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Shillelagh states (emphasis added):

For the Duration, you can use your Spellcasting Ability instead of Strength for the Attack and Damage Rolls of Melee Attacks using that weapon, and the weapon's damage die becomes a d8.

Does this mean you have to use the spellcasting ability, even if Strength is higher? I interpret "can" as giving you the option.

I want to turn a quarter staff's damage die to a d8 while still using strength, on a melee Ranger/Nature Cleric with the polearm master feat.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Noteworthy perhaps: if you're planning on using strength anyway there's no real point in you casting Shillelagh, you can just swing with both hands for mostly the same effect. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Aug 6 '20 at 7:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic But if one hand is occupied (by casting spells or wielding a shield, perhaps) then going two-handed is not an option. \$\endgroup\$ – BBeast Aug 6 '20 at 7:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ @BBeast You only need to hold the weapon in two hands while you're attacking with it for it to count. This is true even for full two handed weapons, even more so for versatile ones. \$\endgroup\$ – Cubic Aug 6 '20 at 9:26
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic shillelagh makes the weapon attack magical ... which sometimes matters depending on the target of the attack \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Aug 6 '20 at 11:55
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Cubic you can't hold a weapon two handed while holding a shield \$\endgroup\$ – wearedevo Aug 6 '20 at 13:30
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You can use Str

5e uses the plain English meanings of words. "Can" and "may" indicate options. It does not say "the attacks use your spellcasting ability instead of strength". That would mean that it is not optional. Also see this question about "can" and "may".

The damage die, however, "becomes a d8" without a "can" or "may", so this is not optional. It also says "and" and not "and if you do", so whether or not you use your spellcasting ability has no bearing on whether you can use the d8.

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