Difference Between Shall and Should (With Table)

The words ‘Shall’ and ‘Should’ are related to each other because ‘Should’ is the past tense of ‘Shall’, but they cannot be used in place of each other, as their meaning changes with the sentence structure.

Shall vs Should

The difference between Shall and Should is that the former tells us that an event is going to occur with certainty, while the latter just assures us that it might happen.

The word ‘Shall’ is used when the general sentence wishes to convey something that will take place in the future. The term is also a replacement for the word ‘will’.

The word ‘Should’ is more of an advisory term, and commonly conveys something or an event that must take place or already has taken place.


Comparison Table Between Shall and Should (in Tabular Form)

Parameters of ComparisonShallShould
DerivationFound in old English. Used correctly in the 17th century and later on became a replacement for the word ‘Will’.Found in Middle English, as the guides on how to use the word came later after the 17th century.
Grammatical formThe word is a modal verb that accompanies first, second, and third-person pronouns and forms a future tense.It is a modal auxiliary verb. The basic structure is written as “Subject + Auxiliary verb + Main verb.”
PurposeUsed to express ideas and rules and when a speaker wishes to convey something that will take place in the future.It is used to give advice or recommend something. Also can be used to express personal opinions or desires.
Example“Looking at how hard Ravi is studying, I know one day He shall make this family proud.”“Rather than poking at the wound, you should apply some ointment and bandages.”
Tense and writing formatUsed in formal writing and expresses future tense.Used in informal writing mainly, and as the past tense of ‘Shall’.


When to Use Shall?

The word was first used in Old English as ’shal’ and later on in the 17th century with the help of newly formed guides, ‘shall’ became a replacement word for ‘Will’ that is to be accompanied by first, second and third-person pronouns.

The word ‘shall’ is a modal verb, who’s purpose varies with the structure of the sentence or phrase in which it is used. Most commonly, you can see the word used in formal writing and support future tense words and sentences.

One way that ‘Shall’ occurs in a sentence as a first-person pronoun is with a traditional approach of suggesting an opinion in the future tense form.

Example –

  1. I shall try my best to attend the meeting this weekend.”
  2. “I shall study hard during my summer vacations, and score top marks in my examinations.”

When used in the second and third-person form, ‘shall’ is used to propose deterministic viewpoints and opinions. Here we see much more intensity in the phrase.

Example –

  1. The students shall attend the seminar, no matter how sick or busy they might be!”
  2. “You shall deliver the speech with utmost vigour and passion!”

The word ‘Shall’ can also be used to express rules and laws stated by an entity.

Example –

  1. The Government of our country shall make great strides in technology development in the years to come, by in forcing workstations in every department of every company.”
  2. “The board of directors shall make the use of a VPN mandatory in the coming weeks.”

When to Use Should?

The word originated in the Middle English period and has since been refined in the way that it is used. Although it is the past tense form of ‘shall’, much of the time we cannot use it in place of ‘shall’, or even to convey the same context in the past tense.

‘Should’ is a modal auxiliary verb, and is used in a specific format, which is  – “Subject + auxiliary verb (should) + the main verb.”

The word is used to recommend or suggest an opinion, most times in an informal manner, such as a personal opinion. ‘Should’ is more of an advisory term in most contexts.

Example –

  1. No matter how much more skilled your opponent may be, you should always focus on the goal at hand and do your best.”
  2. “You should devote your time to studies rather than playing around all day with your friends.”

The word ‘Should’ is also used to show that something is expected or likely to happen (within the given timeline).

Example –

  1. “They said that the mock-up designs should be about finished before Monday.”
  2. “You should find this textbook has more than enough information for your research paper.”

Main Differences Between Shall and Should

  1. ‘Shall’ was refined as a replacement for the word ‘will’ when using ‘I’ or ‘We. ‘Should’ was found to be the past tense form of ‘Shall’, but the two cannot be used in place of each other.
  2. ‘Shall’ is a modal word used with first, second, and third-person pronouns. ‘Should’ is a modal auxiliary verb that is used alongside the subject and main verb.
  3. ‘Shall’ is used in formal writing and expresses future tense. ‘Should’ is used in informal writing mainly, and as the past tense of ‘Shall’.
  4. ‘Shall’ is used to express ideas and laws. ‘Should’ is used to express personal opinions and desires, and primarily to give advice.
  5. ‘Shall’ can be used when a speaker wishes to convey something that will take place in the future. ‘Should’ can be used to talk about an event that must take place or already has taken place.



The words ‘Shall’ and ‘Should’ are just the same terms but in a different tense. ‘Shall’ is present in the future tense, while ‘Should’ is in the past tense. But just because they differ in terms of tense, does not mean they can take each other’s place in a sentence.

These two words differ in terms of the context in which they are used. ‘Shall’ is used in a much more formal manner to convey deterministic points. ‘Should is used in informal phrases, sentences, and conversation, mostly to give advice and provide personal opinions. The two words are hence nothing alike when it comes to their true meaning.


  1. https://www.englishclub.com/grammar/verbs-modal-should.htm
  2. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/shall
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