'Shall' and 'Should' are like relatives, because 'Should' is the past tense of 'Shall', but they have different functions despite their similarities.

"Shall and Should" in English Grammar

'Shall' and 'should' are both modal verbs in English that are used to express various degrees of obligation or necessity, as well as suggestions, advice, and expectations. 'Shall' is often used to express a specific obligation or requirement, and 'should' is typically used to express a recommendation, suggestion, or advice.


'Shall' is a modal verb that is used to:

  1. predict the future
  2. show determination
  3. make suggestions
  4. make promises or offers

Talking about or Predicting the Future

Traditionally, the modal 'shall' was used with 'I' and 'We' and 'You' to express a future action. However, in modern English, 'shall' is usually replaced with 'will'.

We shall visit Rome this summer.

I shall be there by noon.

Showing Determination

'Shall' is used in formal contexts to express determination. For examples:

I shall have you listen to what I say.

They shall tell him about what happened.

Making Suggestions

'Shall' can also be used to make suggestions or proposals in English, particularly in more formal contexts. For example:

Shall we start our meeting?

Shall we go home?

Should and Shall

You can also use the modal verb 'should' to make suggestions. There is no difference in meaning. But in modern English, 'should' is more commonly used.

Should we start our meeting?

Making Promises or Offers

'Shall' is often used in British English and formal contexts to make promises or to volunteer for something. For example:

Shall I make some tea?

I shall never break my promises!


'Should' is a modal verb that is used for:

  • giving advice, suggestion or recommendation
  • predicting the future and talking about expectations
  • giving an order or instruction

Giving Advice, Suggestion or Recommendation

using 'should' for giving advice

'Should' is commonly used to give advice or make suggestions in English. The use of 'should' in these cases implies a recommendation or suggestion based on what the speaker believes is the right or appropriate course of action. Pay attention to the examples:

You should eat more vegetables.

This sentence offers a piece of advice or a recommendation.

You should watch The Harry Potter movies. They're awesome!

This sentence makes a suggestion.

Advising Not to Do Something

You can advise someone not to do something by using the negative form of 'should', which is 'shouldn't' or 'should not'. For example:

You shouldn't drink and drive.

He \should not\ treat his friends like that.


Do not use phrases like 'I think' or 'I believe' with the negative form of 'should'.
To make such sentences negative, 'think' or 'believe' are used in the negative form, and 'should' is kept as it is. Pay attention to the example:

I don't think you should eat too many candies.

(NOT I think you shouldn't eat too many candies.)

Predicting the Future and Talking about Expectations

'Should' is also used to talk about a situation that is likely and probable to happen in the present or the future. It is used to talk about expectations and predictions. For example:

According to the weather forecast, it should be snowing tomorrow.

The bus should arrive in ten minutes.

Talking about Expectations in the Past

'Should' can also be used to talk about something that was expected to happen in the past, but did not happen.
In this case, we use 'should + have + past participle'. For example:

He should have been more careful.

It means he wasn't careful enough.

I should have finished the book by Friday.

Here in this example the speaker means 'I didn't finish the book by Friday'.

Talking about Expectations in the Present

'Should' can also be used in the present continuous tense to talk about obligations that are not being met or somebody who is not acting the right way currently.
In this case, we use 'should + be + verb + -ing'.

You should be studying for the exam.

In this case the addressee is not studying.

We should be helping our mother to make dinner.

Giving an Order or Instruction

'Should' is sometimes used to express an obligation, give orders, or provide instructions. When used in this way, 'should' is often used to suggest that something is necessary or expected, rather than to give a direct command. Take a look at the examples:

All visitors should pay the fee beforehand.

This example refers to the obligation. They must pay the fee beforehand.

Should or Must?

The modal verb 'must' can also be used for giving orders. The difference between 'should' and 'must' is that 'should' is not as strong as 'must'. Using 'should' is more polite.

All visitors must pay the fee beforehand.

Using ''must'' is more direct.

Should or Ought to

Sometimes 'should' is replaced by the modal verb 'ought to'. 'Ought to' is more formal and it is not used very commonly in spoken English.

You should apologize. = You ought to apologize.

'Should + But'

There is a specific grammatical structure in English that involves the use of the modal verb 'should'. This structure typically includes a background sentence, followed by one of the interrogative pronouns (what or who) placed before 'should', and then the word 'but' followed by a phrase that expresses a surprising or unexpected outcome.

Take a look at the examples.

I went to the party and what should they serve but wine.

I was having fun, and who should I meet but Ian.


'Shall' and 'Should' are used as modal verbs. They have many functions as were discussed in the article. So, let us take a look at some more examples to be clarified.

Predicting the future They shall get married.
Showing determination The students shall be there in time.
Making suggestions Shall we go to Becan Hills?
Making promises or offers I shall be there for you.
Giving advice, suggestion or recommendation You should drink some soup to get better.
Predicting future and talking about expectations The road should be covered by snow as it was snowing all night.
Expressing an order or instruction You should mix the eggs after whipping the cream.
Advising not to do something you shouldn't smoke, it is harmful.


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