“Should I” vs. “Shall I” - Difference Explained (Helpful Examples) (2023)

“Shall I” and “should I” are fairly similar in English. We can use them somewhat interchangeably, but it’s important to know the subtle differences between the two. This article will look at how to use them and provide examples to help you understand them better.

What Is The Difference Between “Should I” And “Shall I”?

You should use “should I” when making a request, but you’re not necessarily happy with the expected response of completing that request. You should use “shall I” when making an offer, and generally, you’re happy to carry out the action or offer.

“Should I” vs. “Shall I” - Difference Explained (Helpful Examples) (1)

The definition of “shall,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “used, with “I” or “we,” to make a suggestion.”

The definition of “should,” according to The Cambridge Dictionary, is “used to say or ask what is the correct or best thing to do.”

Both phrases are interchangeable. We can use “shall” or “should” no matter whether we’re making an offer or request. However, there are a few subtle differences that some native speakers might pick up on.

“Shall I” is an offer. We use it to ask whether we should complete something, often already accepting that we should do it. When someone says “yes,” we expect it, and we’re happy to do whatever it is that we offer.

“Should I” is an offer. Generally, we’re hoping that the answer won’t be “yes,” as we’re not as keen on completing the request, even if it’s the more obvious course of action for the given situation.

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Is “Should I” Or “Shall I” Used The Most?

The phrases are very similar, and we can use them interchangeably if we need to. Most native speakers won’t mind whichever form you use. However, we can go further and look at some statistics of them both so that you can see which is more popular.

According to this graph, “should I” is more popular, but only slightly. Both phrases are used, though they are both much less popular than they were two centuries ago.

“Should I” vs. “Shall I” - Difference Explained (Helpful Examples) (2)

“Should” and “shall” are polite and formal options in English. For that reason, many native speakers today stay away from using them because they feel archaic and outdated.

Generally, we’d use something like “can I” or “do I,” as both of those verbs are easier to read and write, and everyone understands what the meanings are without much overlap.

Examples Of How To Use “Should I” In A Sentence

Let’s look at using “should I” in a few sentences. As we’ve mentioned, it is synonymous with “shall I,” but the implication is that we’re not keen on completing whatever the request is that we’re making.

“Should I” makes a request, and often we’re not happy about completing that request for one reason or another.

(Video) Shall vs Should | Similarity | Differences | Modal Verbs | Examples | Exercise | Part 5

  1. Should I do something to help him?
  2. Should I make your life easier by calling them for you?
  3. Should I say something, or do you think he’ll get over it?
  4. Should I make him a cup of tea when he arrives?
  5. Should I bite my tongue, even when they insult my family?
  6. Should I tell him that he has to leave?
  7. Should I stop him from doing that again?
  8. Should I leave him here or take him with me?
  9. Should I visit my mother in the hospital later today?
  10. Should I go with her to see his ashes?

As you can see, “should I” asks a question that we’re often not fond of asking. Whether it’s something we don’t want to do or something that we need to clarify before doing it, “should I” is a request that we’re not entirely sure how to sort out or complete.

Usually, we’d expect someone to say “yes” or “no” when we ask a question with “should I.” Typically, we’re hoping for the negative “no,” so that we don’t have to do whatever the undesirable task is.

However, we often hear “yes” and have to carry out the task more often than not. Often, we’ll understand that the answer is “yes,” even though we don’t want to believe it ourselves.

Examples Of How To Use “Shall I” In A Sentence

“Shall I” is synonymous with “should I,” but there are a few differences in how we might write it.

“Shall I” is an offer. We already accept that we’ll have to carry out the task, and we often don’t mind doing so.

  1. Shall I help you with your bags, dear?
  2. Shall I call the police, or are you going to stop?
  3. Shall I catch up with you later today?
  4. Shall I do anything to stop this mayhem?
  5. Shall I carry your items out for you?
  6. Shall I reward him for his fine work?
  7. Shall I make myself at home in your place of work?
  8. Shall I stop by when I’m around later?
  9. Shall I see whether they’ve got candy in the cupboards?
  10. Shall I pay you now or later?

“Shall I” is an offer we make, even though we already expect the answer to be “yes.” It always asks a question since “shall” comes before the pronoun.” When we ask this question, we’re hoping for a “yes,” and we’re already leaning towards the positive side of it.

Sometimes, you might be a question of “shall I” with “no.” While it’s rare, it’s best if you take it in your stride and move on rather than pressuring the answerer to figure out why they declined your offer.

Are “Can I” And “May I” Interchangeable With “Should I” Or “Shall I”?

Generally, the verb that comes before the pronoun isn’t what’s most important here. What’s most important is whether they’re interchangeable and have the same meaning.

According to this graph, “can I” is the most popular verb to use to make a request or offer of some kind. “May I” is also used, but it’s about as popular as “shall I.”

“Should I” vs. “Shall I” - Difference Explained (Helpful Examples) (3)

“Can I” is interchangeable with “should I” and “shall I.” It works well to make a request or an offer, depending on whether or not you want to complete the task you’re offering. “May I” is more polite than the other three, but it only makes a request and is synonymous with “should I.”

(Video) Modal Verbs: Shall & Should

  • Can I offer you help with your bags?
  • Can I see whether he’s okay with this?
  • Can I do anything to help?
  • May I offer you some assistance?
  • May I help in any way?
  • May I kindly ask you to move along?

Neither of the phrases is identical to what “should I” or “shall I” offer, but we can use them interchangeably in certain scenarios. It mostly depends on the kind of request you’re making.

For example:

  • Shall I call the police?
  • Can I call the police?
  • May I call the police?

Here, “shall” is the most appropriate, and “can” and “may” don’t work very well (unless you’re specifically asking for permission to do so).

  • Shall I help you?
  • Can I help you?
  • May I help you?

For these examples, all of the verbs are synonymous. You can use whichever one you want to offer your help to somebody.

Can “Do I” Be Used Interchangeable With “Should I”?

“Do I” and “should I” are not interchangeable. “Should I” is making a request as to whether we should do something. “Do I” is asking for validation of whether something is the correct thing to do.

Typically, “should I” is used even when we know what we’re supposed to do. If we’re not happy with doing the thing we’re asking, we might use “should I” in the hope that someone might say “no” and prevent us from doing it.

  • Should I call the police?
  • Should I really be here?

However, “do I” is asking for validation. We’re unsure about the outcome of our actions, and we want someone to help us understand whether it’s smart to do the thing we’re asking for before we do it.

  • Do I have to help?
  • Do I call the police now?

Is It “When Should I Come” Or “When Shall I Come”?

We use “when should I come” when we’re asking for a time to meet with an event that’s already confirmed. We’re trying to narrow down the time frame that we might already have. We use “when shall I come” when we haven’t been given a time frame yet.

For example, if a party is set for seven p.m. and you know this, you might ask the host:

  • When should I come tonight?
  • Maybe eight o’clock?

We’re asking for the time again, even though we already know it. This works well for parties because no one tends to arrive on time.

(Video) 'Will I/we' OR 'Shall I/we' in questions (Future) - Which one is correct? English Grammar Lesson

With “shall,” we might not have heard the time already, so we’re simply asking for the time:

  • When shall I come?
  • Anytime now works well!

How do you use “Shall I say”?

You use “shall I say” when you’re making an offer to say something for somebody else. “Shall” is used to offer a service or action to somebody, and it’s up to them whether they want to agree to you doing that action (in this case, “saying” something).

  • Shall I say the thing that you wanted to say?

“Should I” vs. “Shall I” - Difference Explained (Helpful Examples) (4)

Martin Lassen

Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.

(Video) The Difference Between 'Shall' and 'Will' in the Future Tense

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Should and shall difference and examples? ›

The word 'shall' is used to show strong intention/assertion about an action that will happen in the future. 'Shall' is used more in formal writing than 'should'. The word 'should' is used to give suggestions/advice. It's also used when one is talking about probable situations.

What's the difference between should and shall? ›

Shall is often used interchangeably with the word will (though much less commonly) to form the future tense. Should is the past tense of shall, but it is also used to express duty or obligation.

Will I help you or shall I help you? ›

Will or Shall? As a general rule, use 'will' for affirmative and negative sentences about the future. Use 'will' for requests too. If you want to make an offer or suggestion with I/we, use 'shall' in the question form.

Shall I or should I? ›

The word shall is used to show certainty of intention about an action that will happen in the future. The word should is used to express uncertainty and to give suggestions or advice. Shall is used more in formal writing, like legal documents. Should is used in common conversation and writing.

Shall I sentence examples? ›

Shall: forms
  • I shall post it to you tomorrow.
  • I shall have to be at the airport by 5 pm.
  • We shall have to tell him what happened.
  • The good news is I shall be able to join you at your meeting next week.
Mar 1, 2023

What is the rule of shall? ›

The traditional rule is that shall is used with first person pronouns (i.e. I and we) to form the future tense, while will is used with second and third person forms (i.e. you, he, she, it, they). For example: I shall be late.

How do you answer a question with shall? ›

Short answer: Yeah. Full answer: Yes I will. Shall I help you? Yes you shall.

What are the three forms of shall? ›

auxiliary verb, present singular 1st person shall,2nd shall or (Archaic) shalt,3rd shall,present plural shall;past singular 1st person should,2nd should or (Archaic) shouldst or should·est,3rd should,past plural should;imperative, infinitive, and participles lacking.

What is shall used for? ›

Will and shall are modal verbs. They are used with the base form of the main verb (They will go; I shall ask her). Shall is only used for future time reference with I and we, and is more formal than will.

What is the passive of I shall help you? ›

You shall be helped (by me).

Who shall I ask or whom shall I ask? ›

This rule can be especially confusing in two cases: beginning a question and introducing a dependent clause. Beginning a Question: If the question can be answered with a subject pronoun (he, she, it, or they), use who or whoever. If it can be answered with an objective pronoun (him, her, or them), use whom or whomever.

Does shall mean you must? ›

Often, it's true, “shall” is mandatory. . . Yet the word frequently bears other meanings—sometimes even masquerading as a synonym of “may”. . . In just about every jurisdiction, courts have held that “shall” can mean not just “must” and “may”, but also “will” and “is”.

Should I send you or shall I send you? ›

shall i send vs can i send. A complete search of the internet has found these results: shall i send is the most popular phrase on the web. More popular!

What shall I do or what should I do? ›

What should I do ? and what shall I do ? are two different sentences. Should indicates the imperative that you ought to do something. Whereas shall seeks guidance on a choice which is not quite so desperate.

Where to use should I? ›

Should is used to say that something is the proper or best thing to do, or to say that someone ought to do something or must do something. Adam could visit us on Monday. This tells us that it is possible Adam will visit on Monday, maybe he can visit us, but maybe he has other options, too.

Is it correct to say should I? ›

Will I, would I, shall I, should I, can I, could I, may I, might I, must I, dare I, all are correct. They mean different things. They're correct when they convey the meaning you want to convey. They're incorrect when they convey a meaning you didn't want to convey.

Shall I go or should I go? ›

Shall I go? Means that I am determined/poised to go and ask for your affirmation. Should I go? It means I want your suggestion.

Can I or shall I Meaning? ›

“Can” describes something you are able to do, while “shall” defines something you intend to do.

Should word sentence examples? ›

You should stop eating fast food.” “You should go for walks more often.” “We should go to the park tomorrow.” “He should go to the pharmacy first thing in the morning.”

Shall we at the end of sentence? ›

A: Shall we is a perfectly correct tag ending with the imperative Let's. It is more formal in tone than its alternative okay? It's also somewhat more authoritative.

Why do we not use shall? ›

However, we recommend that you do not use shall in your American English as it sounds too formal, too old-fashioned, and too British. Rather, stick to should or will—depending on the context.

Where is shall not used? ›

The normal way to express simple future time in English is using the modal verb will followed by the base form of a main verb. The modal verb shall is not used very much in modern English, except in suggestions or offers of help. Shall I help you?

What is another word for shall? ›

Synonyms of shall
  • must.
  • should.
  • will.
  • need.
  • ought (to)
  • have (to)

What is best way to answer questions? ›

Answering Tough Questions in the Moment
  1. Listen to the Question. Sounds simple, but with so many things calling for our attention, it's easy to be distracted and not hear what the question really is. ...
  2. Pause. ...
  3. Repeat the Question. ...
  4. Respond Honestly. ...
  5. Know When to Stop.

Shall and should exercises with answers? ›

Shall / should 1
  • - You. shall. should. be more friendly.
  • - Should. Shall. I play here?
  • - My car. should. shall. be over there.
  • - Should. Shall. I ask you a question?
  • - Shall. Should. we eat these grapes?
  • - Everybody. shall. should. learn English.
  • - You. shall. should. ...
  • - They. shouldn't. have come yet.

Shall I meaning in question? ›

Shall is often used in questions in the first person singular and plural when making suggestions, making an offer or asking for advice: 'Shall we go out for dinner tonight?' 'Shall I get more tomato juice when I'm at the supermarket?' 'What shall we do now?

What is the weak form of shall? ›

Shall has two different pronunciations, a weak form where you can hardly hear the vowel sound, which is the normal pronunciation in the middle of sentences, and a strong form, when you want to emphasize the vowel, where it is stressed. The weak form sounds like this: shll. And the strong form sounds like this: shall.

What are shall statements? ›

Shall – Requirement: Shall is used to indicate a requirement that is contractually binding, meaning it must be implemented, and its implementation verified.

When shall we meaning? ›

You use shall, usually with 'I' and 'we', when you are referring to something that you intend to do, or when you are referring to something that you are sure will happen to you in the future.

How often is shall used? ›

The verbs shall and will both point to the future, but in contemporary American English, shall is used only rarely. In British English, shall and will are often used interchangeably with little or no difference of meaning.

Shall I help you indirect speech? ›

1 Answer. Indirect Speech: He told me that he would help me.

What are passive sentences examples? ›

In a passive sentence, the person or thing doing the action (the agent) is usually preceded by the word "by." For example: Anita was driven to the theatre by Carla. Nowadays, black kites are protected by law. The olives are stoned and crushed in this room by my son.

What is the indirect speech of I shall? ›

In the given sentence, 'shall' cannot be changed to should as the speech is not reported by the original speaker. It would change to 'would'. Thus, option C is the correct answer according to the rules.

Whose example sentence? ›

We use whose to ask a question about possession: Whose birthday is it today? Whose house was used in the film 'Gosford Park'? Whose are these gloves?

Shall will would I assist you? ›

The correct sentence is : Shall I assist you ? Modal verbs refer to those verbs that define the mood of the main verb in a sentence.

Who shall I see or whom shall I see? ›

How to use who and whom correctly? The answer is simple: If you can replace the word with “he” or “she” then you should use who. However, if you can replace it with “him” or “her,” use whom.

How do we use should? ›

'Should' can be used:
  1. To express something that is probable. Examples: “John should be here by 2:00 PM.” “He should be bringing Jennifer with him.
  2. To ask questions. Examples: “Should we turn left at this street?” ...
  3. To show obligation, give recommendation or even an opinion. Examples: “You should stop eating fast food.”

What is the similarities of shall and should? ›

1. “Shall” and “should” are both auxiliary verbs but have different usages and meanings. 2. “Should” in general English is used as a past tense of “shall” but the usage is occasional.

What is the difference between should and shall in the Bible? ›

Should and shall are the same word. Shall is the form in the indicative mood, and should is the form in the subjunctive mood.

Should I have examples? ›

"I should have read the directions before starting." "I should have eaten breakfast this morning." "I should have listened to your advice." "I should have married her when I had the chance."

Can you start a question with should? ›

Questions. To make questions, we use should + subject + infinitive. We don't use the verb do to make questions. Should we call him?

Is should correct grammar? ›

Should have refers to a missed opportunity, an unfulfilled obligation. Should have is often expressed as the contraction should've, especially in speech. Should've sounds perilously like should of, however should of is not correct and should never be used.

Why will is used with I instead of shall? ›

The traditional rule of future tense says that shall is used in the first person (I shall eat lunch) and will is used in all other persons (you will eat lunch, she will eat lunch).

What word means the same as shall? ›

Synonyms of shall
  • must.
  • should.
  • will.
  • need.
  • ought (to)
  • have (to)

Why shall is not used? ›

However, we recommend that you do not use shall in your American English as it sounds too formal, too old-fashioned, and too British. Rather, stick to should or will—depending on the context.

What is the purpose of shall? ›

Will and shall are modal verbs. They are used with the base form of the main verb (They will go; I shall ask her). Shall is only used for future time reference with I and we, and is more formal than will.

What does it mean when someone says I shall? ›

modal verb. You use shall, usually with `I' and `we,' when you are referring to something that you intend to do, or when you are referring to something that you are sure will happen to you in the future. [formal]

Can I or shall I or may I? ›

Well, actually, in modern English they are both considered acceptable. May is a preferred in a formal style or when you want to be more polite. In less formal situations, can is perfectly acceptable.

Is it shall or should polite? ›

Shall is a more polite choice than should. For example, you might ask, “Shall I meet you after work?”


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