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[whatwg] tense of "shall"

From: fantasai <fantasai.lists@inkedblade.net>
Date: Wed, 14 Jul 2004 18:48:49 +0200
Message-ID: <40F563F1.4090106@inkedblade.net>
Ian Hickson wrote:

> On Fri, 9 Jul 2004, fantasai wrote:
> 
>>>"shall" is an RFC 2119 term. And it _is_ present tense.
>>
>>It is /not/ present tense. It is future tense.
> 
> I really beg to differ. It might (in common speech) be making statements
> about future events, but it is in the present tense.

I invite you to take a survey of how many people could possibly interpret
"He shall walk to the store" to mean "He walks to the store".

http://www.englishpage.com/modals/shall.html
Let's take all the examples and see whether the meaning is preserved by
converting to present tense or to future tense with "will".

The marketing director shall be replaced by someone from the New York office.
   a) The marketing director will be replaced by someone from
      the New York office.
   b) The marketing director is replaced by someone from the
      New York office.

Fred shall be there by 8:00.
   a) Fred will be there by 8:00.
   b) Fred is there by 8:00.

I shall take care of everything for you.
   a) I will take care of everything for you.
   b) I take care of everything for you.

I shall make the travel arrangements. There's no need to worry.
   a) I will make the travel arrangements. There's no need to worry.
   a) I make the travel arrangements. There's no need to worry.

Man shall explore the distant regions of the universe.
   a) Man will explore the distant regions of the universe.
   b) Man explores the distant regions of the universe.

We shall overcome oppression.
   a) We will overcome oppression.
   b) We overcome oppression.

There, now you even have a multiple-choice form to use!

 > Just like "I am going to the store tomorrow" is a present tense sentence
 > making a statement about a future event.

The present participle can be either present or future, true.
But "shall" doesn't form a present participle.

http://www.englishpage.com/verbpage/presentcontinuous.html

> The word "shall" in this context is basically being used in its archaic
> form, anyway (meaning "must").

I understand that "shall" can be used to indicate obligation, the same as
"must". But that does not make verb constructions with "shall" present tense.

 > I don't see anything wrong with saying that "the required attribute shall
 > only be satisfied when the checkbox is checked".

Oh, certainly. "The required attribute will only be satisfied when the
checkbox is checked" is almost equivalent; it's just missing the sense of
obligation (rather than inevitability) that "shall" gives.

I have no problem with you using shall, just as long as you coordinate all
the rest of your verbs to be in appropriately-matching tenses. You can't
do that very well if you pretend that "shall" is creating the present tense.

~fantasai

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Received on Wednesday, 14 July 2004 09:48:49 UTC

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