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

Definition of shall

auxiliary verb

1a used to express what is inevitable or seems likely to happen in the future we shall have to be readywe shall see
b used to express simple futurity when shall we expect you
2 used to express determination they shall not pass
3a used to express a command or exhortation you shall go
b used in laws, regulations, or directives to express what is mandatory it shall be unlawful to carry firearms
4 archaic
a : will have to : must
b : will be able to : can

intransitive verb

archaic : will go he to England shall along with you— William Shakespeare

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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 Nothing in this article shall be construed as legal advice. Marc Edelman, Forbes, 28 Feb. 2021 But this too shall pass as the industry starts to mature. Paul R. La Monica, CNN, 17 May 2021 Adults without children will remember their teenage defiance against their moms and dads and parents will discover solace in knowing that this too shall pass. Robert Daniels, Los Angeles Times, 30 Apr. 2021 Businesses, clubs, and other entities that serve the public in person shall maintain six feet of physical distancing between groups of customers. Anchorage Daily News, 12 Apr. 2021 This too shall pass, but today will be a poignant (and slushy) reminder that Minnesotans earn their springs... Paul Douglas, Star Tribune, 15 Mar. 2021 Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong. Southern Living Editors, Southern Living, 21 May 2021 Pre-money valuation is about risk and returns, which shall be compatible with project maturity and equity shareholding targets. Paolo Guida, Forbes, 13 May 2021 If approved by voters, Hughes' amendment would add a section to the state constitution saying equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of someone's race or ethnicity. Mark Scolforo, Star Tribune, 14 May 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'shall.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of shall

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

History and Etymology for shall

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

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Learn More About shall

Time Traveler for shall

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for shall

Last Updated

8 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Shall.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for shall



English Language Learners Definition of shall

used to say that something is expected to happen in the future
used to ask for someone's opinion
used to give a command or to say that you will or will not allow something to happen


helping verb
\ shəl How to pronounce shall (audio) , ˈshal \
past should\ shəd , ˈshu̇d \; present singular & plural shall

Kids Definition of shall

1 : am or are going to or expecting to : will Violators shall be dealt with most harshly.— Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
2 : is or are forced to : must They shall not pass.

More from Merriam-Webster on shall

Nglish: Translation of shall for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shall for Arabic Speakers


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