Difference between Shall and Should | Shall vs Should

Which is the correct usage of this sentence – ‘Shall I go to the market?’ or ‘Should I go to the market?’ Feeling confused, aren’t you? Well, after reading this article you will have all your doubts cleared. Many people often think the words ‘shall’ and ‘should’ are synonymous and can be used interchangeably. Well, whether they are synonymous or not can be known after going through the details explained in this article.

If you want to have a better grasp over the English Language, then you need to know the meanings of the words that you are using. Not understanding the difference in meanings of words like ‘shall’ and ‘should’ can often lead to misunderstandings while using them. The points mentioned below will give you a clearer view on how or when you can use the words ‘shall’ and ‘should’. Let’s have a look at them.

Table Summarising the Difference between Shall and Should

Shall Should
Meaning The word ‘shall’ is used to show strong intention/assertion about an action that will happen in the future. ‘Shall’ is used more in formal writing than ‘should’. The word ‘should’ is used to give suggestions/advice. It’s also used when one is talking about probable situations. ‘Should’ is the past tense of ‘shall’.
Usage It is used as a Modal Verb. It is used as a Modal Verb.
Example Tomorrow I shall be in Delhi by this time. You should be feeling sleepy.

The past tense of the word ‘shall’ is ‘should’, but after seeing the table above, you can clearly make out that these terms are neither synonyms nor can be used interchangeably. If one uses these terms interchangeably, then it would change the meaning of the sentence. The in-depth meanings of both, with the help of examples, will help you understand the difference better.

The Difference between Shall and Should – Meanings

Most of us have made the mistake of thinking that the words ‘shall’ and ‘should’ are synonymous. And as a result, we have often used them interchangeably. But that would only lead to a change in the meanings of the sentences. So to ensure that the next time when you use these words correctly, it’s essential that you know the meanings of these words. When you use ‘should’ in a sentence, it shows strong intention/assertion about an action that will happen in the future, for example, ‘The Indian Cricket team shall win the next match,’ whereas when you use the word ‘should’ in a sentence, it indicates duty/probability/obligation. It’s also used while criticising someone for their actions, for example, ‘You should have been caught for driving so fast.’ Once the students understand the difference between these words, it becomes easier for them to use the words correctly in sentences.

Examples of Shall and Should

The examples below will allow students to use ‘shall’ and ‘should’ correctly:

Shall – Sheldon shall come anytime now. (modal verb)

Should – You should always respect elders. (modal verb)

The moment students understand the difference between the words ‘shall’ and ‘should’, they can easily apply them in proper contexts.

Shall and Should – Conclusion

In conclusion, though ‘should’ is the past form of ‘shall’, these two words can neither be used interchangeably nor synonymously. This article points out the difference between ‘shall’ and ‘should’ to make it easier for students to put them in sentences correctly. Besides, BYJU’S also offers various articles on many such ‘Difference Between Two Words’ that students often get confused with.


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