Shall and Should

'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

In this lesson, we will study two modal verbs: shall and should.
'Shall' is used to talk about or predicting the future. It is also used in questions to make offers, suggestions, or to ask advice.
'Should' is a modal verb used to make recommendations or give advice. It can also be used to express obligation.


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

  1. predicting the future
  2. showing determination
  3. making suggestions
  4. making 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. In modern English, 'shall' is replaced with 'will'.

We shall visit Rome this summer.

They shall be here any minute now.

Showing Determination

'Shall' is used in formal contexts to express determination.

I shall have you listen to what I say.

They shall have to tell him what happened.

Making Suggestions

Another use of 'shall' is for making suggestions.

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.

Should we start our meeting?

Making Promises or Offers

Especially in British English and formal contexts, 'shall' is used for promising something or volunteering for something.

Shall I make some tea?

I shall never break my promises!


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

  1. giving advice, suggestion or recommendation
  2. predicting future and talking about expectations
  3. expressing an order or instruction
  4. advising not to do something

Giving Advice, Suggestion or Recommendation

using 'should' for giving advice

'Should' is used when you want to say what is right or appropriate. It is used especially when you are criticizing somebody's actions.

You should eat more vegetables.

This sentence refers to a piece advice or a recommendation.

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

This sentence refers to a suggestion.

Predicting 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 expectation and prediction.

It should be snowing now, according to the weather forecast.

The bus should arrive in ten minutes.

Expressing an Order or Instruction

'Should' can also be used to express an order, obligation or instruction.

All visitors should pay the fee beforehand.

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

The modal verb 'must' can also be used for expressing an order. 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 less polite.

Talking about Expectations in the Past

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

He should have been more careful.

But unfortunately he wasn't careful enough.

I should have finished the book by Friday.

Here in this example the person 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 is not being met or to talk about somebody who is not acting the right way right now.
Here, we use 'should + be + verb-ing'.

You should be studying for the exam.

In this case the listener is not studying.

We should be helping our mother making dinner.

Ought to and Should

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.

Advising Not to Do Something

By using the negative form of 'should' i.e. 'shouldn't' or 'should not' you can advise somebody NOT to do something.

You shouldn't drink and drive.

He shouldn't treat her friend like that.


Do NOT use phrases like 'I think...' or 'I believe...' with the negative form of 'should.
More commonly in English, they make the verb 'think' or 'believe' negative.

I don't think you should eat too much candy.(NOT I think you shouldn't eat too much candy.)

'Should + But'

There is a special structure in the English grammar made by the modal verb 'should.' In this case, first a background sentence is expressed followed by one of the interrogatives (what, who) that is put before 'should' then we use the term 'but' before the phrase which makes us shocked the most.

Take a look at 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.


Loading recaptcha

You might also like

Can and Could

Talent shows are a big thing now in our pop culture. If you want to participate in them, you should know how to talk about your abilities. Learn about it here!

May and Might

May and Might are modal verbs. Some people think they are interchangeable, especially in speech, but is there really no differences between these two?

Will and Would

These two modals are often confusing for learners, because they are used in quite similar situations. But they're different.

Must and Have to

'Have to' and 'must' have the same meaning and are used to express obligations. However, they are used in different situations and are not interchangeable.


Semi-modals are the subcategory of modal verbs. So it is good to learn the difference between modal verbs and semi-modal verbs to use them properly.

Ought to and Had Better

'Ought to' and 'Had Better' are used for giving advice and recommendations. These are used differently and they can have different meanings. Start learning!

Download LanGeek app for free