What's the difference between "shall I/we…" and "what/how about…"?

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The function of the two structures is the same.
When you want to MAKE A SUGGESTION about what you (and the people with you) should do, you can choose any of these expressions.

But the FORM is different:

Shall I + VERB?
 

  • Shall I open the window?
  • Shall I turn off the TV?

(Meaning: Do you want me to open the window/turn off the TV?)

Klostergarten Altzella

Klostergarten Altzella x
Klostergarten Altzella

Shall we + VERB?
 

  • Shall we visit Aunt Lily?
  • Shall we buy it today?

(Meaning: Do you want us to visit Aunt Lily? Do you want us to buy it today?)

What about…/ How about… + NOUN (or verb+ing)

  • What about asking Joe?
  • How about Friday?

(Meaning: Do you think it’s a good idea to ask Joe? Is Friday good for you?)

– What shall we do today?
– How about visiting Aunt Lily?

– It’s hot in here.
– Shall I open the window?

– When shall we meet?
– How about Friday?

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