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See my title. I am looking for a word or expression to replace the way of "Shall I/we ...?" The context is I am asking for permission or suggestion but it is not in conversation. I want to apply such sentence in written English. The dictionary says, that is the spoken English.

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Could you please provide the sentence using Shall I/we that you would like to reword? – Jim Feb 25 '13 at 7:21
You say: 'The dictionary says, that is the spoken English.' Are you sure that the dictionary further says 'but not the written English'? – Edwin Ashworth Feb 25 '13 at 10:02
Of course not. The dictionary does not tell that this is not for written English. I think it is more often used in spoken English. – Jiancheng Zou Feb 26 '13 at 7:23
I was about to write something in email. My intend was to say, "Shall I create a template and write this report then let you review? I am waiting for your further instructions." I know it will not be read in a wrong way, but I was trying to find a better way to write. – Jiancheng Zou Feb 26 '13 at 7:24
Shall I/we ... ? spoken used to make a suggestion, or ask a question that you want the other person to decide about: Shall I open the window? Shall we say 6 o'clock, then? What shall I get for dinner? (Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English) I see I myself sometimes depends on this dictionary excessively. – Jiancheng Zou Feb 26 '13 at 7:53

I'm not sure which dictionary would suggest that shall is only used in spoken English, but I have to assure you that it is perfectly fine to use it in written English too, especially in literature.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate.

-Shakespeare's Sonnect 18

If you are still looking for a replacement for an expression that involves the usage of shall, you would have to first determine what it truly means in the expression:


1 expressing the future tense: this time next week I shall be in Scotland.

2 expressing a strong assertion or intention: they shall succeed | you shall not frighten me out of this.

3 expressing an instruction or command: you shall not steal.

4 used in questions indicating offers or suggestions: shall I send you the book? | shall we go?

My guess is that you are using its fourth definition. In this case, you can simply rephrase the sentence this way.

Original sentence:

Shall we go shopping?

After rephrasing:

I would suggest that we go shopping.

My suggestion is that we go shopping.

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Colloquially, 'Do you want to go / come shopping (with me)?' – Edwin Ashworth Feb 25 '13 at 10:03
Also colloquially, I might say, "Let's go to the mall!" It's imperative, not interrogative, but it is not a command. – livresque Feb 25 '13 at 14:32
Shakespeare used the word shall in many, many places where we would not use it today. Today, in the U.S., usage 4 is the only common one left. But that's no reason not to use it in writing. – Peter Shor Feb 25 '13 at 16:35
yhcra's answer is informative. To rephrase "Shall we go shopping" in the way of "I would suggest..." or "My suggestion is ..." is one solution. Ashworth's and livresque's do too. The original sentence is interrogative; we see declarative form or imperative form also work. However, I feel that there is some subtle difference. – Jiancheng Zou Feb 26 '13 at 8:04
One more question here: Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate. Since it was written hundreds years ago, I am not sure it was the same as that of today. Did Shakespeare here mean that "How I wish I could compare thee to sa summer's day?" It must be something different than contemporary English. – Jiancheng Zou Feb 26 '13 at 8:08

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