\ shəl, ˈshal How to pronounce shall (audio) \
past should\ shəd , ˈshu̇d How to pronounce should (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 futurewe shall have to be readywe shall see
b used to express simple futuritywhen shall we expect you
2 used to express determinationthey shall not pass
3a used to express a command or exhortationyou shall go
b used in laws, regulations, or directives to express what is mandatoryit 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 Eldorado shall have definite agreements for those divestitures on or before Dec. 31. Alexandria Burris, The Indianapolis Star, "Indiana Gaming Commission green lights Eldorado, Caesars merger," 11 July 2020 The Parties shall meet and confer to determine the holiday schedule. Natalie Stone,, "Naya Rivera & Ryan Dorsey Agreed to Joint Custody of Son Josey 3 Months Before She Disappeared," 10 July 2020 In businesses, which shall require face coverings for paying customers and for employees that interact with the public. Robin Goist, cleveland, "Akron mayor pushes to make masks mandatory in city," 9 July 2020 Anyone with bench access will be screened and anyone with a temperature above 100.4 degrees shall not be permitted in the stadium. Ann Killion,, "Should 49ers offer Raheem Mostert more money? Much bigger questions loom," 9 July 2020 For the sake of goodness and love, man shall grant death no dominion over his thoughts. David Treuer, The New York Review of Books, "The Magic Mountains of the Acoma Pueblo and Thomas Mann," 6 July 2020 An entertainment venue shall take reasonable steps, where practicable, to regularly disinfect frequently used items and surfaces. Mary Colurso |, al, "Entertainment venues in Jefferson County can reopen under state guidelines," 9 June 2020 Means of egress shall be maintained throughout the construction project. USA TODAY, "Memphis police clear downtown plaza, detain protesters who camped out for two weeks," 1 July 2020 Violation of this resolution shall be subject to the penalties prescribed pursuant to Ordinance #121. J.d. Simkins, Sunset Magazine, "Blackfeet Nation Shuts Glacier National Park’s East Entrance Amid COVID Fears," 29 June 2020

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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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

19 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Shall.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for shall


How to pronounce shall (audio)

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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on shall

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for shall

Spanish Central: Translation of shall

Nglish: Translation of shall for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of shall for Arabic Speakers

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