Thursday, December 24, 2009

Legal English - Thy Shall Use Shall Correctly

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 While perusing websites for an idea for this blog entry, I came upon a rather controversial topic - the use of shall. Researcher Roger Foley at the University of Lapland in Finland examines the use of shall in a Legal English sense in European Union documents.

According to Mr. Foley, there is a "promiscuous" use of shall in Legal English documents to the point it is losing its effectiveness.

Now, as we know, shall is a modal, an auxiliary verb, that can never stand alone in the sentence as the main verb. For example, you may ponder - what shall I eat tonight? This is asking what to do for eating dinner.

In Legal English, shall is used to show obligation. For example, in a lease agreement language appears - Tenant shall have the right without Landlord's consent.....

I am often asked by student about the use of shall. For Americans outside the legal context, we use shall with less frequency than in British English. In most cases, the distinction between will and shall is almost nil.

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