Let's assume that someone says, "I shall do this" to me. As a response or a teasing way,
Can I use, "You shan't..!" ?

Well, I used this once - when a friend of mine replied: "Huh?" Is it OK to use "shan't" in speech?

I don't think it's only declared for writing purpose. But, are we using this (in speech)..?

  • What have you ever come across in writing that you could not say in speech?
    – user6951
    Dec 14 '14 at 23:31
  • @CarSmack: Pardon me, I didn't mean that I couldn't say in speech. I haven't heard anyone using "shan't" in their speech. I was just curious about that :) Dec 16 '14 at 1:39

In Present-day US English you may go for years—I mean that quite literally—without hearing shan’t. The only people likely to say it are those with a taste for pre-WWII British literature who have picked it up from their reading.

Note, though, that you may also go for years without hearing anybody say I shall. This use was already defunct when I was a child in the 1950s, despite the efforts of schoolteachers to require shall in place of will in the first person. Today shall is reserved, even in formal writing, for

  1. pronouncements of a legal or quasi-legal character; it no longer signifies ordinary prediction of the future, but future requirement:

    The party of the first part shall make an accounting quarterly to the party of the second part.

  2. rhetorical assertion of unshakeable determination:

    They shall not pass.
    I shall return.

  3. ADDED at Peter Shor's suggestion: It's sometimes used in first-person questions as a polite suggestion: Shall we go? or Shall we postpone that til we know more?

So if your interlocutors employ shall, they have no cause for complaint if you call them out by responding with shan’t; and if they are puzzled, it will give you an opportunity to demonstrate your superior mastery of the English tongue by explaining, condescendingly, what I have set forth above.

  • People also sometimes use shall for first-person questions, at least in some areas of the country. "Shall we go?" and "Will we go?" mean quite different things, the first being a suggestion. Apr 7 '13 at 14:30

It’s still used in British English, but perhaps only by an older generation. A typical example might be I’m just going out. I shan’t be long.

Of shall itself, ‘The Cambridge Guide to English Usage’ says

Shall is stylistically marked with volitional meaning in legal and regulatory statements, and expresses politeness in first person questions.


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