Definition of shall in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ʃal/

modal verb (third singular present shall)

1(In the first person) expressing the future tense: this time next week I shall be in Scotland we shan’t be gone long
More example sentences
  • I shall ignore the questions which do not apply to a particular item.
  • I shall return to this question later at paragraph 124 and following.
  • Where I think it relevant, helpful and permissible to take into account other material I shall indicate what it is.
2Expressing a strong assertion or intention: they shall succeed you shall not frighten me out of this
More example sentences
  • Richard is determined that he shall succeed to the crown and sets out to eliminate any opposition to this and to secure his position.
  • One shall be a Warrior, strong and oft silent, though charitable and kind underneath.
  • I will stand in your heart as fierce as the lion of Judah, as strong as the temple we shall build.
3Expressing an instruction, command, or obligation: every employer shall take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of employees you shall not steal
More example sentences
  • Under your command shall be the battleships Loyalty and Honour, and the frigates Hope and Truth.
  • Two years ago, I received an email from an executive in the cinema exhibition industry, who shall remain nameless.
  • From the hubbub and colorful chaos of Delhi she journeyed to a town in the Midwest that shall remain unnamed.
4Used in questions indicating offers or suggestions: shall I send you the book? shall we go?
More example sentences
  • The question here is where shall we go for this data and what data will we need next?


There is considerable confusion about when to use shall and will. The traditional rule in standard British English is that shall is used with first person pronouns (I and we) to form the future tense, while will is used with second and third persons (you, he, she, it, they), e.g. I shall be late; she will not be there. To express a strong determination to do something these positions are reversed, with will being used with the first person and shall with the second and third persons, e.g. I will not tolerate this; you shall go to school. In practice, however, shall and will are today used more or less interchangeably in statements (though not in questions). Given that the forms are frequently contracted (we’ll, she’ll, etc.) there is often no need to make a choice between shall and will, another factor no doubt instrumental in weakening the distinction. The interchangeable use of shall and will is now part of standard British and US English.


Old English sceal, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch zal and German soll, from a base meaning 'owe'.

Words that rhyme with shall

Al, bacchanal, cabal, canal, Chagall, Chantal, chaparral, gal, grand mal, Guadalcanál, Hal, La Salle, mall, Natal, pal, pall-mall, petit mal, sal, Val

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: shall

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.