\ 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 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

Section 3 – That this Resolution shall become effective on the date of its passage. Justin Sayers, The Courier-Journal, "Read the controversial resolution to relocate two Confederate monuments from Lexington," 17 Aug. 2017 Stop forcefully denying and admit it, Cameron: the truth shall set you free! Yohana Desta, HWD, "James Cameron Keeps Making More Titanic Content, Zero New Avatar Films," 26 July 2017 According to local circuit court rules, the election of a chief judge shall occur on or before June 30 in the year prior to the start of the term, which then commences on the first Monday of January and runs for one year. Erin Gallagher, Lake County News-Sun, "Ukena selected by peers to become chief judge of Lake County circuit," 26 June 2017 Customer shall not move the Vehicle in temperatures below 15ºF . . Davey G. Johnson, Car and Driver, "Dodge Demands Owners Sign Waiver When Ordering Demon," 23 June 2017

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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Dictionary Entries near shall

shale oil







Statistics for shall

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for shall

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

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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.

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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

Comments on shall

What made you want to look up shall? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


of or relating to the heavens

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