The form Shall I is used to make offers, in general. For example

Shall I help you?

and one would answer

Yeah, help me

but what's the full answer? I mean, with a question like

You will go for meat, won't you?
Short answer: Yeah.
Full answer: Yes I will.

But shall as a second person has another meaning

Shall I help you?
Yes you shall. <-- it's no more a suggestion: I'm requiring you to do that.

and using Yes you will still sounds imperative. Therefore, is there a full answer to that form as there is for normal verbs like do, will, be and so on?

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    Also consider, "What shall I do tonight?" – Damkerng T. Sep 9 '15 at 11:48
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    You could reply, "Yes, if you would." to carry a modal verb forward. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 9 '15 at 13:00
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    This "full answer" that you're looking for isn't necessarily something real in English usage. – Joe Sep 9 '15 at 19:44
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    Just to underline this: "Yes please", or "No, thank you" are almost always best – Au101 Sep 9 '15 at 22:44

I would say, "Yes, please do."

In other words, if will in a question maps to will in what you are calling a "full answer", then shall in a question maps to do in the "full answer" – at least, that's one way we can look at it.

It's hard to say a mapping like this is 100% reliable, but it does seem to work in a variety of circumstances with a number of verbs. For example, consider these:

  • Shall I help you?
  • Shall I eat this last meatball?
  • Shall I meet you at the market in two hours?
  • Shall I just keep this book you let me borrow for another week?
  • Shall I shut up and kiss you?

All of those questions can be answered with, "Yes, please do."

Of course, if you want to answer the other way, you could simply say, "No, please don't."

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  • Are you thus stating that there is no full answer? My answer arose because it is, as you correctly say, generally answered that way and so I wondered if there were an actual full answer. – edmz Sep 9 '15 at 9:39
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    I don't think there's really a single, "full" answer to any of these questions. Consider your question: You will go for meat, won't you? You said the "full" answer is, "Yes, I will,", but there are plenty of other ways I could answer that question, like: "Yes, meat sounds delicious." "Yes, I'm starving!" "Yes, and I'll probably eat seconds, too." "Yes, but only a little bit – I want to leave room for dessert." – J.R. Sep 9 '15 at 13:03
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    The polite way to refuse a "Shall I ...?" offer would usually be "No, thank you" rather than "No, please don't" - the latter could be interpreted to mean that the offer was unwelcome! – psmears Sep 9 '15 at 19:09
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    @psmears - I think that's probably good advice 90% of the time or more. (I think maybe I was focused too much on my last question when I wrote that!) Nice clarification. – J.R. Sep 9 '15 at 19:13
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    @black I agree with J.R. (both in his answer and all comments), "Shall I ...? " is best answered with "Yes, please do." (or "No, thank you."). The reason I posted my comment ("What shall I do tonight?") was because your question made me realize that shall is not quite like other auxiliary/modal verbs. We would normally use the same verb in our reply ("Do you ...?" "Yes, I do." "Can you ...?" "No, I can't." "Will you ...?" "Yes, I will."), and they seem to work similarly in Wh-questions ("What may he need to ...?" "He may ...") IMHO, the answers may or may not choose to address this matter. – Damkerng T. Sep 11 '15 at 5:08

I think this is a valid and good question.

I look at the question in the following way...

Grammatically the right answer (FULL answer as well) would be:

Yes, you shall.

But we normally don't answer like this, do we? (Technically the above answer is right.)

The reason is because the asker is not actually questioning his will or the event in the future, but he is offering/suggesting his future behaviour.

Similar example would be:

Why don't we go to the gym?

Because we don't like it. Sure, let's go!

So, the answer to the original question could be any of the followings and more:

Shall I play tennis with you?

Please do.

Sure why not!

Yes, please.


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  • So you agree to say there isn't one in particular, unlike for normal verbs (like will, would, ...)? – edmz Sep 9 '15 at 16:44
  • Yes that's correct. – technophyle Sep 9 '15 at 16:53
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    @black - I'm not convinced there is "one in particular" for words like will and would, either. – J.R. Sep 9 '15 at 19:00

Your question seems to be: Is there a way to say the words "Yes, you shall" to convey a different meaning than the words "Yes, you shall"? The answer to that is no.

"Yes, you shall" is a perfectly valid way to answer the question. If you don't like the meaning that "you shall" conveys, then use a different word. There are infinite different ways to answer the question.

And for the comment from Damkerng T.:

"What shall I do tonight?"

"You shall dine with me."

If you say it with a smile, it sounds like an invitation.

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At times, we have to learn the language as it is. "Shall I help you?" can be answered in a various ways, three being the most common I can think of.

Why not?
Okay (less polite, IMO)

However, I'd choose replying (the full answer)

Yes, you may!

That's because the first person is politely 'asking' you to help and in return, you are giving the permission that takes 'may'.

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  • That's not what I'm asking. Also see my comment below J.R's answer. – edmz Sep 9 '15 at 11:57
  • I wrote the full answer. – Maulik V Sep 9 '15 at 12:05
  • Damkerng T. mentioned "What shall I do tonight?" and you may does not answer that. – edmz Sep 9 '15 at 12:08
  • shall + I asks for the permission. And thus, my answer remains the same. 'What shall I do tonight?" ~ "You may better study."* – Maulik V Sep 9 '15 at 12:11
  • As for @Damkerng's comment, that's outside the scope of your original question, which begins: "The form Shall I is used to make offers, in general." That's true, but the word has more uses than that: see Macmillan's Defs 1a and 1b. I don't think you'll find a single answer that will aptly answer every question with the words "Shall I" in the question. Similarly, if the question was, "What will we do tonight?" we can't answer that with, "Yes, we will." – J.R. Sep 9 '15 at 18:58

Yup! (Informal answer) Another way of saying it is Yes, you may. (or might)

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