Definition of shall in English:



  • 1(in the first person) expressing the future tense.

    ‘this time next week I shall be in Scotland’
    • ‘This last question raises disputes of fact, and I shall consider it first.’
    • ‘In this chapter we shall address two questions: why was France so effervescent in these years?’
    • ‘Perhaps we should; but, as already remarked, that is a question I shall not consider here.’
    • ‘Certainly the postal game offers far more scope for originality, as we shall see later.’
    • ‘I shall ignore the questions which do not apply to a particular item.’
    • ‘We shall return later to the question of whether or not this insight is correct.’
    • ‘I shall return to the question of foams having an open cell construction.’
    • ‘I shall deal in more detail with the nature of the offer below.’
    • ‘As we shall see, the answer to this question depends very much on the type of licence which has been granted.’
    • ‘I shall return to this question later at paragraph 124 and following.’
    • ‘Having reflected on these questions for many years, I shall tell you my conclusion.’
    • ‘Where I think it relevant, helpful and permissible to take into account other material I shall indicate what it is.’
    • ‘I shall leave until later the question of interpreting what the terms of the authorization required.’
    • ‘We shall take up the question of what we can learn from the reliabilist alternative in Chapter 15.’
    • ‘The stage is set for a tremendous showdown, and in our minds there is but one question: who shall remain and what will be left of them?’
    • ‘The ancient debate will help, I suggest, in clarifying what we shall want to say on this question.’
    • ‘I record this not as a suggestion for us to follow, but so that we shall not suffer from these practices.’
    • ‘I thought it might be difficult to offer relevant criticism, but I shall try.’
    • ‘I have had the benefit of knowing the farm and its problems for some time now and have taken advice on the price that I shall offer.’
    • ‘These are the main questions that I shall examine and, to some extent, try to answer in this chapter.’
  • 2Expressing a strong assertion or intention.

    ‘they shall succeed’
    ‘you shall not frighten me out of this’
    • ‘The other fools that entered were at least of a respectable age and size, but you shall offer no challenge.’
    • ‘One shall be a Warrior, strong and oft silent, though charitable and kind underneath.’
    • ‘Richard is determined that he shall succeed to the crown and sets out to eliminate any opposition to this and to secure his position.’
    • ‘The trip should only take a week and if it takes any longer I shall send a troop of gnomes to find you.’
    • ‘We shall submit that there is the strongest possible basis for an inference that this is so.’
    • ‘I will stand in your heart as fierce as the lion of Judah, as strong as the temple we shall build.’
    • ‘Keep strong little one, you shall forever be in my heart as all my friends will be.’
    • ‘The intention in such cases is that there shall be a judicial inquiry worked out in a judicial manner.’
    • ‘The more of you who offer me cars or brownies, the more inspired I shall be to rush out a chapter or two for you.’
    • ‘On the sixth day, we shall send every available agent and force to hunt you down like the dogs you are.’
  • 3Expressing an instruction or command.

    ‘you shall not steal’
    • ‘The Tender shall comprise an offer to perform the Services supplied in the Enquiry Documents.’
    • ‘The Clerk shall give notice to the respondent in Form 5 and a copy shall be sent to the applicant.’
    • ‘At the hearing of his case, if the defendant is in attendance he shall be invited to indicate whether or not he accepts each of the charges made against him.’
    • ‘The United Kingdom shall not send from its territory to that of the other Member States fresh meat of the bovine species.’
    • ‘Two years ago, I received an email from an executive in the cinema exhibition industry, who shall remain nameless.’
    • ‘The governor shall send the report to the Secretary of State without delay, together with his own recommendations.’
    • ‘The use of supplementary indications shall be authorised until 31 December 1989.’
    • ‘The first person to hold this cube with mortal hands shall inherit all of my strength.’
    • ‘If there is any disagreement, each shall send his form of Order to me, and I will finalize the wording.’
    • ‘The question of costs shall be dealt with in writing within four weeks of the release of this Order.’
    • ‘From the hubbub and colorful chaos of Delhi she journeyed to a town in the Midwest that shall remain unnamed.’
    • ‘The primary residence of the children shall remain with the mother.’
    • ‘Yes, at this fine establishment which shall remain nameless, they do not melt the cheese.’
    • ‘Under your command shall be the battleships Loyalty and Honour, and the frigates Hope and Truth.’
    • ‘The evidence in question therefore shall not form part of the trial evidence.’
    • ‘Every question determined by the members of the court martial shall be decided by a majority of the votes of the members.’
    • ‘In any such case the criminal nature of the group or organization is considered proved and shall not be questioned.’
    • ‘A member shall indicate his vote by raising his or her hand or by going into a lobby.’
    • ‘Not only that, he had these huge posters of a certain boyband whose identity shall remain a secret.’
    • ‘Such instructions shall be consistent with the intent of the Contract Documents.’
  • 4Used in questions indicating offers or suggestions.

    ‘shall I send you the book?’
    ‘shall we go?’
    • ‘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 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): 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: 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 (although 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. In modern English, the interchangeable use of shall and will is an acceptable part of standard US and British English


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