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“You had this morning a breakfast which you could not eat; you must be hungry. I have ordered that a lunch of bread and cheese shall be served to all.” (Jane Eyre)

I’ve known that if subject clause has the words like order, its object clause needs to have should plus verb or root verb. How can I understand the coming of ‘shall’?

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Shall is quite rare in contemporary English, other than in questions that make an offer or a suggestion. Charlotte Brontë’s use is, of course, perfectly grammatical, but she uses shall where a modern author might use will. More often, however, you would probably find a different construction altogether. Possible alternatives (with the first less likely in American English) are:

I have ordered that a lunch of bread and cheese is served to all.

I have ordered that a lunch of bread and cheese be served to all.

I have ordered a lunch of bread and cheese to be served to all.

I have ordered that a lunch of bread and cheese should be served to all.

  • +1 I think, too, that should would imply (more strongly for Brontë perhaps than today) some doubt as to whether the order would be carried out. I have ordered that lunch will be served at noon rather than 1:00 would be unremarkable today. – StoneyB Feb 20 '13 at 12:18
  • @StoneyB. Somewhat paradoxically, it also seems to suggest a degree of compulsion. – Barrie England Feb 20 '13 at 12:42
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    Yes - particularly if will is stressed. A generation ago you often heard US newscasters read things like The President stated that the US will provide immediate relief with an odd stress on will; my father claimed this came of almost universal service in the military, where any announcements on the post PA were read as commands: There will be a showing of Road to Monaco at nineteen hundred hours. – StoneyB Feb 20 '13 at 12:55

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