1

How idiomatic is this dialogue?

-- Dad, John doesn't want to go to school today!
-- He shall! (whether he likes it or not, and I will make sure he does!)

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    When and where is this dialogue taking place? Is it a comtemporary setting or historic? In Britain, America or another part of the Engllish-speaking world?
    – KillingTime
    Nov 18, 2023 at 19:15
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    'Shall' is very formal, and this just doesn't fit the context. It's extremely unlikely in the UK (I'd expect "He's going, whether he likes it or not!") ... probably even less likely in the US. More likely in Dickensian times (though 'dad' is then unlikely). Nov 18, 2023 at 19:21
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    An interesting example of where shall is not used is the code of conduct of the Supreme Court of the United States: it has the word should 52 times and shall 0 times. If these were actually rules, then most of these cases of should could be written shall.
    – Henry
    Nov 18, 2023 at 22:42
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    @Michael Harvey 'Shall is not used very much nowadays and mostly in formal speech and some legal documents.' [Grammar.d] / 'In statements, shall has the specific use of expressing an order or instruction, normally in elevated or formal register' [Wikipedia]. / ' "You shall" (most formal)' [British English Lessons] Nov 18, 2023 at 22:43
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    @Henry: Agreed. "Shall" in US legal language refers to a requirement. It means "must". The code of conduct seems to have deliberately avoided "shall" But we shouldn't take that to be any indication of the currency of the word shall "on the street", so to speak. Not that you're doing so. It's more like they're avoiding accountability.
    – TimR
    Nov 19, 2023 at 2:33

1 Answer 1

0

How idiomatic is this dialogue?

-- Dad, John doesn't want to go to school today!

-- He shall! (whether he likes it or not, and I will make sure he does!)

It is not idiomatic at all.

  1. Shall is currently rare and has been for about 70 years.

  2. Shall is usually used only in the 1st person (I and we.)

  3. Shall refers back to the active verb, which is "want".

  4. It is hard to think how you can force or order someone to want something.

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    @Quirkier: It would be more correct for you to forget about ever using "shall"! Most native speakers today are probably only really aware of it because the Fairy Godmother tells Cinderella: "You shall go to the ball!" (not a command, but a confident assertion / prediction). Nov 18, 2023 at 20:18
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    @FumbleFingers no-one will buy me a drink and I shall go thirsty (or something like that) Nov 18, 2023 at 21:16
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    Why does “shall” have to refer to the active verb? In the dialog “I don’t want to do the dishes!” “You have to!”, in my dialect of English ( American) “have to” refers to do and not want. And I can’t imagine it’s different in British English. Nov 18, 2023 at 22:08
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    I agree with @FumbleFingers, shall is a word you never need to use in 21st century English, unless you’re a lawyer. Teaching people to use it is only slightly less archaic than teaching them to use thee and thou. Nov 18, 2023 at 22:13
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    @MichaelHarvey: "By their fruits ye shall know them" (It's not quite "medieval phrasing, but we're definitely showing our age here! ) Nov 18, 2023 at 22:24

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