\ 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 The chance that our global civilization shall suffer a new dark age from a Miyake event seems remote for the time being. Jonathan O'callaghan, Scientific American, 13 Sep. 2021 That shall include attention to remaining funds on deposit in the museum's account. Chris Mayhew, The Enquirer, 13 Sep. 2021 Will the deer merely scamper back out of the pasture and leave the struggling pair to whatever ends that destiny or fate shall decide. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 10 Sep. 2021 Whether that was a blessing or curse shall be left to those who did see it. Michael Ordoña, Los Angeles Times, 10 Sep. 2021 My skin has definitely looked a bit reddened and raw after using certain retinoid products that shall not be named. Sarah Han, Allure, 31 Aug. 2021 Meyer later asked Woods to read another section of Ohio law that says the sheriff shall hire sufficient staff to carry out his duties, including a jail administrator. Cory Shaffer, cleveland, 26 Aug. 2021 Any apparent violation of Conference regulations shall be referred to the Compliance and Enforcement Committee for its review. Jeremy Cluff, The Arizona Republic, 12 Aug. 2021 Our unity in this regard shall overcome these terrible acts., 7 Apr. 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

18 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Shall.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 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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