Unsteady three-dimensional (3-D) numerical simulations of linear shear flow past a square cylinder at moderate Reynolds number (Re=200) are performed. The shear parameter (K) considered in this study is varied as 0.0, 0.1, and 0.2. For the uniform flow (K=0.0) case, the chosen Re falls in the transition Reynolds number range. The low frequency force pulsations of square cylinder transition phenomena are observed to decrease with increasing shear parameter. The evolution of streamwise vortical structures indicates a mode A spanwise instability in the uniform flow. Unlike in uniform flow, mixed mode A and mode B spanwise instability is observed in the case of a shear flow. The autocorrelation function of the lift and the drag coefficients is improved for any particular separation distance with increasing K. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.