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  #1 (permalink)  
Unread Jun 27th, 2007, 03:22 am
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Clive Hawkins
 
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Default Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!

'Thou shall not kill' states one of the Vatican's new 10 commandments for the road. 'Cars shall not be for you an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin' states another.

My question is on the use of shall. I teach that we use it in the first person only. Clearly I'm wrong.

What's it all about? Shall somebody explain it to me?
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Unread Jun 27th, 2007, 07:16 am
Sue
 
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Default Re: Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!

Hi Clive,

Shall like will has two uses - prediction and volition. (See the previous threads on the uses of will or alternatively this article on my site). It is when you are expressing prediction that shall can only be used in the 1st as an alternative to will. So : I will probably see John tomorrow or I shall probably see John tomorrow are both OK, but not *He shall probably see John tomorrow.

But volition is another matter. First of all, the precise meanings of shall and will are a bit different. Will is much weaker. So I'll phone you tomorrow could be glossed as I agree to ... or I'm willing to phone you tomorrow. Shall on the other hand actually imposes the speaker's will on the referent - it has the meaning "I insist that". This is why it's fairly rare - in most situations you can't impose your will on another without creating offence. It may be allowable for God and the Vatican, and mothers have their moments (You shall eat your greens!) but in general we avoid it, and use it only when what we want to impose is to the benefit of the other person Cinderella you shall go to the ball ! or Don't worry, he shall have it tomorrow. Or of course in the interrogative Shall I turn the heating up? Shall we go? By asking the person if they want me to impose my will, I take the possible offence out of the situation - compare I shall do it! and Shall I do it?. The other way to lessen the impact is to use the second form of the werb (should) which makes the imposition hypothetical and therefore less offensive. compare You shall do it! and You should do it.

These examples also show that shall can be used in any person - but the imposition remains that of the speaker, not of the subject : You shall eat your greens! means "I impose my will to ensure that you eat your greens". It's like must in this respect.

For this reason your final question isn't possible because it doesn't have a logical meaning - you could command Someone shall now explain it! meaning I insist that someone explains it! but the interrogative doesn't work : Do I insist that someone explains it? doesn't mean what you're trying to say. You need to ask Will someone explain it - ie Is someone willing to explain it?

Clear ... or worse?
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Unread Jun 27th, 2007, 08:58 am
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Clive Hawkins
 
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Default Re: Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!

As crystal :-)

Susan you are, as ever, a walking, talking TEFL-wiki. Where would we be without you?

My class asked me about this use of shall and as I hadn't yet read this post I held my hands up and admitted that I'd asked for help as I didn't know. Now I'm armed with the answer I'll blow them away on Thursday :-)
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Unread Jun 27th, 2007, 10:42 pm
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Default Re: Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!

Mark's post about fireflies and lightning bugs has got me thinking - do any American's use "shall"? I almost never do. I think I would only use it in mock formality (as in "shall we?"). Opinions?
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Unread Jul 22nd, 2007, 08:07 am
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Default Re: Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!

It gets even more complex when students like mind had been made to understand that 'shall' and 'will' and just the simple present tense forms of 'should' and 'would.' They keep saying 'Yesterday I would / should go to school.' It's been a hell of a semester to correct that.
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Unread Jul 22nd, 2007, 01:42 pm
Sue
 
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Default Re: Cinderella, you shall go to the ball!

Here it's clear that students haven't understood the meaning of the verbs as it is true that there's a first form/ second form relationship between will/would and shall/should - but the meaning of volition or prediction still need to be there.

Second form verbs can express past time, or hypothetical meaning. So, as an example :

Oh no - the car won't start! - First form verb, present volition.
I'm sorry I'm late - the car wouldn't start. - Second form verb, past volition.

or, for predictions :

I think it will rain
I thought it would rain

It looks as if your students hadn't understood the meaning of the verbs at all and just saw them as a marker for the past tense. Maybe they have one in their own language and assumed English would too?
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