\ 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

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 The Plan shall include specific action steps related to bilingual, dual and heritage language, Sheltered English Immersion, and English as a Second Language programming. Globe Staff,, 22 June 2022 In the end we shall be forced to invent something that will be able to think faster than the AI, and that will keep it under control. Simon Rich, The New Yorker, 21 June 2022 Perhaps your parents are approaching a certain milestone birthday (that shall not be revealed) or maybe one of your grandparents just had a successful surgery. Elizabeth Berry, Woman's Day, 3 June 2022 Some of the spaces shall be available for events and citizens’ initiatives. Vogue, 27 May 2022 The rules are simple — the queen who was dealt the worst hand shall be the one to lead the band. Kirby Adams, The Courier-Journal, 24 May 2022 Violators’ apes shall be distributed to other investors. Dennard Dayle, The New Yorker, 21 May 2022 When a wild pitch or passed ball goes through or by the catcher, or deflects off the catcher, and goes directly into the dugout, stands, above the break, or any area where the ball is dead, the awarding of bases shall be one base. Joe Noga, cleveland, 18 May 2022 One base shall also be awarded if the pitcher while in contact with the rubber, throws to a base, and the throw goes directly into the stands or into any area where the ball is dead. Joe Noga, cleveland, 18 May 2022 See More

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.

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

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Last Updated

26 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Shall.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jun. 2022.

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More Definitions for shall


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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