I really wonder if there is a negative of shall. I've heard something like shan't. For example I shan't or Shall we go to the cinema? No, I shan't. I don't know whether this usage is correct or not.

  • What do you mean by "true" exactly? It's been a perfectly acceptable contraction since the mid 1600's. – David Schwartz Jan 1 '12 at 13:04
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    Voting to reopen. In normal parlance, the negative response to "Shall we go to the cinema?" is definitely not "No, we shan't". It's not at all the same as, for example, "Will we get front-row seats?", where "No, we won't" would be a perfectly standard response. OP is asking about something which I consider to be primarily idiomatic usage, which the only answer here so far doesn't address at all - it just says that (IMHO, for more literal contexts) "shall" is in decline. – FumbleFingers Jan 1 '12 at 15:19
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    @FumbleFingers The OP is asking about the contracted negative of shall; he is not asking about when to use shall, and will. – kiamlaluno Jan 1 '12 at 15:28
  • @kiamlaluno: I don't read it like that at all. The question title, and the first sentence of the text, ask for the negative of "shall". Just because he mentions that he's heard "shan't" doesn't change that. I myself only mentioned "will" because in normal parlance the negative response to that verb is just bog-standard "won't" or "will not", whereas it doesn't work like that in the case of "idiomatic" questions starting with "Shall we/I...". – FumbleFingers Jan 1 '12 at 15:41

The negative of shall is shall not. All modal verbs have contracted negative forms, and the contracted negative form of shall not is shan't. Shall and its negative both seem to be in decline and their use is limited to mainly to legal contexts and the expression of politeness in some questions.

  • Not all modals, may doesn't. – Brett Reynolds Jan 1 '12 at 13:51
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    It does, mayn't, although it's rarely used. Here is an Ngram for the three least used modals. Shan't and mayn't both seem to be slowly becoming obsolete. – Peter Shor Jan 1 '12 at 13:56
  • The OED has 24 citations that include ‘mayn’t’, most of them, admittedly, from before the twentieth century. There is, however, this from 1971: ‘It mayn't be too bad an idea.’ – Barrie England Jan 1 '12 at 14:04
  • Also mightn't, which even though it's a bit more of a tongue-twister, seems to be clinging on much more than "mayn't". – FumbleFingers Jan 1 '12 at 15:23

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