Should we go?
Shall we go?

Do they differ in their degrees of politeness?

  • 1
    I wouldn't expect to hear the second one in day-to-day conversation, but not because it isn't polite. – J.R. May 13 '14 at 12:40
  • @J.R. Are you suggesting shall is outdated/formal? Is there no other difference? – Sandeep D May 13 '14 at 12:42
  • 1
    I'd guess the second one is quite common in British English. I'm not even a native though. – user1513 May 13 '14 at 13:31
  • @SandeepDhamija - No difference in meaning, really. And shall does sound too formal for everyday conversation. (I'm imagining a context such as: They're having a sale down a the department store tomorrow. Should we go? Other contexts may have different interpretations.) – J.R. May 13 '14 at 17:22

I practice both but then out of those two, should is more polite, at least in BrE (and so in InE as I know) especially when used with I or we. OALD defines it:

should (#10) - (British English, formal) used with I and we in polite requests

On the other hand, shall when used with I or we, OALD describes it -

shall (#2) - used in questions with I and we for making offers or suggestions or asking advice.


To me -

Should we go?

is requesting a decision about going, what you might do. For example:

It is getting late, should we go to the store?

The reply could be yes or no.

Then if the reply is yes, you finish what you are doing, grab your wallet, etc., and say to your friend:

Shall we go (now)?

which directly indicates when you are going.

Both are reasonably polite.

  • +1 But I'd say shall we go is an invitation or suggestion. – StoneyB May 26 '14 at 23:07

Shall is equivalent to will when used indicatively. The difference in politeness is great, at least in AmE. It has a very formal flavor to it, and you can sound snobbish if you overuse it or use this in a non-formal or non-polite context.

I will go to the park tomorrow.

I shall go to the park tomorrow.

I wonder what the weather will do.

I wonder what the weather shall do.

I certainly shall have looked everywhere by then.

Interrogatively, shall heavily implies "Will you allow" or "will we allow?" So "Shall you X" doesn't work. "Shall we X" does work, though.

Will Mary come with us?

Shall Mary come with us?

Will you take a look at this?

Shall you take a look at this? (sounds really weird.)

Shall we take a look at this? (we are asking if we will allow ourselves to look at this.)

There are some arcane outmoded(?) rules about when to use shall and will, e.g. I think something about you are supposed to use shall for first person, etc. It could be why you can't ask Shall you X. But you can say "You shall go to the park at 3pm" in the same way as "You will go to the park at 3pm."


When you say "Should we go" is more polite than "Shall we go". The last one is more used when you want to give an order to someone while the first one seems like you are asking for someone to go to somewhere with you.

  • @Downvoter- I would like you know your opinion. – Sandeep D May 13 '14 at 12:57
  • It's an understandable mistake. Shall in questions has a different interpretation than shall in statements. In questions, it's closer to "should" in meaning. – snailcar May 13 '14 at 17:28

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