Shall we use shall?

I’m an American English teacher in France. Quite frequently, my students use the word “shall” (i.e. shall we go to dinner now?) and I tell them it’s passe and that it’s been replaced by “should” for most speakers under the age of 70.

But maybe I’m wrong.

So, do you use shall in every day, non-joking speech? Does it matter where you live?

I’m 50-ish, grew up in California and have lived all over the country. I’m presently in the midwest. I almost never use “shall”, and when I do it’s in a formal context. I also almost never hear “shall”, and when I do, it’s also in a formal context.

I manage software developers & designers for a living. That means I deal a lot with formal logical thinking and carefully chosen nuance about mandatory versus desired versus typical versus undesired versus prohibited. “Shall” appears in written specifications some, but still has an archaic feel to it. We normally write or say “will” or “must” to mean a mandatory imperitive.

Having said that … AIUI “shall” is a standard term of art in building architecture / engineering to specifiy a particular piece of equipment or installation detail. e.g. “The electrical junction box shall be a Square-D model 123-xyz and shall be installed per NEC Section IV.6.4.”

But “shall” in casual conversation? Pretty much never, unless somebody’s being silly.

Use should.

I saw a comedian once do a bit on if James Brown had spoken grammatically correct English:

I feel well!
I knew that I shall!

I sometimes use shall, but am anyway a bit of an anomaly. I’d think it was cool coming from a non-native speaker, though. I suppose it has become archaic, but really only recently.

I use shall from time to time for emphasis, ala Gandalf and “you shall not pass.” But that’s more in writing than in speaking, and not in informal contexts. In speech, it seems fussy now.

I use “shall” in everyday speech, but maybe not every day. Taking the restaurant example, (a) “Should we go to dinner?,” has a meaning that’s very, very distinct from (b) “Shall we go to dinner?” (The meanings also change based on the time period being considered.)

Obviously “should” is simply the conditional form of “shall,” and so (a) is used when trying to make a determination about going to dinner, whereas (b) seems more correct to me when the decision has already been made, and one is enquiring of one’s partner whether he is ready to leave.

I sometimes use phrases like “I should like some water” or “we shall go to the store,” but I try to prevent myself from doing so when near coworkers, because they laugh at me for sounding so un-modern.

I don’t think I use it that often but I wouldn’t think it was odd if someone else used it. I think my parents and grandparents use it fairly often, so maybe that’s why.

Sure, I use it pretty often. As above, “Shall we go to dinner” has a different meaning than “Should we go to dinner?” (I’m 36, California.)

Yeah…Should and Shall are not nearly the same in meaning, and should not (but probably shall) be used interchangeably.

I use shall, and no one has ever indicated it might be even a little odd. I’m not the only person I know who uses it, for sure. Sometimes that’s just the right word. Maybe it’s another of the UK/US English differences?

Yes, in “Shall I make a cup of tea” type situation. I’m Dutch but I learned English mainly in England. AFAIK it’s common enough there.

In Ireland (at least in the west, where I used to live) “shall” does not exist but rather than substituting “should” they use “will”:

“Will I make a cup of tea?”

which in Ireland means the same as my shall-example, but I always want to reply: “I don’t know. Will you?”

As Balthisar said, shall and should do not have the same meaning, although in some contexts they can be interchanged without much problem (but not in the “shall/should we go to dinner?” example*). It is true that shall is not very common any more in conversational English, but I should** have thought that it is most often replaced by will. Also, in conversation we very often use contractions: “I’ll go to the store in a moment.” There is no way to tell if the “'ll” is a contraction for will or shall, and my guess is that in most cases the speaker himself does not really have an opinion about it. (No doubt this is, in large part, what has led to the decline of shall relative to will.)
*I think the best, more colloquial replacement for “Shall we go to dinner soon?” is probably “Are we going to dinner soon?”

**Note that shall would have made no sense there.

ETA: Looking at PookahMacPhellimey’s examples, I think that “Will I make a cup of tea?” is clearly an Irish idiom, not at all usual in British or American English (even though, as I said, will has replace shall in many contexts). In this contex I would certainly still say “Shall [or possibly should]I make a cup of tea?”

Comes up in law, in my state, fairly often. A statute may read something like “…the Court shall…” or “…the Court may…”, which mean very different things.

I use it in everyday conversation, usually for emphasis. I shall phone him now! I shall not phone him, and you cannot make me.

I use it frequently. It indicates (in my usage) something immediate - eg “Shall we go?” ie now.

I use it all the time. But I’m British. Then again, if you’re teaching English in France, there’s probably a fair chance that they’ll be speaking English more often than American… proximity, innit.

I use it regularly. Such as getting ready to go somewhere…“shall we?”

I use it regularly, but I also use the words “moreover” and “thoroughfare” in casual conversation, so I might not be the best guide.

However, the others are right that “should we go to dinner now?” does not mean the same thing as “shall we go to dinner now?”. Actually, I can’t even think of a good way to rephrase without the “shall”.

I’m in my twenties, in California, and I use it a lot. Pretty much exclusively in a ‘Shall we…?’ context (leave the restaurant, dance, etc.). Certainly less often than ‘You want to…?’, but it comes up.

The next word war is shan’t verses shouldn’t.