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From Middle English schal (infinitive schulen), from Old English sċeal (infinitive sċulan (to be obligated or obliged to, shall, must, owe, ought to)), from Proto-Germanic *skal (infinitive *skulaną), from Proto-Indo-European *skel- (to owe, be under obligation). Cognate with Scots sall, sal (shall), West Frisian sil (infinitive sille (shall)), Dutch zal (infinitive zullen (shall)), Low German schall (infinitive schölen (shall)), German soll (infinitive sollen (ought to)), Danish skal (infinitive skulle (shall)), Icelandic skal (infinitive skulu (shall)). Related to shild.


  • (stressed) IPA(key): /ˈʃæl/
    • (file)
  • (unstressed) IPA(key): /ʃəl/, (pre-consonantal only) /ʃə/
    • (file)
  • Rhymes: -æl (when stressed)


English Wikipedia has an article on:

shall (third-person singular simple present shall, present participle -, simple past (archaic) should, past participle -)

  1. (modal, auxiliary verb, defective) Used before a verb to indicate the simple future tense in the first person singular or plural.
    I shall sing in the choir tomorrow.
    I hope that we shall win the game.
    • 1900, L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Chapter 23
      "Then, having used up the powers of the Golden Cap, I shall give it to the King of the Monkeys, that he and his band may thereafter be free for evermore."
  2. Used similarly to indicate determination or obligation in the second and third persons singular or plural.
    (determination): You shall go to the ball!
    (obligation): Citizens shall provide proof of identity.
  3. Used in questions with the first person singular or plural to suggest a possible future action.
    Shall I help you with that?
    Shall we go out later?
    Let us examine that, shall we?
  4. (obsolete) To owe.
    (Can we add an example for this sense?)

Usage notes[edit]

  • Shall is about one fourth as common relative to will in North America as in the United Kingdom. Some in North America may consider it formal or even pompous.
  • In the past, will and shall were interchangeable and synonymous, used similarly as auxiliary verbs for the future tense but separate persons. The simple future tense traditionally used shall for the first person (”I” and “we”), and will for the second and third persons. This distinction existed largely in formal language and gradually disappeared in Early Modern English.
    I shall go.
    You will go.
    • An emphatic future tense, indicating volition of the speaker, reverses the two words, using will for the first person and shall for the second and third person.
      I will go.
      You shall go.
    • Usage can be reversed in questions and in dependent clauses—especially with indirect discourse. For example: Shall you do it? anticipates the response I shall do it. Or: he says that he shall win or he expects that he shall win anticipate his saying I shall win, not I will win.

Derived terms[edit]


  • Sranan Tongo: sa


See also[edit]


  • shall at OneLook Dictionary Search
  • shall in The Century Dictionary, The Century Co., New York, 1911