ˈshal How to pronounce shall (audio)
past should
ˈshu̇d How to pronounce shall (audio)
; present singular and plural shall

auxiliary verb

used to express what is inevitable or seems likely to happen in the future
we shall have to be ready
we shall see
used to express simple futurity
when shall we expect you
used to express determination
they shall not pass
used to express a command or exhortation
you shall go
used in laws, regulations, or directives to express what is mandatory
it shall be unlawful to carry firearms
: will have to : must
: will be able to : can

intransitive verb

archaic : will go
he to England shall along with youWilliam Shakespeare
Shall vs. Will: Usage Guide

From the reams of pronouncements written about the distinction between shall and will—dating back as far as the 17th century—it is clear that the rules laid down have never very accurately reflected actual usage. The nationalistic statements of 18th and 19th century British grammarians, who commonly cited the misuses of the Irish, the Scots, and occasionally the Americans, suggest that the traditional rules may have come closest to the usage of southern England. Some modern commentators believe that English usage is still the closest to the traditionally prescribed norms. Most modern commentators allow that will is more common in nearly all uses. The entries for shall and will in this dictionary show current usage.

Examples of shall in a Sentence

you shall do as I say
Recent Examples on the Web My answer is: That leader shall stick with their principles. Alla Adam, Forbes, 27 Jan. 2023 Firms with over 10 employees shall be required to consult their employees or trade unions when formulating their out-of-work policies. Faustine Ngila, Quartz, 26 Jan. 2023 At least until this latest lawsuit winds its way through the legal system, the foie gras wars shall continue. Tori Latham, Robb Report, 24 Jan. 2023 If a commercial entity or third party performs a reasonable age verification, the commercial entity shall not retain any identifying information of the individual after access to the material has been granted under Senate Bill 66. Michael R. Wickline, Arkansas Online, 18 Jan. 2023 Ask and ye shall receive: here, the perfect classic evening bags, from collectible pieces from Chanel and Saint Laurent, and Bottega Veneta, to pieces worn by royals. Roxanne Adamiyatt, Town & Country, 9 Jan. 2023 If multiple individuals are entitled to receive a reward, the same shall be paid pro rata, meaning the total amount to be paid on each reward is $7,500. Sarah Portney, NBC News, 31 Dec. 2022 Whatever your personal feelings on Kardashian (all of which are certainly valid), there's no doubt that her ongoing divorce proceedings from the ex-husband-who-shall-not-be-named have made 2022 more stressful than average. Kathleen Walsh, Glamour, 20 Dec. 2022 When a puck is batted to an opponent, play shall continue. Dallas News, 17 Dec. 2022

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'shall.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English shal (1st & 3rd singular present indicative), from Old English sceal; akin to Old High German scal (1st & 3rd singular present indicative) ought to, must, Lithuanian skola debt

First Known Use

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 4a

Time Traveler
The first known use of shall was before the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near shall

Cite this Entry

“Shall.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


helping verb
shəl How to pronounce shall (audio)
past should shəd How to pronounce shall (audio)
; present singular & plural shall
: am or are going to or expecting to : will
I shall write today
: is or are compelled to : must
they shall not pass

More from Merriam-Webster on shall

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