



Special Notes:


In the examples above, shall is used in a very
special way: to show strong determination or
a promise for something that is difficult to do
or for situations in which the results are considered

to be difficult to accomplish.

In American English, "I will do something" and
shall do something" have very different feelings.
"I will" indicates that something is acceptable to
me and I'm willing to do it. "I shall" indicates that
I'm strongly determined to do something that
others consider difficult to accomplish.


The negative of shall is shall not, which is
sometimes contracted to shan't. It expresses
determination or a promise for something which
is negative:

You shall not (shan't) be disappointed.

(I'm determined you will not be disappointed,
no matter what happens. / I promise that you
won't be disappointed, even though this may be
difficult to arrange.

He shall not (shan't) be allowed to enter
the building.

(I'm determined that he will not be allowed
to enter the building under any circumstances. /
I promise that he will not be allowed to enter
the building, no matter how difficult this is
to accomplish.



In American English, shall and shall not (shan't)
are very formal and
show very strong feelings.
They are not simply forms that "I" and "we" use
to show future time.


Next: more on modal verbs

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